There was a large audience for the beginning of the 2019 season with a concert by MJ-UK (Maria Jagusz and friends). Maria has had an international career as an opera singer and still performs regularly. She runs MY-UK Music and Arts which gives performing opportunities to children and young adults. Four members of the group joined Maria on this occasion which explored the music of Ivor Novello and some of his contemporaries.

After Maria’s opening aria the four young sopranos (Hayley Capp, April Perrott, Megan Strachan and Gilly Wells) each sang and we soon realised that the evening would be special. They each performed with assurance; their high notes seemed effortless, the intonation was always accurate and the interpretation of each song was conveyed, not only through the voice, but also with appropriate facial expression.

With such an abundance of talent one should not mention individual performances but two items provided a complete contrast; an unaccompanied Welsh folk song sung beautifully by Megan and “Can’t help loving that man” in which Hayley showed her versatility by slipping effortlessly from opera into the necessary jazz idiom.

The accompanist was Barrie Cooper who plays regularly for MJ – UK and is much sought after in the Gloucestershire area. His skill on the keyboard and his ability to provide the right amount of support for the singers added to the excellent performances throughout the evening. Their efforts were rewarded by rapturous applause from the delighted audience.

The smiles were broad and the laughter evident at the end of Shipston Music Society’s evening in March.  The Oxford Operatic Society were in town to present the story of musical theatre with a programme of songs, moving and joyful, classic and modern.  From Oklahoma to Les Miserables, Oh Coward!, Grease and Singing in the Rain, Sweeney Todd to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and a lot in between, the voices were strong, harmonies superb and the acting talented and at times hilarious.

Alongside the glorious songs, we were told that musical theatre had evolved from music hall acts to whole shows with a definite story enhanced by music.  When Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote Oklahoma! in 1943 a golden age of classic musicals was born which lasted into the early 1960s and which was to give rise not only to shows on huge canvasses, but to singing and dancing often of a standard that current performers can only attempt to emulate.   Musical shows today are usually smaller in scale and are often based on the songs of performers with a storyline attached.

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