Highs and lows for lunchtime concert audience

ST George’s United Reformed Church hosted its third 2011 Lunchtime Concert last Wednesday when young violinist Charlotte Kennedy and the male vocal group Voicemale were the guest performers.

Charlotte was making her first full appearance having previously taken a small part in the KEVI presentation last year.

She was a major prize-winner in the 2011 Wansbeck Music Festival and is progressing both as a classical violinist and folk fiddler.

Voicemale, also making its first appearance, is a male folk choir drawn from Northumberland and Tyneside. Its repertoire includes a broad range of material from around the world with the main emphasis on British folk tradition, particularly the North East.

Voicemale opened the concert with three songs from Newcastle Quayside, which provided a lively start.

There followed two contrasting songs, Going To The Mine and Flanders Tommy, the former a reflection of a bygone age and the latter describing the terrible conditions in the trenches of the First World War.

Although the choir performed with great enthusiasm and gusto there were problems with harmony and a lack of tonal quality. Moreover, they did not appear to be entirely comfortable in parts.

However, folk songs require good diction and on this score the choir could not be faulted, and the songs were certainly entertaining, with good light and shade.

Charlotte played a selection of traditional tunes with Scottish and Irish flavour.

These were performed with confidence and skill, with both slow and fast passages very impressive with good tonal quality and well-controlled movement.

She continued with three of Dvorak’s Romantic Pieces. Although intended for amateurs, they are very difficult and most demanding, presenting the soloist with a huge challenge.

Charlotte made a bold attempt, but did not quite master the challenge. There were problems with intonation and some of the running passages were indistinct.

She appeared to lack confidence. It appeared that these difficult pieces were just a step too far in her progress at this stage in her development.

Her second classical choice, Ravel’s Piece d’une forme de Habanera, was very well performed.

Charlotte was much more comfortable with this dance-like theme. Her playing was confident and most tuneful with excellent rhythm and tempo.

She completed her programme with a further selection of folk tunes, which like the first were well played, displaying a high level of skill.

Charlotte was much more at ease with the folk melodies, but her overall performance was a reflection of the great progress she has made in such a short time.

A further four renderings by Voicemale brought the concert to an end.

The first two, Glendale Agricultural Show and The Drovers were nostalgic reminders of an age long gone.

There followed a comical song, Nero’s Expedition Up The Nile, where the choir made a good fist of a most complex round.

The concert ended with One More Song, based on the theme Shall We Meet Again?, which proved to be a sentimental and fitting finale to what had been a mixed concert with the main emphasis on the folk music tradition.