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Review of our May 2019 concert

TIME TO SMILE

The audience enjoyed a full-blown baroque treat from the Stour Singers at their concert on 11th May with Handel’s The Trumpet Shall Sound (Messiah) and Foundling Hospital Anthem, Monteverdi’s popular Beatus Vir from his late liturgical works, and a Vivaldi favourite, the Dixit Dominus.  It was an inspired programme choice of three baroque composers at their best.

Under the lively baton of Music Director, Richard Emms, and with the enthusiastic support of the youthful Queen’s Park Sinfonia who contributed a spring-like freshness to the scores, this concert with fully committed choir and soloists was a joy.  The choir’s accomplished accompanist Rachel Bird was busy on keyboard throughout the programme.

These works demand a lot of concentration and accurate timing from any choir, being considerably energetic pieces that also need a subtlety of expression and the Stour Singers rose to the occasion to give the audience a very strong performance.

The vivid opening piece The Trumpet Shall Sound was brightly exemplified by one of the Sinfonia’s excellent trumpeters and bass baritone Julian Debreuil.  The choral works were enriched with the professional interpretation of all the soloists.  Both Susanna Fairbairn, soprano, and Cathy Bell, mezzo soprano, sang with a lyrical and moving expressiveness and with voices beautifully tuned in those duo passages echoing each other or in the exciting runs in the Dixit Dominus.  The same must be said for Tom Raskin’s bright tenor sound and the vocal colour of Julian Debreuil’s bass baritone, who also shared some exciting duo passages.  As a quartet the soloists performed well.

The whole programme resounded with an intuitive sense of balance and shared feeling between choir, orchestra and soloists to produce one of the best concerts of so many.  Though musical content was sacred, this exhilarating performance with its considerable bounce simply made you smile.

Don’t miss this choir’s only other major public performance of the year at Christmas.

 

Tom Bone

Stratford Herald, 16 May 2019

 

Telemann’s Magnificat in C

Telemann composed his Magnificat in C around 1705, probably while he was still in Leipzig.

He had enrolled at Leipzig University to read Law, but was very active musically, becoming thoroughly embedded in the musical life of the city.  Indeed, he became so dominant a figure that he seriously trod on the toes of Johann Kuhnau, J.S. Bach’s predecessor at the Thomaskirche.

It was customary in Leipzig when performing the Magnificat as part of a service that congregational hymns would be inserted between movements.  In line with this tradition, in this performance there will be appropriate Christmas carols included for the audience to join in.

Contretemps with Kuhnau

Kuhnau was J.S.Bach’s very distinguished predecessor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig. He was enjoying a glittering career as composer, lawyer, novelist and general man of letters.  When he was 41 he was unanimously appointed Kantor at the Thomaskirche, but that was when things started to go downhill.

A young  Georg Telemann enrolled at the university, like Kuhnau, to study Law, but he, as did Kuhnau before him, became very active musically. He established a collegium musicum which was a rival to Kuhnau’s establishment and attracted Kuhnau’s musicians and some of his pupils. He even approached the mayor for permission to compose music for the Thomaskirche, utterly undermining Kuhnau. To rub in salt yet further, in 1703, when Kuhnau was suffering one of several periods of illness, the council asked Telemann to succeed him, should he die.

Kuhnau, in fact, lived for a further 21 years.

 

 

Susanna Fairbairn

Susanna Fairbairn
English soprano Susanna Fairbairn’s début song CD is now available on the Naxos label: Songs of Geoffrey Bush and Joseph Horovitz. Susanna gained an MA with Distinction from the Wales International Academy of Voice, and also studied at Trinity College of Music, winning the Wilfred Greenhouse Allt Prize, Paul Simm Opera Prize, and First Prize in the English Song Competition. Susanna formerly studied flute as an Instrumental Scholar whilst an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford. Susanna has performed recitals nationwide including at the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room, Southbank and St. James’s Church Piccadilly. She has sung under the batons of John Eliot Gardiner, Marin Alsop, Laurence Cummings and Sian Edwards, at such venues as The Gewandhaus in Leipzig, Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw, Cadogan Hall, and The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Memorable performances as a soloist extend to a wide range of repertoire, including staged versions of the St. John and St. Matthew Passions for English Touring Opera, Tavener’s Veil of the Temple at Canterbury Cathedral (in the presence of the composer), Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony, Beethoven 9, Poulenc Gloria, Will Todd’s Mass in Blue and Mozart’s C Minor Mass. Susanna has also appeared numerous times for the BBC: highlights include being interviewed in 2017 on Radio 3’s In Tune by Clemency Burton-Hill, and appearing on the soundtracks for two BBC dramas with music by Solomon Grey. She makes her Three Choirs Festival debut in Gloucester this year in Israel in Egypt.

Operatic highlights include Galatea Acis and Galatea for Opera Theatre Company; Countess Le nozze di Figaro for Longborough Festival Opera; cover Donna Anna Don Giovanni for Opera North; and for English Touring Opera: Donna Anna Don Giovanni, Juno La Calisto, and Eleonora Il furioso.

Having spent part of her childhood in Africa, Susanna has continued to enjoy living and working in many different parts of the world, as far as India and Brunei. From scuba diving to rock climbing, rowing or playing rugby at college, undertaking vegetarian cooking lessons with a 95-year-old matriarch in Mumbai or embracing veganism, life has been a fascinating journey so far. Exotic episodes aside however, Susanna believes there’s still nothing better than a long walk by the river followed by a pint of local ale!

Tom Raskin

Tom Raskin

Born in Bath, tenor Tom Raskin studied at the RNCM in Manchester and New College, Oxford, before going on to become a Britten-Pears Young Artist. In 2000 he was awarded the Anne Ziegler Prize, followed by the Freckleton Prize in 2001, and was the recipient of a major Scholarship from the Peter Moores Foundation which funded study both in Italy and London.

Recent concert work includes the Verdi Requiem, Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius, Calaf in Turandot (concert performance), Stainer’s Crucifixion in Norway, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 from King’s College, Cambridge, and arias in the St John and St Matthew Passions (Norwich Cathedral).

Tom is one of the four tenors in the BBC Singers, and besides the vast range of choral works that he performs with them, has sung a wide range of solos, from Streshnev in Mussorgsky’s Kovanshchina at the 2017 Proms to the St Matthew Passion arias and Christmas Oratorio arias, to Bernstein’s Hashkiveinu, to Jason Donovan’s half of the duet “Especially for you.” He is much in demand on the concert platform in Britain and abroad, in places as far-flung as Novosibirsk in Siberia to St Mark’s Basilica, Venice. He has performed with orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, the CBSO, The Sixteen and English Baroque Soloists.

He also has a large operatic repertoire from the baroque to the present day; he recently sang the Cockerel in Stravinsky’s Renard with the BCMG in one of Oliver Knussen’s last appearances on the concert platform, and he recorded the role of Signor Ravioli in Alfred Cellier’s The Mountebanks with the BBCCO. He gave the world premiere of Lord Fitztollemache in Weinberg’s Lady Magnesia, and has sung for Glyndebourne, Garsington, Opera South, Opera East and the Iford Festival. He has made regular appearances with New Chamber Opera.

In 2017 and 2018 Tom gave several recitals with the pianist Christopher Weston; a mini-tour of Schubert’s Winterreise, and Finizi’s Till Earth Outwears.  More recitals are planned in 2019, including one in All Saints’ Church, West Dulwich, and a Vaughan Williams celebration in Thaxted.

Julian Debreuil

 

Julian Debreuil

 

Julian studied at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama with Adrian Thompson and at the Royal College of Music with Ryland Davies, followed by private tuition with Nicholas Powell. He is the recipient of major awards from the Wingate Foundation, English Speaking Union, Musicians Benevolent Fund, Royal Society of Musicians, Josephine Baker, Countess of Munster and Benslow Music Trusts and was also a finalist in the Schubert Society of London, London Song Festival, John Warner Memorial Award, the Hampshire National Singing Competitions and was highly commended by the Wagner Society of London as having ‘a powerful, attractive sound with a great deal of vocal colour’.

Engagements in the current season include the roles of Colline La Boheme and Talbot Maria Stuarda for OperaUpClose, a gala concert of opera arias at St Martin-in-the-Fields, a recital of Vivaldi bass arias with the Holland Park at Our Lady of Victories Kensington, Mass in C Beethoven with the Derby Choral Union, Catantas 21 & 29 J. S. Bach with the Birmingham Bach Choir, Nelson Mass Haydn with St James’ Spanish Place and The Messiah Handel with the Purcell Orchestra at St Mary Abbots Kensington.

In the 2017-18 season Julian sang the Oracle of Neptune in Idomeneo Mozart for Buxton Festival Opera; Sarastro in The Magic Flute Mozart for OperaUpClose and Charles Court Opera; Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin Tchaikovsky at the Arcola Theatre; Jeptha Handel with the Hull Bach Choir; the title role in Elijah Mendelssohn for the Dulwich Choral Society; Johannes-Passion J. S. Bach with the Purcell Orchestra; Cantatas 21 & 29 J. S. Bach with the Birmingham Bach Choir; Maria Theresa Mass Haydn with the Grimsby Choral Society; 2001: Le Chant des Enfants des Etoiles Chin with the Philharmonia Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall.

In previous years Julian has also performed roles for Iford Arts Festival, Opera Project, Diva Opera, Salmiya Opera Theatre Kuwait, OperaUpClose, Tete-a-Tete Opera and Pop-Up Opera.

In his free time Julian enjoys hiking, running, playing football, squash and table tennis and is also a passionate consumer of cake, coffee, cheese, wine, stout and porter. Julian lives with his wife and daughter in South London, the latter of whom he is greatly enjoying introducing to the great historical recordings of his favourite opera singers.