Roderick Williams has the knack of compiling recital programmes which are always greater than the sum of their parts.
So it was for Sunday’s all-too-soon conclusion to “Celebrating English Song’s” delightful ninth season at Tardebigge’s Parish Church, its elegant, airy ambience the perfect venue for the near-thirty presentations which have given so much pleasure.
Baritone Williams has graced several Tardebigge afternoons, his genial, often ironic spoken asides, his eyes making every listener feel involved and warmed by his smile, adding to the irresistible communicativeness of his lustrous voice perfectly attuned to the room.
We genuinely didn’t need printed texts here, such was the clarity of Williams’ delivery.
And what insights we gained from his juxtaposition of settings of local poet A.E. Housman’s ‘Shropshire Lad’. John Ireland’s tortured version of “The street sounds to the soldier’s tread” makes us ponder the significance of the look from the redcoat who turned his head; Arthur Somervell’s well-made, polished but depressingly superficial cycle merely sets it as a jingoistic recruiting march.
Michael Berkeley’s ‘Hollow Fires’ combined Housman and Hardy in expressionistically Mahlerian settings, their original string quartet scoring encompassed on the piano by the amazingly busy, resourceful , deft and supportive princess among accompanists, Susie Allan.
Apart from Housman, there was another local boy featured, Worcester-based Ian Venables, whose Ivor Gurney cycle ‘The Pine Boughs Past Music’, premiered at the enterprising Gloucester Music Society two years ago, repeated its stunning impact.