Summer 2023

Review of Summer Concert 2023

The weather was perfect even if the venue in All Saints, Curbar was a little hot. That was not surprising as the church was full to capacity for Baslow Choir’s summer evening of music, a potpourri of assorted songs interspersed with some piano duets. 

The choir was in good voice and quickly got into its rhythm. Fittingly, the concert began with a rousing 13th century ‘round’ entitled Sumer is icumin in (meaning summer has arrived, as of course it had!), a catchy and repeating tune. Equally fittingly, the evening ended with a no less rousing rendition of Rhythm of Life (from the Broadway musical Sweet Charity). As always, half the skill of the evening was the clever programme choices: there was something for everyone.  Some of the songs were old favourites like Cockles and Mussels and the Ash Grove, while others were of more recent vintage, including songs from West Side Story (such as Tonight) and one from Phantom of the Opera (the lovely Music of the Night).   Indeed, one or two members of the audience couldn’t help humming along to another old favourite, Dashing away with the Smoothing Iron, or stifling a gentle sigh at the soaring cadences of the Londonderry Air (aka Danny Boy).  And we all surely imagined ourselves in some distant dreamy pastoral past as we listened to the mesmerising melody of Greensleeves while Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and Sting’s Fields of Gold pulled a good many heartstrings. 

The piano interludes were not just infill while the choir drew breath but an equal part of the evening’s entertainment.  They saw the choir’s musical director, Andrew Marples, and his long-time duet partner, David Mayo-Braiden, perform a series of duets illustrating their wide-ranging repertoire and very considerable pianistic skills.   With each piece they swapped seats showing an equal facility across the keyboard. There was Handel and Vaughan Williams, Arthur Benjamin and Percy Grainger, Dvorák and the Gershwin Brothers. The recital had started with a bit of musical triumphalism in the shape of Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by Handel (born in Germany and settled in England) and it ended with a virtuoso showpiece, the lively and increasingly frenetic Grand Galop de Concert by the German-born Wilhelm Ganz who like Handel was born in Germany and later settled in England.  Andrew and David richly deserved the rapturous applause that greeted them as they took their final bow after the galop. 

David and Andrew were not the only pianists whose playing enlivened the evening. Not to be overlooked was the immensely talented Carol Barnes.  Carol is the perfect piano accompanist.  She knows precisely what tempi and dynamics to offer the choir. And she cannot half play when occasion demands, as witness her sparkling accompaniment to Bernstein’s America.

Inevitably, each person’s favourite of the evening will differ. To your reviewer this was Lauridsen’s delightful Sure on this Shining Night, which the choir sang with immense feeling.  But whatever one’s choice, this was an evening of rich and varied entertainment. Many thanks!

Bill Blackburn