“Live at Last” was the title of May’s concert put on by Shipston Music Society. And the relief felt by singers and audience alike to be back together enjoying live music was palpable.

This year’s Royal Jubilee was in evidence in the line up of songs presented by Leamington Choir, Divertimento at the Music Society’s concert in May.

But the evening started - and the audience immediately engaged and gripped when they were invited to join in a real tongue-twister with All I Want is a Proper Cup of Coffee. Tongues were duly twisted and then the choir began their evening.

First of all, Java Jive, a song which continued the coffee theme and made popular by Manhattan Transfer. We were then treated to two songs based on late 19th century vesper hymns, Ave Maris Stella by Grieg and Beati Quorum Via by Stanford.

The Platinum Jubilee was celebrated in a number of pieces reflecting Queen and Commonwealth, starting with O Taste and See composed by Vaughan Williams for the Coronation in 1953. This was followed by a version of The Lord is my Shepherd arranged by Howard Goodall for the Vicar of Dibley, a favourite television programme of Her Majesty. Then we were treated to Ubi Caritas which was dedicated to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their wedding day, followed by O-Re-Mi, a Nigerian highlife song (“Come on, let’s dance!)

With the ladies dressed in colourful jackets – red, green and purple, and the gentlemen in smart suits, Divertimento presented a sense of real togetherness which was reflected in the high standard of their singing. Goodness knows how much rehearsing went into such pieces as the folk song from Finland, Sakkijarven Polkka, which brought out chattering voices, loud and soft, and appearing at times like a Mexican wave. And then Sleep by Whiteacre which was eerie and mysterious. So difficult to convey this in song and yet so easy for the audience to enjoy and quietly absorb.

Transformational songs, The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Zulu trad.song) and I’m a Train (La Chaine), and humour from Cole Porter’s Tale of the Oyster, completed an evening of variety and pleasure.

Divertimento is a group of singers from Leamington Spa and this was their second visit to us in Shipston. It was high quality entertainment, and a real treat. Yes - Live at Last!

For our March concert the members of Shipston Music Society were once again entertained by The Pavilionaires, a local group who are all members of Shipston u3a and who rehearse every week in Brailes Sports Pavilion – hence their decision to call themselves The Pavilionaires.

The programme began with “Don’t get around much anymore” composed by Duke Ellington in 1940 which immediately set the feet tapping. It was followed by “Satin Doll”, the tune being announced with excellent clarity by the trumpet. “Blue Skies” was an addition to the printed programme but, composed by Irving Berlin in 1926, it made its debut in the Rogers and Hart musical “Betsy” which closed after only 39 performances! The song however became an immediate success and listening to the guitar take over the melody at one point was a delight. Two more well- known pieces “Jive at Five” and “Deep purple” followed and then the final item before the interval was “Sweet Georgia Brown”. Composed in 1925 it became popular when the Harlem Globetrotters adopted the tune as their theme song in 1952. It was a lively item to end the first half of the evening.

After a rousing performance of “A Train”, “Shiny Stockings” provided a more melodic contrast; with music by Frank Foster it has two sets of lyrics, one by Ella Fitzgerald, the other by Jon Hendricks. “St. Louis Blues” was composed in 1914 in the Blues style by W. C. Handy who said the idea for the piece came after seeing a distraught woman in St. Louis lamenting that “Ma man’s got a heart like a rock cast in de sea”. Again the guitar featured more prominently. At this point the alto saxophone was exchanged for the clarinet and we heard “Georgia on my Mind” composed by Hoagy Carmichael in 1930 with lyrics by Stuart Gorrell. The performance had a more dreamlike quality as did “The Nearness of You”.

“When you’re smiling” was a very popular choice and was rewarded with enthusiastic applause. As with every item in the programme it was obvious that each member of the group, whether experienced or not-so-experienced, really enjoy performing together and this is conveyed to the audience. We were certainly sent home with a smile and feet tapping after a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Jeremy Huw Williams (baritone) accompanied by Nigel Foster

Shipston Music Society welcomed Jeremy Huw Williams, international and Welsh operatic baritone to our March event.     Jeremy has sung at some of the most prestigious concert venues and with a large number of the world’s greatest orchestras, so the fact that he was able to join us here in Shipston was a real coup! Jeremy had previously visited Shipston a few years ago when he took part in an Orchestra of the Swan concert at Townsend Hall.  This time, he was accompanied by Nigel Foster an accomplished pianist who has performed throughout Europe and the world.

The programme of music began with Schumann’s Dichterliebe which comprises six short songs based on the poems of German romantic poet Heide.  Jeremy’s rendition certainly reflected their romantic tone and angst.   The second half was lighter in tone, and we heard Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel followed by some Welsh language folk song arrangements by Britten.  These included the well known song, The Ash Grove.  I don’t know whether anybody in the audience was a Welsh speaker and able to follow the words, but the sound was glorious!  

David gave a vote of thanks and complimented Jeremy on his singing both in terms of superb diction and performance.  Certainly the applause he received showed how much the large audience had enjoyed the evening.   Jeremy gave an encore of the Celtic folk song, Down by the Sally Gardens

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