AROUND teatime on Wednesday July 20 the weather changed. The persistent wind ceased.
On Eastbourne’s seafront the huge union flag hung motionless. The sea was calmed. A faint, almost imperceptible drizzle refreshed but did not dampen either clothes or spirits.
The idea of a concert at the nearby fairytale Castle of Herstmonceux seemed alluring.
That same evening the magic was even more palpable as one crossed the stone bridge and went through the courtyard gardens. The massed flowers glistened with their welcome dew. The atmosphere affected everyone.
Strangers chatted; and, when I found I had insufficient ready change to order two glasses of interval wine, two prepayment tickets were forced upon me. Weather like that could stop wars.
Certainly it got to the performers. Aanna Colls’s gifted singers have never been better. The soloists gave of their best. Even the applause had a special ring under the gently-curved ceiling of the ballroom.
Some of the items performed had been used at the closing concert given by the choir at the Meads Music Festival; some were new. The range of music was immense: from the 13th century Sumer is icumen in to John Rutter’s 1995 tribute to great, blind jazz pianist George Shearing.
Most of the music was as English as the setting: Ralph Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Sullivan, Delius; but Debussy, Brahms, Chopin and Denza were allowed their moments.
Many choirs look as if they are enjoying themselves. In the Eastbourne area we are fortunate that most can sing as well; and under Aanna Colls’s direction her small choir is beautifully balanced and capable of exquisite tone.
This was seen in four RVW and two Elgar songs, and especially in the offstage unaccompanied Delius To be sung of a Summer night on the water.
The Rutter Birthday Madrigals saw not only the choir but the pianist (Francis Rayner) and bassist (David Force) in fine form. Elgar’s The Snow had a delicious obbligato played by violinist Anna Liza Rogers.
Hugely entertaining was A Cycle round Britain by Goff Richards, a series of arrangements of folksongs ranging from the Londonderry Air (words by Fred Weatherly – Danny Boy), which was sung unaccompanied, to Strawberry Fair where the breathtaking piano accompaniment was delivered with panache by Francis Rayner.
This talented pianist was given three much-appreciated solo spots: Debussy’s Clair de Lune, Brahms’s Second Rhapsody and Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu.
This was truly an evening to banish the cares of the day.