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Gallery: Mary Wakefield festival opens in Kendal
6:12pm Friday 15th March 2013 in News
KENDAL woke up on Monday morning to snowy streets – and the start of the Mary Wakefield Westmorland Festival 2013.
But there were plenty of bright musical interludes during the day.
A full programme of piano and instrumental classes went remarkably smoothly with adjudicators Michael Hancock and Christina Thomson at the helm in Kendal Town Hall and later in the United Reformed Church.
Monday’s evening session at the United Reformed Church featured vocal solos, duets, ensembles and community choirs, with adjudicator Mr Hancock conducting an entertaining vocal warm-up for singers and audience alike.
Rachel Little’s Poco Amabile choir retained tenure of the Crackenthorpe Medal for Youth Choirs, with a delightful ‘Rushbearing’ hymn composed by Mary Wakefield herself, and ‘Joshua fit the battle.’ Young singers took to the stage on Tuesday afternoon, competing in three classes; vocal duet for performers in Years 10 to 13, ‘one of my favourite songs’ for Years 7 and 8, and songs from the shows, for pupils in Years 7 to 9.
Adjudicator Mr Hancock was particularly impressed with the duet class, won by Flora Wharton and Laura Wilson with their performance of ‘Erste Begegnung’ by Robert Schumann.
The winner in the favourite songs class was Georgina Haywood who sang Twilight by Aubrey Beswick.
Rounding of the programme was the largest class of the day, where 19 singers competed with songs from the shows.
The winner’s cup was taken by Jessica Fairclough for her rendition of Everybody Wants To Be A Cat from The Aristocats by Al Rinker.
Twentieth Century composers were under the spotlight on Tuesday night for the Years 11 and 13 vocal solo class, where Mr Hancock observed that although there were some promising young voices in this class, there was not yet enough passion or conviction in the singing. Grace Currie sang ‘How soft upon the evening air’, by Dunhill, for the title.
Festival vice-chairman Mary Powney paid tribute to her father Leslie Earl, a supporter of the festival, on presenting the Leslie Earl Trophy to the winner of the evening’s vocal recital class, in which performers sang a contrasting programme of three songs; a pre-19th Century song or aria, a German lied or French chanson and any 20th or 21st Century British art song.
Flora Wharton, with her selection of Ah Belinda from Dido and Aeneas by Purcell, Als luise die Briefe by Mozart, and Orpheus with his lute by Vaughan Williams, won the class.
Epic adventure celebrates a week of music
Under the direction of their conductor, Richard Howarth, the Westmorland Orchestra got this year’s Mary Wakefield Westmorland Music Festival off to a great start with an adventurous programme of epic proportions.
But before the orchestra launched into the opening orchestral item – Tchaikovsky’s stirring, nationalistic Marche Slav overture – we heard Lancaster Priory Girls’ Choir, directed by Jeremy Truslove, sing three short unaccompanied pieces.
It was fitting that the young singers were given an opportunity to be seen as well as heard before they fulfilled their later important role as an off-stage chorus in the final movement of Gustav Holst’s Planets Suite. They sang with confidence, producing a sweet tone and a fresh sound.
Tchaikovsky’s bombastic overture was given an enthusiastic performance: the full force of the brass and percussion was unleashed in the composer’s heroic climaxes.
Andrea Tweedale was the soprano soloist in Richard Strauss’ lovely Four Last Songs. She has a fine voice with the strength, warmth and tonal colour required for this repertoire.
Occasionally, the orchestra drowned vocal passages in her lower register; but Strauss’ orchestration is thick and to achieve a perfect balance would take more rehearsal time than is normally available for an amateur orchestra working with a visiting soloist.
Holst’s Planets Suite, which took up the whole second half, included on this occasion the addition of Planet Earth in the form of a newly-composed electro-acoustic work by young Manchester-based composer, Danny Saul – a brave venture and an imaginative piece of programme planning.
The original suite is a monumental work, perhaps one of the supreme masterworks of its time; certain passages seem decidedly ‘modern’ even after all the later developments in 20th Century music. It presents a huge challenge to conductor and players – all the more so for being such a well-known work.
Although there were some lapses in tuning and balancing of textures, this was a creditable performance.
Neptune the Mystic, the final movement, ended perfectly as the composer intended with the lovely sounds of the girls’ choir drifting off into silence.