English Music and Song

TONY COOPER Shelton Festival event at St Mary's Church, Long Stratton

TONY COOPER

This enterprising arts festival, founded four years ago, pulled off a major coup last night by getting distinguished tenor James Gilchrist for a recital prior to his forthcoming appearance at the Royal Albert Hall.

Accompanied by pianist Anna Tilbrook (along with two members of the 4te String Quartet) he opened his programme with Three Pastoral Songs by Roger Quilter – an appropriate choice for the idyllic and pastoral setting of Shelton, near Long Stratton.

Gilchrist immediately warmed to St Mary's superb acoustic and his voice radiated a pure and delicate sound.

He clearly showed his love and aptitude for English music, particularly in Ralph Vaughan Williams' song cycle On Wenlock Edge – a setting of poems by AE Housman – and, for me, the highlight of his recital. The long silence after Bredon Hill was a spiritual moment to cherish!

His interpretation of such wonderful and uplifting pieces will long be remembered.

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He was superbly accompanied by the 4te String Quartet, whose members were also heard in John Ireland's Phantasie Trio in A minor (no. 1), which they played to an exacting degree with Miss Tilbrook's reading impeccable!

Earlier Gilchrist sang Gerald Finzi's A Young Man's Exhortation, projecting a voice with a natural and full range.

The festival is in its infancy. I wonder where it will end up?

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