The September meeting was an evening of music performed by CHIMERA – a quartet of flute (Clare Preston), bass (Anese Cullington), drums (Robin Payne) and piano (Helen Porter).

The programme consisted of classical pieces by Debussy (d.1918) and Faure (d.1924) and works for flute and jazz trio by Claude Bolling and Jacques Loussier (both present day composers).There were several movements from Bolling’s Suites Nos. 1 and 2 providing contrast in style and instrumentation with two solos by Debussy. The first “Dr. Gradus” for piano from his Children’s Corner Suite played with real style and very nimble finger work by Helen. Then later we heard “Syrinx” for unaccompanied flute. Clare’s beautiful tone and fantastic breath control were evident throughout.

“Play Bach – Prelude No. 1” provided us with a clear contrast between an opening section in true Baroque Bach style followed by a jazz interpretation – quite fascinating.

The evening ended with three more movements from Bolling. ”Pastorale”, gentle and lyrical, then “Affectueuse” in which Clare played her alto flute. Members were delighted by the deeper tone quality of this instrument and afterwards she was very happy to chat to them and answer their questions. The third piece, “Veloce” as the name suggests was a fast and very rhythmic piece which had everyone tapping their feet. This was a fitting finale for the quartet: their ensemble playing was excellent throughout and their genuine pleasure in performing together delighted the audience. We hope that they will perform for us again in the future.

On May 18th the Pavillionaires provided a lively and entertaining evening of jazz for the Shipston Music Society. The instrumentalists in this group obviously enjoy playing together and their musicianship and enthusiasm shone through in each item on the programme. As in all traditional jazz there were sections highlighting a solo instrument and these were all performed with skill and assurance.

The guest vocalist was Gayle Burch whose clear diction and vocal style were ideally suited to such titles as “The Lady is a Tramp” and “I can’t give you anything but love”. After the interval “The nearness of you” with reduced backing and in a gentler style made a good contrast and allowed Gayle to demonstrate her excellent vocal control.

The guitarist and bass player also had vocal spots but this brings me to the one aspect of the evening which, I feel, needs attention – that of balance. The group is lucky to have a very talented flautist, an excellent exponent of jazz, whose clear tone adds enormously to the overall sound. However, for these two items it overpowered the efforts of the vocalists. Such a pity. Also, the Methodist Church is a small, intimate setting where amplification is rarely necessary and clearly some members of the audience felt that on this occasion it was excessive.

Nevertheless it was a very enjoyable evening ending with “When you’re smiling” with audience participation which sent everyone home “with a smile”.

2017 was well and truly welcomed in with a smile at a wonderful evening organised by Shipston Music Society on 20th January.   Tim and Helen Porter together with their family – Hannah, Beth, and Barney, entertained members with a lively and varied programme of music.  Rare for all the family members to be performing together these days, we were doubly grateful to Beth as it was her birthday.

The evening was delightfully informal with all styles of music played to the usual excellent standard we are used to from the Porters.  Ragtime, jazz, pop, folk and classic were all included to the obvious pleasure of everyone present.  And the variety of instruments that were played to accompany the songs seemed endless – piano, flute, ukulele, recorder, harmonica all made an appearance, alongside of course the voices of all five family members.  Even Beth’s husband was persuaded to join her to sing the Scottish Ashokan Farewell at the end of the evening.

There was hardly a space in the house for this concert and we look forward to welcome old and new visitors during the year to come.

December saw a visit from local musicians, The Pavillionaires.   

They were founded in 2013 and have grown to around 8 musicians, increasing occasionally with visiting ones.  The group comprises keyboard , guitar, bass, alto and tenor sax, trumpet and, on this occasion, a guest vocalist - and as founder Geoff Holtom explained, some members of the group had only taken up a musical instrument after retirement.  So all credit to them for taking this forward, performing for the public and giving such enjoyment.

Gentle jazz was the tone of the evening and the group played a number of well known songs – Misty, The A train, Stranger on the Shore, White Christmas to name a few – as well as less known ones.  Vocalist Gayle Burch’s voice lended itself well to these songs, and her, at times, ‘smoky’ interpretation was just right.   Their ability to conjure up an atmosphere was very good, and perhaps particularly noticeable in their rendition of St James’ Infirmary which transported the audience straight to New Orleans!

There was a really good and appreciative audience for this concert, and we will look forward to seeing them grow in the years to come, and to welcoming them back to play for us again in the future.

The December meeting of the Music Society was a warm welcome back to international pianist Helen Leek accompanied this time by South African born violinist Gina Beukes for an evening of music by Fritz Kriesler. Born in Vienna in 1875 and subsequently living much of his life in the USA, where he died in 1962, his life spanned a period of great change in classical music. Kreisler caused a scandal in musical circles when he revealed that many of the works that he'd performed throughout his musical life, and that he had attributed to a range of Baroque composers, had in fact been written by himself. Critics were offended and embarrassed, feeling that they had been duped and deliberately misled but as Kreisler himself said 'the name changes, the value remains'.

Between musical pieces like Caprice Viennois, Liebesfreud and Syncopation Helen had written a script depicting some of the colourful extracts of Fritz Kreislers life spoken by the narrator Thomas Stevenson.

Helen was a scholar and prize winner at the Royal Academy of Music and was awarded the JBR trophy at the Royal Over-Seas League competition. She subsequently studied with Alexander Satz in Vienna with the help of an Austrian Government Scholarship. Helen was one of the major prize winners at the International Young Concert Artists Competition and won the 2nd prize in the Brant International Piano Competition.

Violinist Gina was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and started studying the violin aged 5 with Alan Solomon, later studying chamber music with Betty Pack and also playing in her string chamber orchestras.

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