Murray mania makes up for festival's plinth woes
TENOR Andrew Kennedy is a casualty of the current Three Choirs Festival. His place in this recital was taken by Robert Murray.
The festival's venue of choice for song recitals is the recently refurbished Blackfriars. The acoustic is good but its attractions appear to end there.
Almost half of the audience is seated towards the rear on a plinth. There have been complaints that behind the first few rows, there is insufficient contact between audience and performers, and that for many, performers are invisible. Yet patrons were charged the same price to sit on the plinth or in front, on the ground floor.
Here, the rearrangement where the performers were placed centrally, was a considerable improvement.
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The recital was flanked by music from the birthday boy. Benjamin Britten had a hugely sensitive ear for the sound of words and their meaning and he forged a new way of setting poetry to music.
Composer John O'Hara was present to hear the world premiere of his festival commission I Can Hear You Waiting. Its remarkable poems were produced by Karen Hayes from contributions made by dementia patients at residential care homes in the county. The pithy, laconic piano accompaniments were a perfect foil to the conversational verse.
To leaven the diet, the sandwich was filled with works by John Sanders, a former music director at Gloucester Cathedral and by Poulenc. The Beacon is Sanders' attractive scenic tour of the Cotswolds with a particularly charming Flanders and Swan type catalogue song, Cotswold Choice.
Joseph Middleton, with his sensitivity, keyboard accuracy and sympathetic understanding of a wide repertory, is fast making a name for himself.
Robert Murray has delightfully engaging stage presence. Colin Burrow