Is there no end to the talents of the young people of Herefordshire? Church Mouse was fortunate enough to attend the first of this season’s MiQP concerts, only five weeks into a new school year for the performers from Hereford Cathedral School and five weeks into a completely new school for Duncan Barlow, the new Director of Music. Poised and polished performances were given by both instrumentalists and vocalists, whether soloists or choir. And as the dissonances lingered between the stone pillars of St. George’s and then soared and resolved in the roof space, the question formed in Mouse’s mind as to whether the preponderance of female soloists, and indeed, the significant number of female composers, was deliberate.
Of six soloists, five were girls, although the violin soloist, a young man, showed that he was no push-over by his double-stopping and ability to play what seemed to Mouse to be a very difficult piece, Praeludium und Allegro by Fritz Kreisler. (Composed in the early C20th, for reasons of his own Kreisler seems to have originally attributed the piece to an C18th Italian composer and violinist called Pugnani.) Contemporary female composers included the so-called American “Hip harpist” Deborah Henson-Conant, the youthful Canadian Sarah Quartel (aged about 40) and another American Linda Spevecek. Although Mozart and C.P.E. Bach featured on the programme, it was both interesting and entertaining to hear pieces by lesser-known young and vibrant musicians such as Ola Gjeilo, a 44 year-old Norwegian.
Despite converging on St. George’s from all over the country, (the Under 18 hockey team rushed back from Bristol after playing in the Regional Finals of a Hockey Tournament and members of the CCF arrived from Coventry and Pershore laden with enormous bags and equipment) there was still great energy and spirit shown by the young people when required during the evening, and some tranquil and reflective singing. The ever-popular and joyful “Cuckoo Cries” performed by Cantabile was balanced by “Can you hear me”, which included signing as it sang of the world seen through the eyes of a deaf child. “Danza” with its Spanish feel, also sung by Cantabile, was balanced by “A Blessing”, written by Duncan Barlow for his wedding and selected to be performed as part of the ceremonies at the Tower of London commemorating the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, when thousands of ceramic poppies were displayed. For emotional impact, there was “Cana’s Guest” written by a former colleague of Duncan Barlow’s at Norwich. With male voices starting in a low register, the chromatic and ascending notes increasing both in number of voices and in volume gave Mouse goosebumps.