Musicians of the Dreaming Spires.

Director Christopher Redgate

St Mary’s Church Iffley, December 14th 2013.

Canon Michael Bourdeaux has now handed over his creation, the Iffley Music Society, to be cherished by a committee. On the evidence of this concert his vision and his gift for bringing exciting music to the village and to Oxford are being continued as strongly as ever. The Musicians of the Dreaming Spires directed by Christopher Redgate and led by Olivier Bonnici gave us an enchanting evening of varied and exciting music. They came as a chamber group of eight versatile players who could, and did, play whatever instruments were required for each piece.

The programme consisted of eight short items, some familiar, some less so, some very new. The Mozart Divertimento K138, the Vivaldi Concerto for Flute, op. 44:19, the Corelli Concerto Grosso op. 6:8 are in the familiar category; the Mendelssohn Sinfonia 2 and the Schumann Winterszeit are less familiar; the Concerto Grosso op. 6:8 by Charles Avison sounded familiar but certainly is not; and the two delightful new pieces composed by the director himself were as new as can be. The playing was delicate and beautifully balanced throughout, very mozartian in the Mozart, exuberant in the youthful Mendelssohn, and haunting in the Schumann where even the odd dissonance had a peaceful character that failed to jar. In the Vivaldi Celia Redgate, playing the beautiful flute solo and playing it very beautifully, moved easily between imitation of birdsong and genial conversation with the strings.

One of the most attractive characteristics of this concert was the number of passages in which the lower strings had the main part and gave us the rich and voluptuous sonority that only lower strings can. This was especially, though not exclusively, true of theElizabeth Harré double bass compositions by the director. His 'Do-dah-do Wha-da-ba' is written as a sort of mini-concerto for bass. He described it as 'Bartok meets Benny Goodman', although for 'Benny Goodman' one might read 'jazz' or 'rag' and for 'Bartok' one should perhaps understand something central European and folky. The bass solo was played with great animation and virtuosity by Elizabeth Harré wearing a jazzed up and hairy Paddington Bear hat that added little to the music but a great deal to the happiness and style of the piece. The second item by Christopher Redgate was premièred here. Its title Veni Veni (not be translated 'Come, come!') marks it out as music for Advent. It is scored with the lower strings outnumbering the violins. The rich sound of the three violas (supported by cello and bass) provided the substance, while from time to time the violins moved from accompaniment to adding a sort of descant line above. Both these new compositions are pieces that one would love to hear again.

There was one small way in which the evening's enjoyment might have been enhanced. If the director had been invited to use the public address system for his introductions and explanations of the pieces he might have been understood above the wailing of the wind at the west door of the church. The music itself, however, was never out-wailed by the wind. We heard a lovely concert. Let us hope that this is not the last time that the Musicians of the Dreaming Spires come to Iffley.

spires finale

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