Opera star in fine form for Gala

The talented line-up at Ponteland Rotary Clubs Graeme Danby Gala, with club president Suzanne Marshall.
The talented line-up at Ponteland Rotary Clubs Graeme Danby Gala, with club president Suzanne Marshall.

Ponteland Rotary Club held its 32nd Graeme Danby Gala on October 16 where the famous local born bass brought stars of the opera to the North East, including violinist Bradley Creswick, the Leader of the Northern Sinfonia.

As usual, Graeme was accompanied by his wife mezzo soprano Valerie Reid.

And her duet from Cosi Fan Tutte, with soprano Sena Larard, was absolutely spellbinding.

Tenor Austin Gunn, who teaches singing at Durham and Hull Universities, has one of the clearest voices ever, and his voice rang through the hall with Verdi’s La Donna e Mobile and Be my Love, which was popularised by Mario Lanza.

Graeme Danby, who was born in Consett, has performed more than 1,000 principal parts in operas all over the world and he has great control of his rich deep voice.

This came through brilliantly in the Gala with his rendering of an aria from Macbeth by Verdi.

Graeme, a fun-loving character, always brings humour to this occasion and as a Newcastle United supporter, he usually has something to say about his team. However, he was noticeably quiet this year on that score.

Sena Larard is from America, and her beautiful voice has earned her a glittering career in opera and recitals.

It was great to see her back at Ponteland after a few years’ break while having two children. She lives in London, where she now teaches students singing at the Royal Opera House and the Italia Conte School.

Her interpretation of Mozart’s Come Scoglio was deep and haunting, bringing tumultuous applause from an appreciative audience.

Bradley Creswick stole the show with two bird-related pieces — Skylark and Hot Canary, where his virtuosity was fully demonstrated as the sound of tweeting birds came from his instrument.

This amazing violinist really got everybody tapping their feet, with the hoedown music Black Mountain bringing delight and lengthy applause.

There was a very clever and amusing Stilgoe duet by Valerie and Sena, sending up the Womens’ Institute Calendar Girls.

This was followed by an equally funny song by Graeme, also by Stilgoe, about Joyce the Librarian.

The artistes were accompanied by Lydia Newlands, a graduate with honours of the London School of Music.

Her career as a freelance accompanist and long association with Graeme and his wife Valerie has led to this remarkable pianist appearing with many other singers, and in her own right, all over the UK.

Ponteland’s first lady President Suzanne Marshall thanked the artistes for an amazing concert, not forgetting the sponsors Ballinger Trust, The Britannia Hotel, Ponteland Print, Cowells Garden Centre, Haveli Restaurant, Rialto Ristorante and Geoff Stevens and Son.

Suzanne also thanked her Vice President Michael Metcalf for organising the event.

And finally, she thanked the audience for their support.

Syd Howarth