Three performers in perfect command in a feast of music at Eastbourne’s Birley Centre

Elizabeth Muir-Lewis
Elizabeth Muir-Lewis

The sounds of Airbourne were well-insulated from the Birley Centre’s auditorium when, on the afternoon of Sunday August 19, a feast of operatic arias and songs was presented in aid of the Richard Lewis Charity Trust which supports the training of young singers.

Introduced by Elizabeth Muir-Lewis were soprano Shirlene Billenness, mezzo Angela Goodall and pianist Jenny Beckwith.

Nineteen items and several different languages made great demands on the singers who responded with warmth and accuracy despite never once referring to a score. The accompanist, of course, must deal with Liszt, Rachmaninoff and Mozart, and has to play throughout.

Five duets (by Mozart, Nicolai, Purcell and Puccini) showed all three musicians in perfect command. Solo items ranged from Harty, Elgar and Quilter all in clear English to Massenet in French, with other solos demanding Russian, Czech and Italian. The only microphone was in the hands of Elizabeth, yet hardly a sung word was missed. The rounded tone of Angela was ideal for Rachmaninoff’s cry of love In The Silence Of The Night, and Shirlene’s Song To The Moon from Dvorak’s opera Rusalka showed her range and control at its best.

Selecting any highspot becomes almost impossible when all was at so high a level; but if forced I should choose Gastaldon’s Musica Proibita (sung by Angela) and the heart-rending sorrow of Puccini’s Suor Angelica (sung by Shirlene). By Robin Gregory.

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