"Music is a jealous God" - something which tenor James Gilchrist obviously encountered as he switched from a medical career back to a no doubt early love of music: a terminal disease for many of us.
His listeners are all the more grateful for this particular bug as he delighted an attentive audience with a mainly contemporary programme of songs with harp - an admirable combination.
Alec Roth?s Romantic Residues (2003) are settings of nine Vikram Seth poems, ranging from quirky and whimsical to nostalgia for lost love: short and sweet. A seem-ingly simplistic harp accompaniment entered into the spirit of the words, Alison Nicholls was forever unobtrusive, but totally supportive in her integral role.
James produced a light tone in this intimate music, with immaculate, clear diction. Expressive involvement (and sweet whistling at one point) charmed everyone as we responded to a fleeting comic element offsetting darker emotions.
We were warned that the 50-year-old harp was being somewhat temperamental (hence a buzzing low string), but one suspected some wrong footing in the central part of Hassleman?s La Source during rippling cascades underlying the single note melodic line. After an anxious patch, thankfully all was soon well again.
Alison turned to partnering the voice once more in Three Songs for Jennie by Howard Skempton. Specially commissioned for Jennie McGregor-Smith, these are a tribute by her friends at Bromsgrove Concerts for her unstinting years as chairman. A lasting and unique ?thank you?.
Clever translations produced 17 syllables each for Nine Haikus by Ronald Stevenson. These beauti-fully performed brief, pithy gems have haunting harp textures, oriental in mode.
Britten?s Scottish-flavoured Birthday Hansel finally rounded off a lovely evening of unusual music making.