The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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July 2018

Junior Choir Prom, Sunday 17 June

Anne Stevens

The Junior Choir collectively makes increasingly fine contributions to the musical life of the parish, especially since they now sing evensong on Thursdays in term time, but the Junior Choir Prom gives us a delightful annual opportunity to appreciate just what a depth of individual talent it incorporates.  This year’ concert was book-ended by two pieces sung all 17 of them, with the precision and tone we now expect, indeed risk taking for granted, despite the hard work involved in achieving such standards.

It was very commendable that the newest and youngest member of the choir, Max Franzese, confidently opened the concert, with a violin solo played with clear tone and good rhythm. Clark Fitzgerald was the first solo singer, tackling Handel’s Where e’er you walk with clear articulation and a warm middle tone.  It has always seemed to me a shame that the viola, with its lovely rich tone, should so often be the butt of musicians’ jokes; how wrong that is was amply proved by no less than three solos for the viola on this occasion. The James Bond theme, Christina Zandstra’s choice, benefitted from the instrument’s strong tone, and she gave it the rhythm, and, in the middle section, the attack it needed.  We moved back to the seventeenth century as Roshan Mathur played Jeremiah Clarke’s The Emperor of Germany’s March. Clarke himself could never have heard it like this, the clarinet not having been invented when he was alive, but surely he would have approved of Roshan’s fine tone and spot-on intonation.  Mary Leonard followed with A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, her lovely voice bringing a real sense of melodic joy to this happy song. The second viola solo was provided by Bee Mattich. Her piece was a dancing one, which again showed off the instrument’s warm tone, and she tackled its runs confidently.

The interpretation of Bach’s preludes must surely be a “work in progress” for all musicians, as Evelyn Fitzpatrick said the Prelude in C (BWV847) is for her. But she caught the shaping of it convincingly. The traditional tune El condor pasa is a world away from the intellectual complexities of Bach, but James Crick’s performance on the violin was no less engaging, as he beautifully evoked the soaring bird with his well-shaped, long and singing phrases.

David Moore placed Lottie Foulkes up on the chancel steps, so we could see her as she sang, and with very good reason. She does not yet have a big voice, but it is a true one with very accurate intonation, and, like all the best singers, she projects what she is singing with her face and stance. She sang Somewhere over the Rainbow with a yearning intensity, making the words and the sense sound as if they mattered.  Lindsay Fitzpatrick followed up with a contrast on the piano, handling the syncopations of a Humoresque by Absil with a strong sense of rhythm. Saskia Zandstra had been roped in as an honorary choir member for the concert and we benefitted from a well-shaped violin performance of Tchaikovsky’s Melodie.  The programme announced a song from Jordan Nash, but he told us firmly that he was going to play the piano instead. He almost danced at the keyboard, his accurate, joyful and confident playing projecting his delight in the tuneful and toe-tapping music so strongly that we all enjoyed it as much as he clearly did.

I think all the performers, as well as the audience, will agree that the highlight of the morning came at the end. We know, from her contributions to our regular music, what a fine musician our organ scholar, Tilly Mattich, now is.  Many of us had not realised that she is also a superb viola player. Brahms’s Opus 120 sonatas were written for the clarinet, but he himself also configured them for the viola, and Tilly played the second movement, the scherzo, from no.2. This is Brahms late in life, with heart on sleeve as ever. “Passionate … with a sort of seething restraint” says one commentator of this movement, “heroic”, says another.  Tilly caught all its power, and its light and shade, in convincing dialogue with Peter Foggitt at the piano.  Here was an outstanding performance. 

Hampstead Parish Church is extraordinarily fortunate to have musicians of the high standards showcased in this concert among its younger members, and we all have good reasons to be grateful for the funds which make this possible, for support given by their parents and carers, and for the mentoring and direction provided by Peter Foggitt and especially by David Moore.

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