Church Mouse  was very excited to find that Music in Quiet places is returning, with the first concert held on 24th June in what has traditionally been thought of as the birthplace of St. Dubricius. Like the early pilgrims who made their way to the parish church of St. Mary, Madley, 70 or so people made their way (with suitable distancing) to the medieval building with its early C14th wall paintings, to form MiQP’s first audience for about eighteen months. The fact that the performers had not actually performed to a live audience for a similar length of time was very hard to believe as the works were confidently presented and were extremely polished. It came as no surprise to learn that the musicians had been meeting remotely throughout the current pandemic (was there music in churches during the Black Death/Plague?), and had even made recordings, some of which have traveled across the pond to New York (Music for Manhattan C.D.)

St Mary’s Madley

The Gilbert Consort, named after a medieval bishop of Hereford, was made up of three Year 11 (15-16 years old) pupils from the Cathedral School (Alex Campbell, Dimity Shorrock and Isabel D’Avanzo), an ex-pupil who left the school last year (William Caldwell Martin) and a graduate assistant at HCS who reached the final of BBC Young Musician in 2014, gained a double first in music at Cambridge and is soon to be en route to the USA to take up a scholarship at Harvard. Under her inspirational leadership, the Consort treated us to a programme that was diverse, melodious and entertaining. We heard an interesting variety of instruments, not the ones twenty first century mice are accustomed to seeing – including different recorders, lute, harpsichord, cello, voice and harp. Church Mouse did look out for a cornamuse or crumhorns but saw no sign of any, although they are not unknown to earlier incarnations of the Gilbert Consort. They were, however, totally unnecessary, as the programme required them not.

As the title suggests, most of the pieces were written hundred of years ago, by composers who, C. Mouse noted sadly, failed to live to a very advanced age (apart from Telemann who was in his mid-eighties when he died). From the familiar, (Gaudete, Scarborough Fair, Sumer is icumen in), to the not so well-known and the downright never-heard-of (So ben mi c’ha bon tempo by Orazio Vecchi) every piece showed us something different. Courtly dancing at the Tudor Court was brought brilliantly to mind by Henry VIII’s piece Pastime with Good Company, and the joyous recorder notes of Dario Costello’s Sonata Prima was reminiscent of complex birdsong. We were fortunate, indeed,  not just to be able to attend another MiQP concert, but one of such a very high standard, and our heartfelt thanks go to the performers for their dedication and enthusiasm. After the dearth of live music during recent months this truly brought balm to the soul.

HHCT would also like to thank St. Mary’s Madley for hosting the event, and the staff, ex-staff and friends of the Cathedral School whose support and commitment were pivotal; in particular, David Evans, Sophie Westbrooke and Richard Rhodes, whose links with the Gilbert Consort go back many years.

P.S. If anyone knows which historic church was witness to “the startling scene as music stands went flying into the audience while the musicians gamely played on with icy calm”, please let someone at HHCT know so that they can tell Mouse…

Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust