Friday, 10 June 2011

A feast of music

Isobel Stirk writes about the concert in St Michael and All Angels Church, Haworth on 5 June:

Outside, a rather cold wind and black clouds - in a darkened sky way out towards Top Withins - did not encourage anyone to linger as they made their way to the church. Inside all was bright and cheerful as the audience perused their programmes and looked forward to a veritable feast of music.  

This included the first public performance of a setting by composer Robin Terry, whose music has been performed in many countries, of Ian Emberson’s Brontë-related poems - Mourning Ring. Michael Templeton, a baritone soloist with Steeton Male Voice Choir, accompanied by Robin, sang four songs very movingly. The theme of Jane Eyre was very much to the fore: one song featured the time when Jane realised she could not marry Edward Rochester, another when she wandered lost and alone over the moors, in another there was a reference to the shipwreck in Villette.

Someone who has delighted many a Brontë audience - Society member Alan Graham - showed, once again, what a talented pianist he is. He transported us back to the Warsaw of the early 1800s with the music of Maria Szymanowska. We heard pieces by Clara Schumann who had a galaxy of experience within her long life. Champion of her husband’s work, she outlived many of her children and, although carer of grandchildren and her dying husband, achieved so much. Alan played, with feeling, a Song for the Pianoforte by Fanny Mendelssohn, talented sister of Felix. A contemporary of the Brontës, Fanny shared her sibling’s passion for music. Like the sisters, she died at a young age in 1847.

Having managed to master only Greensleeves on the recorder, and not very well,  I had looked forward with anticipation to hearing solo pieces played on that instrument by Laura Justice and I was certainly not disappointed. It was a bonus to have Robin Walker, the composer of the first piece, explain a little about A Rune for St Mary’s. He asked us to think of a rune as something indescribable, a letter from an unknown alphabet.  Listening to the haunting sounds which Laura produced, it was easy to imagine being on the moors high above Todmorden , the setting for the piece, and it seemed as if the wind which always blows around the lonely place could actually be heard. 

I had been in the church earlier when a group of enthusiastic Japanese tourists were looking around. What a pity their visit was not a couple of hours later, because they may very well have been familiar with Ryohei Hirose, the composer of the modern Japanese piece. The sounds Laura produced in her interpretation were incredible. Closing my eyes at one point it almost seemed as if I was listening to a violin.

This wonderful concert had been meticulously planned by Ian and had, I am sure, been enjoyed by everyone present. It ended with a setting, by John Ireland, of Masefield’s great poem Sea-Fever. This was sung with great gusto by Michael Templeton.

Leaving the church the leaves on the trees lining Church Street were still showing their backs, the wind was still whistling among the gravestones and the black clouds were getting ominously nearer- but it did not matter. We had, for a short time, been taken to an almost magical place- for isn’t that where Ian’s poems and artwork always lead? However don’t take my word for that- go to his website and read his E book The Zig Zag Path. You have a treat in store.

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