All concerts took place at Petersfield Festival Hall except for the recitals in St Peter’s Church on Tuesday lunchtime and Wednesday evening.

Plastikes Karekles

Friday 15 March
7.30 pm

Pavlos Carvalho leads a group of seven international and Greek musicians in an eclectic fusion with roots in traditional Greek folk, classical and jazz

Dyson: The Canterbury Pilgrims

Saturday 16 March
7.30 pm

Review by David Francombe

To most people of a musical disposition, the name, George Dyson, will not ring many bells. “Google” Dyson and one gets a lot on information about vacuum cleaners. Those who sing in church choirs will have come across his splendid settings of the Canticles for Evening Prayer, Dyson in F and Dyson in D but few will have heard his masterpiece, “The Canterbury Pilgrims”, in performance … until last week when the work was given a splendid performance at the Petersfield Musical Festival.

Under the calm baton of Paul Spicer, and with the Southern Pro Musica in top form, The Festival Chorus, resplendent in their multi-coloured apparel, gave it their all. In the opening Prologue the choir sings a capella with the orchestra topping and tailing each phrase; here the balance was good, the dynamics followed the composer’s instructions and the intonation was spot on. Towards the end of the prologue the choir were joined by the tenor soloist, Nathan Vale. Vale has a pleasant uncomplicated voice but needed to “sell” himself rather more to his audience – a little underpowered.

In section ll, “The Knight”, the orchestra came into its own, Dyson making full use of all departments, especially the large brass section. The choir managed to hold their own against this wall of sound and I was reminded of Vaughan William’s “Sea Symphony” in some of the more “full-on” moments. In “The Squire” we were treated to some delightfully delicate playing and we were introduced to the soprano soloist, Sofia Larsson as “The Nun”. She has a beautifully clear voice and an engaging presence which interacted with the audience.

In “The Monk”, we met the Baritone soloist, Edward Ballard. Ballard has a big voice e which was ideally suited to the work. He was not overshadowed by the orchestra and on could hear every word. This was followed by “The Clerk of Oxenford”, to my mind one of the best parts of the evening. The tenors start a craggy fugue section, the other parts joining in with some precise, detailed singing. The first half ended with a march like theme for the tenor and the chorus joining in with another fugue-like section, which, given the murmurs of appreciation from the audience, was enjoyed by all.

The second half started with “The Franklin” with the band going hammer and tongs and the Baritone battling bravely, if not always quite successfully. Again the influence of Vaughan William could be detected. In “The Doctor of Physic”, tenor Nathan Vale was more at ease and sang with assurance and clarity of diction. Sofia Larsson made the fun piece “The Wife of Bath” very much her own. With a jaunty accompaniment she obviously enjoyed herself and delighted the audience with a stratospheric final B flat. In “The Poor Parson” we experienced some excellent four part singing from the Chorus and the evening ended with “L’Envoi”.

I left happy but with a slight niggle that something was not quite right. On reflection I came to the conclusion that the work is a series of short separate vignettes and there is no narrative to hold the piece together. Maybe that is why the “Canterbury Pilgrims” is not often heard? That said, it was a splendid evening’s music making and great credit to all concerned.

David Francombe

Family Concert: Children's Story Time

Sunday 17 March
3.00—4.00 pm

With Meridian Winds

Conductor: Don Lloyd

Meet the players and their instruments after the concert. Programme includes music from The Lion King, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Frozen.

Youth Concert

Monday 18 March
7.00 pm

Singers and instrumentalists from local schools and youth music organisations.

Lunchtime Recital

Tuesday 19 March
1.00 pm
St Peter’s Church

Award-holders from the Michael Hurd Memorial Fund

Katie Alder, soprano
Matthew Lloyd-Wilson, violin
Pradip Tran, violin
with Mark Dancer, piano

Petersfield Brass: Music from the Renaissance to the twentieth century

Wednesday 20 March
7.30 pm
St Peter’s Church

with Nicholas Gleed, organ

Hilmar Hauer and Ruth Strickland, trumpets
Allan Mead, French horn
David Thomas, trombone
Jon Cranston, tuba

Youth Concert

Wednesday 20 March
7.00 pm

Singers and instrumentalists from local schools and youth music organisations.

Petersfield Orchestra

Thursday 21 March
7.30 pm
(Pre-concert talk 6.30 pm)

Petersfield Orchestra
Conductor: Mark Biggins
Soloist: Cristian Sandrin

Glinka Overture, Ruslan and Ludmila
Prokofiev Piano Concerto no.3 in C major
Tchaikovsky Symphony no. 6 in B minor (‘Pathétique’)

Pre-concert talk: Piers Burton-Page in conversation with Mark Biggins and Cristian Sandrin

Review by Stuart Reed

It’s difficult to hold back on the superlatives when reviewing Petersfield Orchestra. Their concerts are never a disappointment. And their performance and contribution to the Petersfield Musical Festival 2019 was certainly no exception.

With Glinka, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky on the programme it was also a truly Russian night. In front of a packed audience at the Festival Hall, on 21 March, Mark Biggins waved his wand and took the orchestra to new heights of musical pleasure.

Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka’s Overture from the opera Ruslan and Ludmilla opened the evening like a lightning bolt. Despite its obvious Russian origins, Mark Biggins detects a touch of Mendelssohn’s Italian period flavour in it. Without doubt Mark brought out all the excitement and feel of sunnier climes within the piece. The strings excelled themselves playing the rapid torrents of notes which characterise the work. The ‘cello section revelled in the lovely big tune which is Russlan’s love theme. The whole thing was spot on.

Cristian Sandrin was the soloist for Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto number 3 in C. Cristian comes from a Romanian musical family. He played his first solo at the age of 13 and graduated from the Dinu Lipatti National College of Arts in Bucharest. Later, he graduated with first class honours from the Royal Academy of Music in London. Now he plays and conducts with several orchestras but still considers himself a student.

In the pre-concert interview with Mark Biggins and Piers Burton-Page, Cristian said that the concerto made him think of those posters which were prevalent in the Communist era. They usually depicted muscular artisans or well-built female farm hands looking resolute and forging the new USSR. Whatever Prokofiev had in mind, in parts his piano concerto created an atmosphere of noisy heavy industry like sheet metal works, machine shops or furnaces going at full blast. Another section conjured up images of weary agricultural labourers trudging home from the collective. Prokofiev seemed to be giving it the whole hammer and sickle bit with the red flag flying. Cristian and the heroic orchestra took the place by storm.

Mark Biggins conducted Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no 6 in B minor with grace and pin-point accuracy. He’s a tall chap with a wide arm span which he uses to embrace the whole orchestra. The Sixth Symphony is a bold and masterful work. It’s got it all. It has great melodies and a graceful allegro. It has a stirring, climactic march which feels like a finale. There’s a tricky section written in five-four time. It ends with a slow movement filled with an aching, heart-felt sorrow which could only have come from Tchaikovsky’s inner torment. Mark and the Petersfield Orchestra did the composer proud.

It has to be said that there is more to a good orchestra than just the music. An awful lot goes on behind the scenes. When a musician fell ill during the afternoon rehearsal there was no one for the fourth horn slot. So Orchestra Chairman Steve Bartholomew had to scurry around like a House of Commons Whip to find a replacement. The notes in the Petersfield Musical Festival’s programme, by that erudite wordsmith and ’cello player Piers Burton-Page, were lucid and hugely informative. People like him and Steve are the foundations on which good orchestras are built. As always, Petersfield Orchestra’s Russian night was another successful team effort.

Stuart Reed

Jazz Night: ‘A Swinging Affair’

Friday 22 March
7.30 pm

Claire Martin OBE, Ray Gelato and The Dave Newton Trio

‘Hugely entertaining and beautifully performed’
– The Observer

Review by David Jackman

So, there I was … packing my suitcase, about to head for sunnier climes, when the phone rang and those nice people running the Petersfield Music Festival (I'm not just saying that … they really ARE nice!) asked if I could cover their presentation at the Festival Hall on Friday March 22nd. As I was due home that day, would probably be jet lagged, I wasn't sure I could. Then they told me the line-up for the show and I booked my ticket without hesitating!

The concert entitled “A Swinging Affair” had an ensemble featuring the best of British Jazz! Claire Martin OBE, our finest Jazz vocalist and Internationally celebrated too! Alongside Claire, Ray Gelato saxophonist/vocalist and leader of 'Ray Gelato's Jazz Giants', they've played Ronnie's over the Christmas period for 16 years! Providing the accompaniment … The David Newton Trio. Best jazz pianist (British Jazz Awards 14 times) and possibly the most original and expressive of the UK's many fine jazz pianists. Completing the trio, Nick Walsh a young bassist, who doesn't look old enough to be in licensed premises! But boy … can he play double bass! Finally, Royal Academy of Music graduate Ed Richardson on drums. He is the youngest drummer ever to play in the Ronnie Scott Band and has toured with the likes of Noel Gallagher, etcetera. His progress over the past five years has been spectacular.

A full house waited in anticipation for “A Swingin' Affair” to commence. The ensemble took the stage and welcomed the audience. There was a relaxed feel to the opening number, “Let There Be Love”, associated with the late Nat King Cole and George Shearing. The vocal was shared by Claire Martin and Ray Gelato with Dave Newton sounding 'Shearing like' at the piano. A nicely pitched opener that received warm appreciation from the audience. Claire Martin introduced the musicians and the next song, “I Can't Give You Anything But Love”. Ray Gelato took the lead on vocals and the influences of his idols - Louis Prima /Louis Jordan – were evident. Solos from Dave Newton (piano) and Ray (sax) and the first by Nick Walsh (bass). Ray Gelato took the microphone to introduce Claire who sang “I Only Have Eyes For You”. The performance was warming up nicely and Claire was showing us why she is so highly respected by the Jazz fraternity. Ray played some subtle saxophone lines behind the vocal and Dave Newton demonstrated how Errol Garner might have played the song. We also heard the first solo from Ed Richardson (drums) and he took no prisoners with a very fine break. Claire Martin took the next song, a subtle jazz waltz treatment of “When I Fall In Love”. She made reference to a tribute act working under the stage name “Not King Cole”!! During the song, at the moment when the lyric goes “when I give my heart” a front of house microphone fell from it's stand and hit the floor with a crash. This caused Claire to let out a cry and mentioned a reaction to the “heart” lyric as she carried on with the song, faultlessly … very impressive stagecraft. The audience loved the moment and the warmth between the musicians flowed across the footlights. “Just In Time” - a fast, up tempo version - started with Claire and Ed Richardson (drums) taking the opening chorus between them. Ray showed his ability with some “hot” choruses, with a nod in the direction of his musical inspirations, Illinois Jacquet, Gene Ammons, 'Lockjaw' Davis, et al. Another good solo from Ed Richardson and a great ovation from the audience.

Now it was Ray's turn. A jump jive version of “Sunny Side Of The Street”. A strong vocal line with mischievous interaction from Dave Newton over solid bass and drums accompaniment. A great version! The audience thought so too. Another Nat King Cole song followed, “The Trouble With Me”. Written for his trio in the 1930's, a nice swing rhythm from the band, once again. Time for a BeBop feature. The band picked a Charlie Parker composition, “Ornithology”. Like many tunes of that genre, composers 'borrowed' the chord structures of established compositions and added an alternative melody line. And in so doing … they also collected the royalties!! “Ornithology” was based on “How High The Moon”. Usually played as an instrumental, 'Ornithology' had lyrics added by Babs Gonzalez. Who? I hear you cry, well … it turns out he was Errol Flynn's chauffeur! Hard to grasp all the lyrics, pace of the song and sound system making it difficult but the playing was impressive and exciting. We learned, from Claire, that Dave Newton's partner's Grandmother was integral to the establishment of the Festival Hall. I'm sure he found that inspirational.

Next was the Gus Kahn / Walter Donaldson “jazz – blues” hit for Eddie Cantor, “Makin' Whoopee”. A chorus each from Claire and Ray. Then, after an appropriate solo on sax, both singers concluded the song. Another fine version that earned warm applause from the room. The first half closer was another of those 'two handers', Irving Berlin's “Your Just In Love”, made famous by Ethel Merman and Russell Nype from the hit musical 'Call Me Madam'. Both Claire and Ray performed it well and, fittingly, brought the first half to a close. A lot of very happy people made their way to the bar for a well earned libation!

After a warm introduction from Claire Martin, the second half opened with “Let's Get Lost”, a hit for a young Chet Baker back in the day. Claire's relaxed approach to this song underlined her innate timing and singing ability. Ray joined in with a nicely judged sax solo and vocal. However, Dave Newton built – almost note by note – one of his best solos of the evening. A master class in economy of notes, musical perception and the ability to 'swing' in the truest sense of the word. This did not go unnoticed by the Festival Hall's enraptured listeners and drew sustained applause. Both Claire and Ray's personalities shone through and their interplay with the audience was warm and friendly, making the occasion informal and intimate. “You Brought a New Kind of Love To Me” brought vocal harmonies from the front line of the band and – as all through the concert – the accompaniment of the trio was impeccably tasteful. Ray then took centre stage and played tribute to the great saxophonist, Flip Phillips. Another bebop melody on the chord structure of “Sweet Georgia Brown” underlined Ray's talent on tenor sax. He stayed on for a New Orleans style version of the Fats Domino hit, “My Blue Heaven”, slipping into his 'jump jive' persona. Claire returned to join Ray on Hoagy Carmichael/Frank Loesser's “Two Sleepy People”. From the film “Thanks For The Memory”, sung by Bob Hope and Shirley Ross. Once again, Dave Newton and the trio excelled. Claire took the next song, dedicating it to a member of the audience, Sarah Walker. She was asked to do by Sarah's “significant other” Peter! Then we heard a delightful bossa nova version of Michel LeGrand's “Watch What Happens”. Once again, bassist Nick Walsh played a glorious, rhythmic solo. Definitely one for the future! Claire kept Nick going for her next offering, Cole Porter's “I Get A Kick Out Of You”. Extremely fast! Voice with bass accompaniment for the opening choruses. Sax solo and more keyboard work from Dave Newton. Has he ever played better? The solos finished with bass and drums swapping fours and eights before Claire took the song out. Phew!! Again, rapturous applause from the audience. The concert almost over, Ray introduced a vocalese (lyrics added to a transcribed instrumental jazz solo) version of a James Moody solo on the song “I'm In The Mood For Love”. Called “Moody's Mood For Love”, the lyrics were added by great vocalese jazzer Eddie Jefferson. Possibly the best known version of this song was recorded by King Pleasure in the early 1950's. A tricky song to perform, Claire and Ray did a decent job. Claire saluted the band … all of whom had played magnificently. Then they went into an up tempo version of “Lover Come Back To Me”. It opened with a driving sax feature from Ray Gelato followed by Claire's lead vocal. Ray joined her on vocals, once again with a nod in the direction of Louis Prima. Features from the trio and a big finish. The end of a great night's entertainment. I would have liked to have heard more from Ray on the sax … but I'm not complaining. The response from the room was loud and demanding! Sure enough, their demands were answered and an encore duly followed. We were treated to a version of the Cole Porter song (written for his first Broadway Show ”Paris”) “Let's Do It (Let's Fall In Love)”. An easy swing tempo pushed the song along nicely. There were clever references to 'Brexit' and 'Donald Trump' added to the original lyrics. The audience clapped along, in tempo and the show ended with another long, well deserved ovation for the performers.

As I left the Festival Hall, I reflected on what had been a terrific evening. Good friends having fun, encouraging a roomful of strangers to join them, what's not to like? More please PMF!!

David Jackman

Brahms Requiem

Saturday 23 March
7.30 pm

Beethoven Overture, Egmont
Dvořák Slavonic Dances
Brahms A German Requiem

Claire Seaton, soprano
Gareth Brynmor John, baritone

Alton Choral Society
Petersfield Choral Society
Rogate Choral Society

Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra
Conductor: Paul Spicer

Review by David Francombe

The final concert of the 2019 Musical Festival featured the return of the Basingstoke Symphony Orchestra. This group of sixty musicians deliver some excellent playing with the woodwind section being particularly notable. However, it has to be said that the orchestra was rather too large for the Festival Hall’s unflattering acoustic and on occasions, with ten brass players going hammer and tongs, was overwhelming. – “Too loud, m’dear!”

The evening started with Beethoven’s opus 84 “Egmont” overture. Under Paul Spicer’s detailed direction, the orchestra gave a nicely nuanced if un-adventurous performance with some detailed woodwind playing. This was followed by a jolly and rumbustious performance of Dvořák’s “Slavonic Dances”, the final. Opus 72 Dance sending us off for our interval drinks with feet a’tapping.

After the break came Brahms’s “German Requiem” opus 45. This much-loved work is a big sing for the choir who are on their feet for virtually the whole work. There was some nice singing in the opening chorus, “Blessed are they that mourn”, with good blending, phrasing and diction. The second section was particularly good with a fine orchestral crescendo leading to the choir’s forte unison entry, “Behold, all flesh is as the grass”. I see I wrote “spine tingling” in my notes – it certainly was!

The third number, “Lord let, me know mine end”, opens with the baritone soloist, Gareth Brynmor John. Gareth has a strong, clear and very tuneful voice and one could hear every word. The chorus act as backing group for the first part of this piece, singing with warmth and clarity. However the great tenor fugue-like entry, “But the righteous souls are in the hand of God”, was rather less successful, the brass overcoming the valiant efforts of the men. The section ended with an exciting, if slightly ragged, crescendo to a joyous D major conclusion.

“How lovely are thy dwellings fair” is the deservedly best known section of the Requiem and was sung with warmth and enjoyment by the Chorus. This piece is not as easy as it looks and there is a tendency to go flat in places but this was avoided and the whole number came to a satisfying, calm end. Claire Seaton is an old friend of the Festival, having appeared many times in the past and as usual, she did not disappoint. The soprano has only one number to sing in the Requiem and Claire made the most of it. The poignant words, “Ye now have sorrow” were beautifully shaped and moulded and the choir provided discreet accompaniment throughout.

The Baritone and chorus came together for the penultimate piece and it was interesting to note Brahms’s totally different treatment of the words “Behold I tell/shew you a Mystery” compared to Handel in “Messiah”. There was some good strong singing in this section, a fine entry on “For behold, the trumpet shall sound” and the altos led to way into an excellent fugue, “Worthy art thou...”

The final section, “Blessed art the dead” is given to the choir alone and starts strongly, dying away to a quietly moving, “Which die in the Lord”. Here both choir and orchestra were in tune together, complimenting each other with some delightful singing and playing, and bringing the work a peaceful end.

The performance was much appreciated by the enthusiastic response of the audience and brought to an end another great week’s music making.

David Francombe