Young musicians spring into new lunchtime concert series

THE first of the winter/spring lunchtime concerts held at St George’s URC last Wednesday featured two young ladies from Newbiggin by the Sea, Emma Straughan on oboe and soprano Susan Robertson.

Both were taught at Newbiggin Middle School by concert organiser Gillian Irvine and both pursue their careers in the North East.

Emma started playing oboe at the age of nine and has travelled extensively in Europe, performing with a wide variety of musical groups. Since gaining her BMus and LRCM she enjoys teaching and is involved with Morpeth and Ryton music festivals.

She opened with three contrasting 18th Century pieces by French composers, illustrating her skills both in beautiful slow legato playing and brilliant fast passages, equally at home with both upper and lower registers.

She then played a mid 20th Century Humoresque by Reizenstein. This brisk, lively piece with many discords and awkward intervals is technically challenging for soloist and accompanist.The section ended with a Canzonetta by local composer Lizelle Kirby, dedicated to Emma. The chordwork and main theme were both typical of contemporary musical writing.

Susan started her musical career as Head of Music at Meadowdale Middle School, Bedlington, when she was also Musical Director of Ashington Operatic Society. She currently works as South Tees Musical Co-ordinator and is a soloist with the Ravenswood Singers. She has sung in shows, concerts and recitals.

Susan began her programme with Love Never Dies by Lloyd Webber, followed by A Winter’s Tale by Batt. Two arias followed, Apres Un Reve by Faure and Casta Diva from the opera Norma by Bellini.

In all these, Susan sang with great control and conviction. She possesses a huge range and the top notes, particularly in the second aria, were clear and powerful, a most thrilling sound.

This power is allied to a beautiful tonal quality, which is the most essential element for good solo singing. Susan has this quality and is equally at home singing softly and smoothly.

Emma continued with the second movement of Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C. This elegant and charming music was played with great conviction and feeling, with beautiful light and shade.

Susan returned to perform light operetta pieces The Laughing Song from Die Fleidermaus by Johann Strauss and My Hero from the Chocolate Soldier by Oscar Strauss.

They were sung beautifully and with great feeling. In the former, Susan portrayed to the fullest extent her majestic, powerful upper range, ending on an unbelievable upper G, which she held for several seconds.

She ended with two operatic arias, Ebben...N’andro lontana from Catalani’s La Wally and O Mio Babbino Caro from Puccini’s Gianni Schicci, which was a fitting conclusion to a most enjoyable recital by a talented lady who smiled throughout and obviously enjoyed every minute of her performance. The audience certainly did.

The concert ended with two pieces by Emma. Alla Gitana by Dukas reflected Spanish gipsy themes and was performed with great skill.

The haunting and beautiful Gabriel’s Oboe, the theme tune from the film The Mission, was played with great sympathy and proved a fitting climax to a most enjoyable concert.

Ken Irvine supported both soloists with his usual skill and high level of performance on piano.

The next concert is on Wednesday, February 23, featuring Julia Watson on cello and pianist Jonathan Foster.