It’s Autumn; season for the church mouse to come inside – in time for the start of the third series of Music in Quiet Places. What a good decision! It was a very enjoyable evening.

One of the joys of MiQP is that audiences have a chance to visit some lovely churches. St. Michael’s, Eaton Bishop, Grade I Listed, is absolutely beautiful, with its unusual wooden-shingled, broach spire and some of the best C14th stained glass in the country. Its antiquity and several very interesting features (including a window above the chancel arch) make it hard to understand why its applications for support have been turned down twice by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further work is required, including the addition of a loo, and any donations would be gratefully received. The simplicity of the arcaded interior, deep window embrasures and the steeply pitched line of a much earlier roof on the west wall are very evocative. Flower arrangements of lilies, gladioli and dahlias in Autumnal shades, with mini sheaves of corn and pumpkins placed on the C13th font added to the warm welcome from Linda Carter and the Rev. Hilary Morgan (extra warm as the heating works very well!). The Trust is very grateful to its hosts for allowing the concert to take place.

This was a special concert as it was the first ever performance of The Athene Singers, a recently-formed, local ladies’ choir with Director of Music Jo Williamson and accompanist Rhiannon Davies. Both are well-known to audiences of MiQP as both have appeared several times in previous series with the renowned choir Cantabile ( . The appreciative audience was not disappointed; this may have been their first outing but it won’t be their last and they are bound to be much in demand around the county.

The programme was appealing in several ways; the music was varied with a good range of solo, duet and combined voices (even some whistling) and instrumental items, presenting music from classical, contemporary and folk traditions. A blend of young and more mature voices performed a mixture of items, with classical composers represented during the first half by, amongst others, one of our most famous composers, Henry Purcell. It was very enjoyable to hear an oboe obligato (extremely well-played by Amelia Williams), joining the keyboard accompaniment from Rhiannon Davies in Vivaldi’s Domine Deus, sung by Felicity Williams. The flute (played by Megan Jones) was used to good effect in solos by Handel, (a challenge for breath control) and as part of the accompaniment to choral pieces.

The traditional American folk song Cross the Wide Missouri, which appears to have originated with Canadian and American voyageurs or fur traders travelling down the Missouri River in canoes, was one highlight of the evening for the church mouse. Megan Jones’ flute helped accompany this lovely old song, which, whatever version of the lyrics is used, seems to possess a yearning quality which is most appealing. The other highlight was All My Trials (you may remember the version by Joan Baez) with its unexpected harmonies and luscious chords in this arrangement by Neaum, and a gorgeous diminuendo at the end on a high soprano note.

The Barcarolle from Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman may have reminded some audience members of the 1969 Donald Peers’ song “Please Don’t Go”, showing how a good tune can always be reused in different genres! From the World War I song “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary” to “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music and “Fix You” (a Coldplay song), there was enough good entertainment here for everyone.

Thanks to Jo Williamson, Rhiannon Davies, the choir and the other soloists and duettists Anna Skyrme, Anna Ray, Philippa Alexander, Jo Diggle, Alison Holmes, Natasha Jobst and Emily Prosser.

The Church Mouse. October 2017


Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust