Christ Church has secured a reputation over recent years for hosting fine classical music concerts, with its acoustic particularly well suited to smaller-scale choral and instrumental recitals. As such, it provided an ideal environment for Wednesday lunchtime’s Frome Festival concert, entitled “Fair House of Joy”.
The performers were tenor Richard Pinnock and pianist Gareth Burgess, both accomplished musicians with strong local connections. Together they presented a well-designed programme which focussed on English songs written in the twentieth Century. However, the programme started with music from the seventeenth century, with songs by Henry Purcell providing a fitting prelude to a selection of folk song arrangements written by Benjamin Britten in the 1950s. Pinnock and Burgess managed the technical challenges of these works with fluency and apparent ease, and effectively communicated the diverse moods of the songs to the audience.
Two further song cycles followed, which may have been less well-known to some of the audience, but which certainly deserve greater exposure. Madeleine Dring’s Five Betjemen Songs stylistically nod towards musical theatre, whilst Roger Quilter’s Seven Elizabethan Lyrics are more typical of the English choral tradition of the early twentieth century. The performers confidently demonstrated their versatility in adapting to the distinct musical styles and moods of these songs.
Gareth Burgess also performed two piano solos by John Ireland and Herbert Howells. These provided attractive interludes to the song cycles, and were performed with evident sensitivity and musicality.
The audience demanded an encore, and the duo obliged with “I attempt from love’s sickness” from Purcell’s semi-opera, The Indian Queen. Overall, the concert was most enjoyable, maintaining the high standards of musicianship we have come to expect from the Christ Church concert series, and the audience were clearly delighted by an accomplished and engaging performance.