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Young musicians impress

Review: Concerts at One: John XXIII College – 
St George’s Cathedral – 
21 June 2017 – 
Review: Leon Levy

Lunchtime recitals in venues whose prime purpose is something other than performance have a distinguished history – London’s wartime concerts at the National Gallery spring to mind – and, while our times may not be as fraught, there is something reassuring about any city that is home to such artistic ventures. St George’s Cathedral does, of course, have a broader role in the musical life of our city, but their “Concerts at One” series, held mostly at fortnightly intervals, is an enterprising and – on recent evidence – successful initiative.

On this occasion the students of John XXIII College displayed their talents in a contrasting programme of short items, each item performed by a different combination of musicians.

Opening the recital was the Senior Clarinet Quarter in the perky fifth movement of the Mozart Serenade for Winds K375. Their treatment tended more towards the stately, but it was marked by a high level of accuracy, as well as growing sensitivity and confidence as the piece progressed.

The Senior Madrigal Singers, four young men and four young women, brought clear articulation, and agreeable harmonic integration and texture to “White Winter Hymnal”, an attractive piece by Robin Pecknold, a contemporary American composer.

The first two movements of J.S.Bach’s Sonata in C are there to challenge the flautist, and Edward Cranfield met the considerable demands with impressive assurance. Great dexterity is required and was joyfully provided.

The composer Wolf apparently came rather to despise his popular song, “Verborgenheit”, but his heart might well have melted on hearing it as beautifully and securely sung as it was by Ruth Burke, with its contrasts so well observed.

Ignace Pleyel is perhaps better remembered as a manufacturer of pianos than as a composer, but this may be his week, with the ABC having featured one of his quartets the previous day, and now the Senior String Quartet essaying a movement from his Quartet in C. It is a pretty and graceful work, whose character was faithfully caught by the players.

The Barbershop ensemble comprises eight female voices who displayed a most agreeable blend of sound, with emotion nicely conveyed in “The Voices of Children” by Canadian Bill Douglas which this reviewer was delighted to encounter for the first time.

Finally, in a splendid piece of programming, the Senior Saxophone Quartet brought the recital to a lively conclusion with “Saxified” from Miniature Jazz Suite No 3 by Lennie Niehaus which contrasted wonderfully with all that had preceded it, and, confidently executed as it was, surely sent the audience out into the blustery afternoon with smiles of pleasure on all faces.

The recitalists are all to be congratulated, as are their teachers and accompanists… as indeed is the Cathedral for facilitating the event.

Top: L-R John XXIII students Claudia Thompson, Sian Munks, Ethan Wee, David Harms performing at St George’s Cathedral.

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