Tim Ravalde, Robeet Crehan, Ailsa McTernan, Lila Chrisp, Nicole Johnson, Florian Panzieri, Emily Gray, Sarah Leonard, Nigel Foster
AESS Prize Winners Concert 2018 Review
A full house waited in anticipation for the second AESS Competitions Prize-Winners Concert which is now held as part of the London Song Festival. The AESS is grateful to artistic director,Nigel Foster, for hosting this showcase for the excellent performances which were enjoyed by an enthusiastic audience.
The theme of the hour-long concert was Conflict in all it Forms and included the first and second prize winning songs from the recent Song Composition Competition.
The concert included a wide-ranging repertoire of English song from the 18th to the 21st centuries. In spite of the seriousness of the theme, there was a great variety of emotional responses to the texts, from Gurney and Harvey’s In Flanders, via Britten and Auden’s Johnny, to Dring and Shakespeare’s Take o take those lips away.
Nicole Johnson proved to be a sympathetic, stylish and technically assured colleague for the four singers who all gave heartfelt and engaging performances with varied tonal expression of songs performed from memory. Particularly memorable in the opening group was Emily Gray’s performance of In Flanders, marrying text and meaning, and shaping melody to produce a moving feeling of home sickness with a wonderful sense of stillness.
Ailsa McTernanbrought a bright, fresh sound with excellent diction to the text of Everyone Sang with a plangent sincerity that brought alive the sense of hope in the poem.
Lila Chrisp’s real emotional commitment to text and a sense of urgency in her delivery, as well as a sense of fun, created well delineated vocal portraits of varied material.
In two world premier performances, Florian Panzieri gave smooth toned, considered and deeply felt performances of the new songs by Tim Ravalde and Robert Crehan. Crehan employed spare textures for Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth with a thumping ostinato pulse which gave way to almost plainsong like unaccompanied vocal melisma.
In the winning song of the composition competition, Ravalde used an aching rolling piano scheme with rhythmic martial punctuation in Sassoon’s Dreamers, the vocal line well suggesting the multi-faceted and fractured life of existence in the trenches.
This was a really excellent showcase for the aims of the AESS. Chairman, Sarah Leonard said it was very important to keep the tradition of creating new English Song alive and the occasional song composition competition was one way of achieving this. The previous winners in the first competition had been published in the latter volumes of A Century of English Song and it is to be hoped that possible further volumes will include the new additions to the genre. The AESS is grateful to The Thompson Educational Trust for its support of the Song Composition Competition.
Stephen Miles and Harold Lorenzelli