The wonderfully appropriate setting of the Adderley (architecturally inspiring and acoustically supportive) played host on Tuesday night to the annual soirée of “art song” – a collaboration between the Modern Languages and Music Departments – otherwise known as the “Liederabend”.
The venerable soprano Lotte Lehmann gave the following advice to singers on the subject of singing Lieder (songs):
“First there was the poem. That gave the inspiration for the song. Like a frame, music encloses the word picture – and now comes your interpretation, breathing life into this work of art, welding words and music with equal feeling into one whole, so that the poet sings and the composer becomes poet and two arts are born anew as one.”
Last night 19 singers taken from every year group in the school sang songs by 13 different composers (Schubert, Fauré and Wolf were unsurprisingly represented on more than one occasion) in four different languages (Italian, German, French and Russian). The highly appreciative audience of parents, pupils and beaks were entertained and moved by these brave, hard-working and thoughtful young singers as each in turn strove to create a single art-form from the combination of words and music at their disposal.
For those unlucky enough not to be there and as a record for posterity, I will briefly attempt to describe the individual offerings:
Bella Bowman (MO Sh) started the evening splendidly with a persuasive, agile and silky-toned account of “Ständchen”.
Freddie Palmer’s (SU Sh) assured “Die Lotusblume” showcased his warm Baritone voice.
Serena McKenzie (EL Sh) delivered a pure-toned, precisely tuned and deeply touching “Ici-bas” full of hope-tinged melancholy.
Harry Knight’s (SU Re) “Amore e morte” was vocally stylish, poised and heart-breakingly haunting.
Edward Beswick (C1 Re) employed his silvery-toned tenor voice to magical effect in elucidating the complex harmonic language of “Aurore”.
Francesca Coles (EL Hu) summoned up beautifully the plangent tones of “Das verlassene Mägdlein” in her refined performance.
Toby Watson (C3 Hu) swaggered to the stage and bathed the room with an irresistibly reassuring, warm-toned and characterful description of “Hébé”.
Olivia Eversfield (MM Hu) treated us to some seemingly endless Brahmsian phrases in a performance of “Feldeinsamkeit” which was both intense and serene.
Henry Bentley (TU Hu) left us in no doubt as to his feelings for “Nell” with his expressive and mellifluous rendition.
Lola Cracknell’s (IH L6) “Nyet, tolka tot” was sweet-toned and yet suitably forlorn and intensely slavic.
Coco Bradley (DA L6) treated us to a deliciously sonorous and exquisitely phrased “A Chloris”.
Timon Staehler (C2 L6) took on the epic “Grenzen der Menscheit” and moved us profoundly with a very special blend of textual understanding, musical imagination and vulnerability in performance.
Beth Ransome (IH L6) charmed us with a euphonious and elegant portrayal of “Clair de Lune”- blending the vocal line sensitively with the piano’s counter-melodies.
Oscar Stratton (C3 U6) demonstrated an impressive dynamic range as his lyrical legato lines conjured up the ache of departure in “Les Berceaux”.
Violet Mackintosh (MO U6) was both dulcet-toned and resolute in her interpretation of “Lied eines Schiffers an die Dioskuren”.
Sasha Hewett (MM U6) delighted us with her vocal acrobatics in “La pastorella delle Alpi” – competing with the members of C1’s Shell, letting off steam in the room above us, to stir the Adderley’s chandeliers!
Jon Lam (C1 U6) conquered some complex chromaticism in conveying a dramatic and heartfelt “Verborgenheit”.
Sophia Reina (LI U6) brought to bear her compelling voice on the luxuriant harmonies of “Versailles” to poignant effect.
Finn Kverndal (C1 U6) controlled his lyrical tenor voice impressively and produced some meltingly beautiful phrasing in “Après un rêve”.
Francesca Coles and Henry Bentley returned to the stage to conclude the evening with a carefully crafted and beautifully blended “Abendlied”. A fitting ensemble ending to an evening of fruitful collaborations.
Renewed thanks to Andrew Brown and the Modern Languages department and its pupils for producing the translations and notes on the songs, the singers and their accompanist Claire Toomer and to the many family members who braved the rather wintry weather to share in a most memorable evening. Bravo to all.
Head of Vocal Studies