Period sight and sounds at the new season of recitals at Norfolk’s Raynham Hall
PUBLISHED: 16:27 20 September 2017
Annelies van der Vegt
A pitch perfect mix of mood and music Raynham Hall Recitals bring the sounds of the period to the Norfolk stately house. Musical advisor and acclaimed countertenor Michael Chance tells us more ahead of the opening concert featuring him and his son.
“It is very much music of the period. It could even have been written to be performed in that very room,” explains internationally acclaimed countertenor Michael Chance of the thinking behind Raynham Hall Recitals, which begin a new season this weekend.
As musical advisor for the popular series of intimate chamber music recitals at the historic Norfolk hall, he is overseeing the season that begins with two concerts, including one involving himself and his son.
The recitals are held in what used to be the great hall of a late Jacobean house, designed and built by Sir Roger Townshend with his Master Mason William Edge.
Having lived in Norfolk on and off for 40 years, and previously been involved in organising concerts at Holkham Hall, Michael became involved when Lord Charles Townshend and his wife, Alison, Lady Townshend moved in after he inherited the hall on the death of his father in 2011.
“One of their first thoughts was to really make the house come alive and one of the ways was with music,” he explains. “Particularly in that great room, the Marble Hall which covers most of the width of the house and is perfectly suited for music. They wanted it to be music as much as possible of the period of the house, the last half of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century.
“They wanted it to be a union of both what you saw and what you hear. Having been an opera singer around the world for many years and doing a lot of this music, especially baroque music, they asked me to help them out.”
He has been helping to choose a repertoire for five years and has performed before but never before with his son, fellow countertenor Sean Chance. For the opening recital on Saturday father and son will be joined by Maggie Cole on harpsichord and a chamber group.
“It is a chance for me and my son, who is also now doing this as a profession, to get together and perform. The last duo that did this sort of thing with this type of voice was Alfred Deller who often used to do father and son concerts.
“We have performed together once before. It is the sort of thing you approach with trepidation. If I make even the semblance of a mistake he will dig me in the ribs with his elbow. I have to be on my metal. It is fun doing duets because there is an element of playful competitiveness.
“We will be accompanied by harpsichord, cello and two recorders. This music would have always have been done in this period in this style, with a little chamber group. There will be a group of six of us performing, including Maggie who will be playing a fantastic new harpsichord that they have at Raynham, which was made my Norwich’s own Alan Gotto who is one of the best harpsichord makers in the country.”
The programme will include music by Henry Purcell. “He lived between 1659 and 1695, he died very young, and that is very much the period of Raynham Hall. It is about history, location and the aesthetics of the place,” adds Michael.
This weekend’s recital on Sunday features young Spanish classical guitarist Jacob Cordover. “In that room the sound of guitar will be really entrancing,” he adds.
The season continues next year with a performance by students from the Royal Academy of Music, where Michael teaches, in April.
He said: “I teach at the Royal Academy and I usually put a project together of a bigger piece, for orchestra, soloists and a choir. We’ve done it twice now and performed a couple of early operas. We haven’t yet decided what we will be performing next year but there will be about 20 students coming to the hall. It is a chance for them to perform outside the Academy. They are all in their early twenties so a couple of years off becoming professionals, so the opportunity to play for a very supportive audience is special.
There will be more young performers at the ‘Stars of the Future’ concert in June that will feature three talented French musicians.
“I had a class at the Royal Academy and there were these French students from the Paris Conservatoire, one playing the harpsichord, one singing and one playing the cello, and I thought wow they are amazing, particularly the singer whose voice was starry” he explains. “They are coming along to do a French programme, but again music not too far removed from the days of the house.”
Future recitals also include tenor Nicholas Mulroy and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny Tenor and Iranian-American harpsichordist, who first performed at Raynham with Avi Avital on mandolin last year but is returning to perform Bach’s The Goldberg Variations.
“It will be an intense solo performance of profound and wonderful music. It is one of those pieces you get entranced by. It takes you to a different world.”
• Raynham Hall Recitals begin with Michael Chance and son on September 23, 6pm, £50, £30 young adults. Jacob Cordover The Spanish Guitar is on September 24, 3.30pm, £30, £18 under-20s. Bookings on 01328 862133, ticketsource.co.uk/raynham-recitals
• Full details of all future recitals at raynhamrecitals.co.uk