WINTER CONCERT 2018
Review of the Burnham Music Group’s Christmas Concert Saturday 8 December
at St. Mary’s Church, Burnham on Crouch
Handel’s Messiah is a perennial masterpiece. However the tentative playing
and poor intonation of the string quartet in its overture initially augured in
me a disquiet, fortunately quickly dissipated by first, the excellent singing of
tenor Andrew Lang in ‘Comfort ye my people’ and then the enthusiasm and
musicianship of the BMG Chorus in ‘And the Glory of the Lord’, clearly
re-invigorated under their new very talented young conductor Oliver Wood;
a standard which both conductor and choir maintained not only for the
rest of the Messiah selection, but throughout the evening. This seemed to give
confidence to the quartet who accompanied them more successfully, and indeed
provided a comforting base for the
truly beautiful rendition of ‘How beautiful are the feet’ by Soprano soloist
Suzanne Walker, a regular with the BMG, who just gets even better every year.
The Quartet of excellent soloists (who also included Alto Melanie
Sanders, and Terry Saunders, former BMG conductor, giving haunting renditions of
‘He shall feed his flock’, and ‘For Behold the darkness’ respectively)
also contributed two arrangements in the second half, interspersed between
carols for the BMG and others including the audience, ending with ‘Ding Dong
merrily on high’; though for me the highlight of the second half was a
beautiful choral piece by Morten Lauridsen ‘O Magnum Mysterium’. Altogether
a wonderful evening.
SUMMER CONCERT 2018
An English Idyll. Burnham Music Groups Summer Concert 2018
Saturday 9th June in St Mary’s Church
Peter Dale consolidated his return to directing the group he founded 41
years ago, with a fascinating and variegated programme, including good use of
the excellent String quintet lead by Chris Gould, who not only supplied
instrumental support throughout, but also played several Frank Bridge folk song
arrangements plus his 2nd Idyll for strings and Purcell’s Overture
to The Indian Queen featuring an exciting Trumpet Obbligato played by Will
Potten. Vaughan Williams 5 Mystical Songs for Chorus and Bass featured some
excellent restrained singing from ex Music Director Terry Saunders which worked
well with the chamber instrumentation of what is in the main an inward work
reminiscent in mood of the Norfolk Rhapsody.
Peter Dale having shepherded the BMG through 3 somewhat slick Folk
arrangements by John Rutter then started to direct a lush and impassioned work
of his own ‘Was ever love so fair’ but sensing it was going astray,
astutely stopped it, advising us all that we would get a much better
rendition after the refreshments of the interval; in which prediction the BMG
proved as good as his word. The Concert concluded with extended excerpts from
Purcell’s Semi Opera King Arthur of which the highlights for me were Terry’s
very funny rendition of ‘What power Art thou’ to an accompaniment like
winter from Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons, an excellent performance by a radiant
sounding Suzanne Walker in both ‘No Part of my Dominion’ and in a duet with
Terry ‘For Love every creature’ which was immediately followed by a lovely
chorus ‘Pleasure of Love’ well delivered by the BMG. Three more arias, a
final chorus and a Grand Dance for strings brought both King Arthur and an
excellent concert to an end.
DECEMBER CONCERT 2017
Review of the Burnham Music
Group 40th Anniversary Concert on Sat. 9th Dec. 2017 at St
Mary’s Church Burnham on Crouch.
In order to do justice to this concert I have had to discard several
drafts such was the multiplicity of its excellence.
To start with the Burnham music group chorus was on top form, as was the
small orchestra of strings and trumpets the latter of which featured prominently
in the appropriately glorious performance of Vivaldi’s GLORIA which also
including important contributions from the beautiful singing of visiting soprano
soloist Suzanne Walker, and a returning former member of BMG alto Gavin Oddy.
It was also a pleasure for me to hear once more the lovely voice of
Brenda Cashel from the BMG who contributed to a Duet with Suzanne.
There followed a mainly reflective very English piece, that provided a
perfect contrast to the Gloria. This was a Concerto for 2 alto recorders,
Harpsichord and strings, by Peter Dale founder of the BMG, and now returned to
conduct not only his piece but the whole concert, with a quiet authority that I
am sure was another major factor in the whole evening going so well. Recorder
Soloists Susan Handscombe and Louise Greening, with Harpsichordist Steve
Pritchard, who is also the BMG’s accompanist, brought the piece alive.
After the interval, a piece Mariposa del Aire written for, and performed
by, the BMG with Peter Dale in 1989
, was revisited and with the composer present achieved a lovely effect. Using
English version of Poems by the Spanish Poet Lorca, this piece had an open air
quality reminiscent of Coplands ‘Appalachian Spring’ but with at times a
sinister undertow of droning. The BMG chorus supported by strings gave a
performance that certainly appeared to earn the composer’s approval.
Tom Potten’s ‘Three
Settings for Christmas’ composed for the BMG in 2015 followed. Reflective and
moving, the last piece ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ featured what reminded of Bells
ringing out, contrasting with a lovely and well played counter melody for the
The concert concluded with Two Christmas hymns in which the audience were
invited to participate.
MAY CONCERT 2017
Review of the Burnham Music Concert Saturday 13 May 2017
Last Saturday The Burnham Music Group
gave a concert that was also a farewell to their conductor and trainer for a
decade, Terry Saunders. It was entitled “Songs of Sea and Sky” and was
devoted, in the main, to music by Elgar, Parry, and Stanford.
In the first half the most impressive
piece was the haunting” Middle Watch” from Stanford’s “Songs of the
Fleet”, made especially so by the BMG chorus; this being followed by Terry’s
witty performance of the “Little Admiral”.
However, it was my impression that
both Terry and the guest mezzo soprano, Kathryn Hannah, gave of their best in
the second half; Kathryn with her impassioned performance of the last two of
Elgar’s “Sea Pictures”, which she introduced herself, and Terry’s
elegiac rendition of Sanderson’s “Moorings”, to which he also contributed
a most sensitive accompaniment. The concert closed with two Elgar songs to words
by Kipling – “The Sweepers”, featuring both Terry and the chorus, and
As for the BMG chorus, they were as
good as I have ever heard throughout, and especially so in their performance of
Parry’s “Songs of Farewell”. Steve
Pritchard was excellent as the main accompanist and continuo, on both organ and
On 9th December the BMG will celebrate
their 40th anniversary, at which Peter Dale, their founder, will return as
interim director and conductor.
WINTER CONCERT 2016
of Burnham Music Group’s Winter Concert
A Christmas Concert to Remember
The Messiah is so well known, and a wonder of the choral firmament, but it
lasts 150 minutes, so lacking a tenor soloist and needing an interval of at
least 20 minutes presented a problem. The solution was to simply have the texts
of the dropped numbers spoken as biblical texts interspersing the sung items.
This editorial stroke of genius combined with the recent adoption by the BMG of
the sonorous Ellora String Quartet, made for a wonderful evening at St Mary’s
Church on Saturday. The Quartet not only contributed a secure and beautifully
toned foundation to the musical endeavour but added many felicities of theirs,
not least the beautiful and ethereal Sinfonia. The BMG chorus was in great form.
The two guest soloists, Suzanne Walker (Soprano) and Rebecca Dale
(Mezzo-Soprano), were both excellent; indeed a personal highlight was ‘He
shall feed his flock’ which they shared. At the end of the interval, following
part 1, two carols were sung by all present, but with the BMG ladies adding
magnificent descants which took them and us to the heights. Terry Saunders both
lead the BMG with a light touch and flowing tempi, and used his stentorian bass
voice to great effect with ‘Why do the nations’ sung from the podium. Steve
Pritchard also contributed as accompanist and was great help to Terry in the
rehearsals, which certainly bore excellent fruit.
AUTUMN CONCERT 2013
of Burnham Music Group’s Winter Concert
If you missed Burnham Music Group’s latest concert on 30th
November, then I am sad, because I thought it was probably the best that I have
heard from them. The most enterprising programme was devised to celebrate two
anniversaries; first that of one of our greatest composers, Benjamin Britten
(22/11/1913 – 4/12/1976), and second that of a world-changing event spread
over 4 years starting in July 1914, namely World War I.
In the first half, BMG sang Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. It is a
miniature masterpiece comprising seven carols set with absolute mastery for
chorus accompanied with soprano plus harp and piano. After a slight initial
hesitancy, the BMG, under Tom Potten’s gentle persuasion, opened their hearts
and were seduced into performing better than they thought they were capable of,
a high level that they sustained for the remainder of the concert. The soprano
Katherine Clark was splendid both in voice and interpretation, joined in one
carol by Hannah Todd, mezzo, who also sang well.
Will Potten was superb in his piano contribution, which
continued after the interval, when in the presentation of a selection of numbers
from Karl Jenkins’ “The Armed Man” he played not only the piano, but I
believe also the trumpet, though not simultaneously! This piece is based on an
amalgam of a 15th century text with the Mass and is both dramatic and
a moving plea for peace. Peter Dale was dramatic and powerful as the narrator,
the chorus sang not only excellently but with great sensitivity, as did the
soloist in “Now the Guns have Stopped”.
All in all an unmissable evening.
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