2016 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare - just two years ago we celebrated the 450th anniversary of his birth, but this year there are many more events. I've already been to the first of the CBSO's concerts in his honour - music by Verdi and Strauss (Macbeth), the CBSO Chorus on fine form singing Vaughan Williams' Shakespeare Songs, and Walton's music for the film Henry V interspersed by the play's greatest speeches with actor Samuel West. Bruce O'Neil, Head of Music at the Royal Shakespeare Company, gave a fascinating pre-concert talk.
Our featured concert this week is a recital on the Shakespeare theme by the young baritone Ashley Riches, with pianist Emma Abbate, at the Stratford-upon-Avon Chamber Music Society, on Sunday 24 January at 3pm. Highly recommended!
Jennie McGregor-Smith has sent me details of her 2016 series of song recitals at Tardebigge, near Bromsgrove:
26 June Benjamin Appl (baritone) and Simon Lepper (piano)
Ben Appl is becoming very popular, quite rightly, and no doubt some of you heard his Proms debut. His programme not only includes Haydn, Finzi and Barber but also a group of songs by Gurney, interleaved with songs by Ian Venables, which relate to wartime, settings of poems by Gurney's friend Harvey and Gurney himself. Seasons at Tardebigge don't seem quite right without Simon Lepper at the piano, and we are delighted to welcome him back for the eighth time.
17 July Kitty Whately (mezzo), Louise Williams (viola) and Iain Burnside (piano)
Iain Burnside's fifth visit brings an opportunity to hear Frank Bridge's works for voice and viola and Ian Venables' Acton Burnell, much appreciated by The Gramophone's reviewer. Iain has planned a group of Finzi songs, and a good looking second half devoted to Shakespeare settings, including Joseph Horovitz's dramatic Lady Macbeth - A Scena, and Korngold's music for Desdemona's willow song.
Those who heard Dr Alan Watson at Three Choirs last year will know that his special interest at Cardiff University is in the nature and treatment of performance related injury in singers - so his talk on The Science of the Singing Voice should be fascinating.
28 August Roderick Williams (baritone) and Susie Allan (piano)
Also old friends, Roddy and Susie have chosen a programme which is full of musical favourites, starting the concert with Butterworth's Six songs from A Shropshire Lad and ending with Finzi's Shakespeare group Let us Garlands Bring. Vaughan Williams' Silent Noon will be a highlight for me, and an opportunity to revel in Gurney's Captain Stratton's Fancy and hear Ian Venables' The Kiss and Flying Crooked.
More details on the website: www.celebratingenglishsong.co.uk
Many congratulations to Catherine Arlidge, who was awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours for her work inspiring and engaging young people in a love of live classical music. Read more here
Blog written by Jill Davies, who runs the Severn Muses project as well as Chamber Music Plus.
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