Trio warm up winter lunchtime concert

THE first of the new Winter Spring Series of Lunchtime Concerts took place at St George’s United Reformed Church last Wednesday and featured three local performers.

Cold wintry weather did not deter a large audience who turned up to hear organist Peter Waugh, pianist Ken Irvine and tenor Alex Banfield.

Peter and Ken are well-established musicians, while Alex has just started his musical journey.

Peter is organist and Director of Music at Trinity Church, Gosforth, and is currently an accompanist for the Mid Northumberland Chorus.

Alex is hoping to study as a tenor at a music college in September and has been a soloist for two productions of the Mid Northumberland Chorus in the last year.

Ken has been the organist at St George’s for 30 years and appears regularly as accompanist for instrumentalists and singers at the present format of lunchtime concerts, which has been running for seven years.

The programme for this occasion was interesting and varied, with modern compositions intermixed with more traditional pieces.

Peter started the proceedings with Now Thank We All Our God by Karg-Elert in which the beautiful flowing melody is interwoven cleverly with the hymn tune.

He followed with Musical Clocks by Haydn, four delightful little pieces, fast-flowing and delicate, played mainly on the upper register of the organ.

The effect was simplicity, but very effective.

The final piece in this section was Sicilienne by Maria Therese von Paradis, a blind pianist named after the Empress, a composition with lovely moving chords with a lilting theme reflecting peace and serenity.

Alex followed with four 18th-century compositions, three by Handel — Where’ere You Walk from Semele, along with Comfort Ye My People and Every Valley Shall Be Exalted from Messiah, which proved a stiff challenge.

Alex proved more than equal to the occasion.

His singing was a revelation, with excellent tonal quality, good diction and clarity.

He gave a polished rendering of the two Messiah arias.

His voice was as clear as crystal, with an impressive top register, and the fast-running passages were accurate and distinct.

My Lovely Celia by George Munro gave Alex another chance to shine in a love song with a gentle flowing theme.

Ken took his turn to impress with the Sarabande, Minuette and Musette from Greig’s Holberg Suite.

This series of dances is tricky, but Ken made an excellent job, playing with great confidence and skill, with good tempo and rhythm throughout.

Ken and Peter combined with a piano duet, The Four Dance Suite from Merrie England by Edward German.

This opera has fine music and this duet, including many of the main themes, was a popular choice.

Ken and Peter performed with great aplomb, playing with high skill and precision.

Alex returned to sing Karl Jenkin’s He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven, Loewe’s On The Street Where You Live from My Fair Lady and Bring Him Home from Les Miserables by Schonberg.

Again, Alex was totally composed, singing beautifully and impressively.

He had total control and his whole performance reflected a young man with a voice capable of achieving great things in the future.

The concert ended with two organ pieces, a setting by Alan Rawsthorn of Brother James’ Air and March Triomphale by Lemmens.

The gentle first composition was followed by a total contrast in what Peter described as a musical romp.

The concert was varied, interesting and full of superb music, presented in a most competent and professional way. A large audience thoroughly agreed.

The next concert, on Wednesday, February 13, features the Chamber Choir and other talented musicians from King Edward VI School.