"Smoke and Mirrors "


Marion Ackrill: flute.  Jenny Broome: harp.

St Mary's Church, Iffley, Sunday February 16th 2014

There is a hint of the archetypal about the combination of a sustained note instrument, blown or bowed, with one that is percussive or plucked. One suspects that the vulture bone flute left beside an Aurignacian hearth 40,000 years ago would have been accompanied by some kind of tambour, or perhaps a knapping of tuned flints. Whether with harpsichord and viola, piano and ‘cello, or, as in this concert in Iffley church, harp and flute, the instruments speak with distinctive and responsive voices. There is scope for reciprocal courtesy, a civilised conversation of comment and exploration. The dialogue of two voices is enhanced by the varying timbre of the instruments as they move over the dynamic range. Where the harp becomes more sonorous and assertive the flute becomes more shrill and insistent. The Correctness of the Age forbids a drawing of the obvious domestic parallel.

The conversational paradigm was well explored by Marion Ackrill and Jenny Broome in an imaginative choice of music.  Writers of scores for films and plays figured prominently in a programme that included a Waltz by Paul Lewis and the complex “Naiades” of William Alwyn. Chausson’s incidental music for an 1889 Paris production of “The Birds” of Aristophanes combined elegance with wit. More familiar were a delightful presentation of JS Bach’s Sonata in E flat Major and Fauré’s Sicilienne. As an unprogrammed bonus Debussy's "Syrinx" was played offstage in a broom cupboard to welcome the audience (some slightly bewildered) back to their seats after the interval. The concert ended light-heartedly with mediaeval dances by Lauber and three British folksongs as arranged originally for the harmonica player Tommy Reilly.

The playing throughout was beautifully skilled and sensitive, and the church acoustic added its customary brilliance, although also its slight attenuation beyond the baffle of the western tower arch. Marion Ackrill and Jenny Broome had given us a happy and memorable evening.

Jeremy Kelvin Smith