MiQP’s first concert of 2022 took place on the day that Storm Eunice hit, but undeterred, many people (plus Church Mouse, pen in hand) made their way to the august surroundings of Eastnor Castle. They had come at the invitation of James Hervey-Bathurst, owner of Eastnor, to listen to the Ethelbert Consort and Rhys Nicholson, a young cellist from Hereford Sixth Form College. It turned out that Rhys lives in Cwmbran and his parents drove him over 50 miles when there was a red weather warning in place, just to perform in support of HHCT and Eastnor PCC. MiQP is enormously grateful to them for having done so.
Rhys, due to attend the Royal Northern College of Music after his A Levels, impressed the audience enormously with his excellent playing of Bach and Vaughan Williams, delivered with the utmost confidence and poise. It was a fitting performance for the magnificent setting of the Great Hall, particularly atmospheric at night, the space overlooked by suits of armour and oil paintings of beruffed and bewigged characters. The dark and melancholy sound of one of the Bach suites suited the space perfectly.
The Ethelbert Consort was formed in
2013 and founded by Jon Weller, who directed the choir at Eastnor. Originally a quartet, its singers are now drawn from a pool of semi-professional and professional singers from Herefordshire and the surrounding area. The weather prevented two singers from attending, which required a slight shortening of the programme. Nonetheless, eight singers entertained us royally (overlooked by paintings of Henry VIII and Charles I on the wall behind them) with a variety of pieces from Renaissance madrigals onwards. Solemnity was contrasted with humour, particularly in My Bonnie Lass She Smelleth by PDQ Bach, which contained a wonderful part for someone who could squawk convincingly. From sacred music to folk (Linden Lea, Vaughan Williams), the shows (Somewhere Over the Rainbow) and The Beatles (Honey Pie) the Consort displayed their versatility. Singing a cappella, their sound filled the room and floated effortlessly up into the soaring spaces of the Hall, reverberating through the arches high above, from where the dissonances resolved beautifully to drift