Musicians of All Saints

St Luke’s Church, Brighton, Saturday 20th January 2018

This season has been based around less familiar works by Gustav Holst and if the third concert seemed a little tenuous, with the opening work an orchestral suite arranged from Purcell’s incidental music for The Virtuous Wife, it was nonetheless convincingly warm in its approach and frequently sounded more like Holst than Purcell! The lovely Slow Air had a melancholy feel closely related to Dido and a final Hornpipe which could comfortably have come from the same work.

By contrast, Gerald Finzi’s beautiful Eclogue was ravishingly well crafted both from the string orchestra and pianist Rachel Fryer. It is a shame that a work of this quality, presumably because of its short duration, is so rarely heard live. There is a real sense of narrative progress within it and gentle hints of Dies Natalis surface along the way. After this even Mozart’s Divertimento K137 seemed rather pedestrian no matter how succinctly structured and played here with considerable bite.

The main challenge of the evening, for all concerned, was Bela Bartock’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta. In his regular introductions to these concerts, Peter Copley had stressed the need to approach the work from the heart rather than the head and not get too carried away by academic analysis, useful as this can be. In this he was certainly right for the work is an emotional tour-de-force and very demanding of its listeners. For those who don’t know the work, and it was obvious many in Brighton were hearing it for the first time, there is an austerity and fierceness to the writing which can be difficult to grasp. It has the tension we find in many of Shostakovich’s symphonies, linked to outbreaks of wildness and ecstasy which seem to come from nowhere. The second movement Allegro is edgy in its attack but dissolves into dancing, while the Adagio’s fluid opening gives way to a visionary expansiveness, like Elgar’s great bronze doors, only to cut back and be reduced to silence. All of this is caught up in the fire of the final Allegro molto.

It is a very demanding work and there were moments it seemed to almost slip away from even the best of the string players but Andrew Sherwood managed his forces with considerable skill, keeping tempi realistic and clarity always to the fore. This was a daring undertaking, well worth the effort and highly commendable in outcome – would that more ensembles took this sort of risk with challenging scores. The string orchestra were joined by Adam Bushell leading the percussion, harpist Alexander Rider and Rachel Fryer returned for the piano part.

The next concert is on Saturday 3rd March when the orchestra return to All Saints Centre in Lewes for works by Holst, Vivaldi, Mendelssohn and John Hawkins. Details at www.mas-lewes.co.uk

LSSO

Barbican Hall, 9 January 2018

The Planets is the perfect piece for an accomplished youth orchestra such as LSSO. Its massive scale and orchestral colour means that there’s plenty for everyone to do and you can scale it up a bit to involve even more. After all, if you can muster four harps and six percussionists (including two outstanding tympanists and two sets of timps) then go for it.

The initial 5/4 col legno rhythm in Mars took a few bars to settle but very soon warmed as Richard Armstrong  smiled and coaxed – clearly a man who’s comfortable with young players. The grandiloquent Jupiter passage with strings and horns was as rich as I’ve ever heard it and the dynamics of the tubular bells in Neptune were immaculately controlled. Then the LSSO choir produced a suitably magical, mystic sound at the end of Uranus. It was a fine performance by any standards and the presence of three cameramen on stage, one of whom was directing the others with gestures, didn’t seem to be putting anyone off.

The evening had begun with Bernstein’s cheerful, tuneful Candide overture which was played with professional panache and youthful enthusiasm – a powerful combination. The percussion opening isn’t for the fainthearted but in the hands of these competent, confident youngsters the concert got off to an upbeat start in every sense.

LSSO’s large forces were reduced to a chamber orchestra for Samuel Barber’s wistful, lyrical Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with Louise Adler, an LSSO alumna, as soloist. It gave the strings, in particular, the chance to play in a completely different style – including a delightful string quartet moment played by the four principals –  and Adler sang James Agee’s words with great beauty and smiling sadness.

The orchestra was excellently led by A level student, Samuel Woof-McColl. His grins and elfin qualities make him a charismatic player to watch and I’m sure we shall see and hear more of him.

LSSO is the most senior performance group at Centre for Young Musicians, London’s music service for talented young musicians which operates as an arm of Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Their discipline is striking – filing silently on to the stage in the right order to take their seats at the beginning for example.

Players are drawn from all over London and one of the things I admire about LSSO almost as much as the quality of the playing, is the diversity. Both the names in the programme and the faces on the platform tell a fabulous story of integration. The families of many of these youngsters have arrived in London at some point in the past from all over the world but here they are totally bonded by classical music. Anyone who worries about lack of diversity in professional orchestras should take hope form this. Some of these young people will undoubtedly be playing in “grown up” ensembles before long.

Susan Elkin

 

 

Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

The Dome, Brighton, Sunday 31 December 2017

New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala Concert

A very happy new year to all and what better way to celebrate than with Brighton Philharmonic at their annual Viennese Gala. Out of a finely balanced programme of familiar favourites and welcome additions, the highlight was without any doubt the mellifluous coloratura of Rebecca Bottone. Opening with the audition song from Die Fledermaus she moved effortlessly into Schenkt man sich Rosen in Tyrol from Zeller’s Der Vogelhandler, later adding the waltz song from Edward German’s Tom Jones.

If this latter piece seemed somewhat out of place it was very much part of Barry Wordsworth’s approach to these New Year’s Eve concerts, aiming to include a range of British pieces which sit comfortably alongside the Viennese. As such Gershwin’s By Strauss could hardly fail even if Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves was a more unusual addition.

The second half opened with Malcolm Arnold’s English Dance No8 – a raucous item guaranteed to blow the cobwebs away and Richard Rodney Bennett’s waltz for the film score of Murder on the Orient Express.

Rebecca Bottone returned to bring us a vocal setting of Strauss’ waltz Wo die Citronen blüh’n and, the vocal highlight of the afternoon, Vilja from The Merry Widow. The Brighton audience is so knowledgeable and well trained that we had no difficulty providing the hushed choral support needed for this lovely piece!

If this implies there was a dearth of actual Viennese music – far from it. We heard twelve works from the Strauss family running from the overture to Die Fledermaus to The Blue Danube, taking in along the way Voices of Spring, Auf der Jagd and my particular favourite Die Libelle – the Dragonfly Polka.

From Lehar, in addition to Vilja¸ we heard the Gold and Silver Waltz.

The Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra were on fine form with some excellent solo work from John Bardbury, providing exquisite violin solos, harpist Helen Sharp and piccolo Deborah Davis.

There was just time for the inevitable encore – Strauss’ Radetsky March­ – with audience and orchestra in perfect accord.

Barry Wordsworth announced that the orchestra, which relies on its audience for the bulk of its income, is secure for the next twelve months and dates have already been issued for the new 2018-19 season. Be there!

 

 

Hastings Philharmonic: Christmas Concert

St Mary in the Castle, Hastings, Saturday 16 December 2017

Marcio da Silva is singing O Holy Night. It must be Christmas once again. Since that time he first turned to face us and sing, the carol has become not only a fixed point in the Christmas calendar but a quintessential emblem of all that is best in Hastings at this time of year.

Hastings Philharmonic Choir goes from strength to strength, the top sopranos excelling themselves in a number of unfamiliar but very rewarding carols. Alongside the carols for audience participation we heard William Mathias’ A Babe is Born,with its tight rhythms and accuracy of diction, and the ladies only singing with great tenderness There is no Rose from Britten’s Ceremony of Carols.

There was strong dynamic range in Bob Chilcott’s The Shepherd’s Carol which segued easily into the taught harmonies of Tavener’s The Lamb.

Inspiritus Brass, who gave sterling support to the audience carols, including florid fanfares, provided the choir with a break with lively arrangements of Little Drummer Boy and Mr Sandman, returning during the second half with Jungle Bells  and Deck the Halls.

It was good to see Tom McLelland-Young in the audience to hear the choir sing his moving setting of Jesu, Son most sweet and dear, before we all indulged ourselves in the Sussex Carol.

Following our rendition of Unto us is born a Son, we arrived at O Holy Night  and the climax of the evening. Not only has Marcio not sung this better, the choir was superbly in tune with him, not just musically but emotionally. Can it get any better? Perhaps we will find out next year!

If the rhythms in Hurford’s On a sunny bank seemed a little bumpy after this the choir quickly came back into shape for Rutter’s Donkey Carol.

It was then time for the regular slot for local children, this year drawn from the choir of Christ Church Primary school, who sang two settings by John Rutter and Johnson’s Midnight.  If Marcio da Silva achieves his dream of a children’s and young people’s choir, maybe in future years we will hear Hastings Philharmonics own young singers? The children led us in Away in a Manger before we came to the final choral item, Mathias’ Sir Christemus – a lovely setting but somewhat upstaged by the return of the children to the gallery.

We went on our way with the triumphant sounds of O Come All Ye Faithful ringing in our ears.

There was a time when we would have had to wait another three months for the next event. Now we have only a month until Hastings Philharmonic present another Tango evening at St Mary’s on Saturday 13th January. Last year was a revelation. Be there!

Joglaresa: Make We Myrth

Djanogly Recital Hall, Nottingham, 14 December 2017

Joglaresa seem to have an unerring ability to infuse joy into everything they do – all the more important at this time of the year but none the less very welcome.

Where original instrument performances can err on the esoteric side there is nothing prim about Joglaresa though equally there is no compromise where professionalism is concerned. The instruments are authentic – two medieval five-stringed fidels, an Irish bouzouki, gittern, dulcimer and harp, plus a fine range of percussion – the voices direct and crisp, and tempi almost always up-beat.

But what really impresses is the sense of intimacy. Time and again the plucked strings, gentle harp or dulcimer, draw us in to a medieval hall where we are very much part of the family, captivated by the beauty of the voices, or the sudden raucous outburst of a drinking song.

Their Christmas programme ranges widely, and even where some of the music is familiar, it is performed with a deep understanding of its origins and impact. They take The Coventry Carol back to the 13th century rather than its more familiar Elizabethan version as early instruments could not play the scale needed for the later arrangements.

The texts range happily from Latin, through early and medieval English to modern English. Rather than confusing the ear this adds to the sense of wonder and a realisation, if we did not already know it, that there is far more to Christmas than Dickens and the later 19th century.

The virtuoso fidel playing was provided by May Robertson, joined by fideler Sianed Jones who also enchanted us with Pais Dinogad, a 6th century Welsh carol. Lea Corthwaite provided the lead male voice, launching into The Boar’s Head Carol  with vigour, as well as playing the gittern, and was partnered by the highly accomplished Kerry Ann Holland whose high floating soprano lines enchanted as much as her harp playing.

Louise Anna Duggan gave us gentle tones from the dulcimer as well as playing a mean tambourine, alongside Tad Sargent’s Irish bouzouki and bodhran.

All forces were kept splendidly in their place and encouraged by Belinda Sykes who leads the troupe. Her knowledge is obviously very deep but she wears her expertise lightly, keeping us well informed without ever feeling we are in an academic lecture. She also sings with aplomb, to say nothing of playing the recorder and bagpipes!

A wonderful evening. Joglaresa have been on the road for 25 years. At this rate they will still be enthusing audiences until their 50th.

Full details of all events and cds at www.joglaresa.com

English National Ballet: The Nutcracker

London Coliseum, 13 December 2017

I’ve been listening to Tchaikovsky all my life and I still marvel at how he does it: melody after soaring melody. And of course he’s at his sparkling best in ballet with all those waltzes, mazurkas, hornpipes, martial interludes and the rest, all sumptuously orchestrated.

However well you know it, and however popular it is, the Nutcracker score is, well, a cracker and it’s in very capable hands with Gavin Sutherland and English National Ballet Philharmonic in this production which dates from 2010.  After a slightly shaky, thin textured start on press night the orchestra quickly settled to produce a rich, crisp sound. Sutherland takes most of the set pieces in Act 2 at a slower tempo than many conductors which means that every little bit of orchestral detail is made to shine through. The rising scales at the beginning of Act 2, for example, pack real drama and the trumpet in the Spanish dance beams out. And he makes sure that we are all very conscious of the musical chemistry between the celesta and bass clarinet during The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Meanwhile there’s some very pleasing work on stage too. Wayne Eagling’s choreography and Peter Farmer’s designs give us a strong sense of the family home which frames the action – its exterior, inside for the Christmas party and the intimacy of Clara’s bedroom where the child falls asleep and begins to dream.

Shiori Kase is delightful as the adult Clara who becomes the lead dancer in the dream sequence. Her pas-de-deux with Guilherne Menezes (also excellent) is both spectacular and elegant – and, of course, accompanied by, arguably, the best music in the piece with that stupendous timpani roll at the climax, impeccably played here.

The children (from Tring Park School for the Performing Arts and English National Ballet School) do well too especially in the formation dances at the party in act 1. And they form a choir in a side balcony for the continuo section in the big Act 1 waltz. Of all the children Noam Durand as Clara’s naughty little brother, Freddie, is the most engaging.

Junor Souza is an imposing Drosselmeyer dancing with Clara – sometimes in a trio with the Nutcracker – but there’s a narrative problem. The whole point of the Act 2 set pieces is that it’s all a treat for Clara. If she’s off stage – as in this production – then you would be forgiven for wondering why Drosselmeyer suddenly morphs into a faintly menacing impresario. But it’s a minor grumble in a production which is full of colour – both visual and aural – and warmth and imaginative ideas.

No Christmas is complete without a good Nutcracker. And there are a number around at the moment. This enjoyable one will do me very well for this year. SE

 

Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra

Brighton Dome, Sunday 2 December, 2017

 

Elgar’s In the South, written in 1904 and the oldest work of the afternoon, was a resounding opener in this all twentieth century programme. Barry Wordsworth dug out plenty of nostalgic silkiness, especially in the impressively clear string sound. He exploited the big rit just before the end too, so that it rang out with real Elgarian grandiloquence.

Ravel’s piano concerto written nearly thirty years later is, of course, a complete contrast. The opening and closing movements in particular often sound like Gershwin crossed with Shostakovitch. Melvyn Tan is a most engaging performer, eyes and body turned to the conductor and orchestra all the time and his left foot beating time in the jazzier Bolero-like sections – every inch a team player. He has a way of striking the keys rhythmically thereby reminding us that the piano is actually a percussion instrument. The middle movement in 3/4 with its long song-intro from the piano and then the duets with horn and cor anglais was beautifully lyrical – as was Tan’s encore: Liszt’s Bells of Geneva. Ravel, Tan told the audience, studied Liszt intensively and would almost certainly have played this piece.

Barry Wordsworth pointed up all the mournful but tuneful melancholy in the opening section of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony highlighting the similarities to Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony and the Russian-ness of it all. Then came the scherzo, at a nippy enough tempo to provide all the requisite fireworks and contrasts. To make this symphony work, you really need to milk Rachmaninov’s beautiful melodies for all they’re worth and that’s just what the conductor did in the last two movements. The finale, for instance, has a lot of lush string work but in this performance it was enjoyably joyful rather than heavy – serious music with a spring in its step.

Congratulations to BPO’s cor anglais player who worked very hard in this concert both in the Ravel and the Rachmaninov. She provided some especially attractive solos.

Susan Elkin

 

 

 

Maidstone Symphony Orchestra

Mote Hall, Maidstone, 2 December 2017

The Flying Dutchman overture – always a good warm up piece for both audience and orchestra – got us off to a strong start with its energetic opening. Brian Wright ensured that we enjoyed all that Wagnerian brass and busy string work and the slight roughness in the more exposed section didn’t matter much.

Then it was on to Strauss’s sparky, melodious 1946 Oboe Concerto. There’s an elfin quality about Olivier Stankiewicz, a Frenchman, both in his playing and his appearance. The mature Strauss understood exactly how to exploit the instrument whose small reed allows for few breaths and long phrases and Stankiewicz gave us a lot of lyricism and seamless creamy sound especially in the beautiful Andante. Brian Wright is, as ever, very good at supporting soloists and here he achieved an elegant balance between orchestra and oboe.

Ralph Vaughan Williams’s vibrant Second Symphony is an aural portrait of London hailing from just before the First World War. It’s a work of many moods and modes, requiring large forces and it’s good to see a battery of young percussionists playing, among many other things, several sorts of cymbal. By now the orchestra was totally in its stride and the precision of the muted strings beneath the horn and trumpet in the ethereal minor key melody in the Lento was a delight. So was the resolute string sound in the Nocturne. And the control in the very evocative epilogue, as everything dies away to silence at the end, was a great credit to the conductor.

Two other players deserve a special mention. Ben Knowles, principal viola, had a lot to do. Vaughan Williams loved the viola and gives it solo spots in his second symphony as well as leading more than once with the viola section. There’s a nice viola passage in the Strauss too. And it all came off with aplomb in this concert. Knowles well deserved the special front-of-stage acknowledgement Brian Wright gave him at the end. Second, full marks to the harpist, Jane Lister, who substituted at the eleventh hour for a player who had mistaken the date. She raced in with her harp five minutes before the concert was due to start and went on to do a grand job.

This was a charity concert attended by High Sheriff of Kent, George Jessel DL, in his ceremonial velvet and frills. It supported the High Sheriff’s charity the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, which, he told the audience before the concert, looks after farmers and farming families who have fallen on hard times.

Susan Elkin

WNO: Russian Revolution

Apollo Theatre, Oxford, 28-29 November 2017

It was a pleasure to see both of these productions back in the repertoire and so well presented. The link may have been a little tenuous but the experience of the individual works was never in doubt.

James Macdonald’s approach to Eugene Onegin becomes increasingly challenging as it goes on. We have little real sympathy with Tatyana in her letter scene, as she seems emotionally limited no matter how extrovert she claims to be, but by the end it is Onegin himself who troubles us as he loses all sympathy in a welter of self-flagellation.

This narrative is carefully constructed and set within the three large choral scenes which are expertly handled by the WNO chorus. The mistakes in the choreography were either brilliantly planned to look naturalistic or were covered in a highly professional way by the respective chorus members. Either way it was a delight.

Natalya Romaniw, as Tatyana, is actually Welsh despite her Ukranian name and matures intelligently as the evening progresses. The voice is never in doubt but her reaction to Onegin seems, on reflection, unnecessarily harsh. He does not come over as arrogant in the opening scenes even if he is a fish out of water. She is at her best in the final act where – like Trollope’s Lady Glencora – she has learned how the world works and actually rather likes it, even if she has a moment of self-doubt.

Nicholas Lester’s Onegin is suave from the start but seems, psychologically, to absorb all the worst traits of Lensky once he has killed his friend. In the final act we are led to believe for a moment that Lensky is still alive but it is actually Onegin, now tousle haired and unshaven. He has had a total meltdown, and if he was out of his depth with the peasants at the start he is even more so now with the true aristocracy. No such problem for Tatyana who has taken to the life as a duck to water.

Jason Bridges is a finely sung Lensky but one whose naivety lets him down to say nothing of failing the excellent Olga of Claudia Huckle.

Of the large cast Liuba Sokolova particularly impressed at Filipyevna, and though Miklos Sebestyen only has the one aria as Gremin he certainly made the most of it – setting the seal on Onegin’s fate with deft simplicity.

Ainars Rubikis handled his large forces with skill from the pit and was not afraid to allow the sentimentality to take over when needed.

The following night brought us to the darkness of Janacek’s From the House of the Dead in David Pountney’s moving production of 1982. It is as stark as ever and if anything even more relevant in the light of refugee camps and the rise of right-wing parties. The narrative is concerned with prisoners telling their own stories – a reality of many camps where the only way to remind yourself you count and are human is to retell your story, no matter how bleak or evil it may appear to be.

We learn very little of Goryanchikov, who appears to be the only real political prisoner, and the only one who is freed at the end. In Ben McAteer’s characterisation he is at once sympathetic but also a total outsider to the rest of the prisoners.

Alan Oke’s Skuratov tells of his love for Luisa – an affair which comes to nothing – and in the final scene Simon Bailey’s Shishkov insists on giving all the grizzly details of his marriage.

Nothing is comfortable in the work, though there are numerous moments when light seems to break through; none more so than the end when the eagle is released – a sign of hope even when the prisoners themselves have little or none.

Tomas Hanus drove the score strongly. The opening prelude was particularly impressive setting the emotional state of the work, but there are no easy moments. The stage design by Maria Bjornson is as effective as ever and strongly lit by Chris Ellis.

Hastings Early Music Festival 2017

Friday 24 & Saturday 25 December at Opus Theatre
Sunday 26 December at Kino teatr

The first Hastings Early Music Festival brought a wealth of fine musicianship as well as encouraging an enthusiastic following for all three events across the weekend.

Friday night’s concert given by the Rautio Piano Trio may have lain just outside the normal parameters of early music but served as an engaging context for the rest of the weekend. Introducing the three piano trios by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, the members of the trio drew links based on letters from the composers, the visits they made to each other and their friendships across the years at the end of the eighteenth century.

They also drew our attention to the development of the Piano Trio itself, pointing up the growing importance of the cello, mellifluously played by Victoria Simonsen, as one moves from the near simplistic bass line from Mozart to the warm cantabile of Beethoven’s flowing melodies.

They opened with Mozart’s trio in C major KV548, the first Allegro driven by the piano. Though there is more scope for Jane Gordon’s solo violin as the work progresses it is essentially all built around Jan Rautio’s muscular piano playing.

The balance shifts in Haydn’s G major Trio Hob XV:25, the gently flowing legato line of the Poco Adagio particularly impressing and the jaunty, almost raunchy, Presto  bringing the first half to a fine climax.

After the interval we heard Beethoven’s Eflat trio Op70No2. Here the balance was exemplary. If the acoustic in the Opus is on the dry side it helps to clarify and accentuate the sound, giving it an added immediacy. The final Allegro moved us securely into the romantic period, with its complexity both of texture and structure – we have come a very long way from the gentle simplicity of Mozart’s trio earlier in the evening.  As a brief, romantic, encore we heard a delightful Nocturne by Ferdinand Hiller, who himself bridges the time between Haydn and Wagner.

We were now ready to dive back into the heady excesses of the eighteenth century on the following evening, opening with a brief Prelude to Act V of Purcell’s The Fairy Queen performed by the full HEMF Baroque Ensemble.  This was followed by Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and highlighting the Festival Director, Jane Gordon, as solo violinist. So familiar is the work that it is all too easy to ignore the fact that this is effectively a virtuoso concerto for violin, and one which she carried off with considerable aplomb and impressive ornamentation. The Largo was taken at a more rapid tempo than might be expected but reflected the bleakness of the setting, to say nothing of one of the coldest nights so far this winter.

Soprano Charlotte Beamont joined the ensemble to sing the gentle but plaintive O Let Me Weep from Purcell’s The Fairy Queen followed instantly by a jaunty chaconne with violin obbligato.

The first half ended with a return to Vivaldi and his familiar Nulla in Mundo- though on this occasion we heard the whole work including the excessive and wonderful coloratura of the final Alleluia.

After the interval we moved to Bach and Handel, opening with an arrangement of one of Bach’s orchestral suites for Flute and strings. Flautist Neil Mclaren played through the Overture and then gave us a brief introduction to his flute which is based on a 1730 German model and one which he bought without even playing, knowing how good it would be and how perfect for eighteenth-century scores. They then played the six dance movements which make up the rest of the suite with a very slow and introspective Sarabande and a sprightly concluding Badinerie which seemed to defy the B minor setting of the whole work.

Charlotte Beamont returned for three vocal items to conclude the evening. Lascia ch’io pianga was the popular aria from Handel’s Rinaldo followed by the even better known Rejoice Greatly from Messiah.  In both the ornamentation was subtle and always apt.

The concert ended with the final aria from Bach’s Cantata BWV209, drawing on all the players across the evening for a warmly uplifting conclusion before we went out into a very cold night.

The final event of the Festival was held on Sunday afternoon at Kino Teatr where The Telling presented a programme of medieval carols, interspersed with readings. Where the previous two evenings had been carefully structured to lead us through and give us a deeper insight into the music we were to hear, the approach from the two singers and instrumentalist  was immersive and at times somewhat confusing. With no translations or explanations, no matter how beautiful the singing, we had no idea what we were listening too or the potential differences between the settings. More confusing still were the readings. Where all the music was medieval, the first reading was Laurie Lee’s experience of singing carols at the Big House in Slad in the early part of the last century. Only the brief extract from Gawain came close the period of the music. Kaisa Pulkkinen’s harp playing was most enjoyable but it would have been even more fascinating to know why she used two very different portable harps. There was some familiar music along the way but it could have been so much more enjoyable if we had understood more, rather than simply sitting back and indulging ourselves.

Maybe this will be part of a learning curve for next year. As a first festival this has been immensely impressive and plans are already in hand for next year. Jane Gordon has to be thanked and congratulated – starting anything for scratch is difficult and getting this far so quickly shows a level of professionalism and stamina which should take her far.