Recital in support of Oxford Bach Choir

On Saturday 28 September a very enjoyable fund-raising concert in support of the Oxford Bach Choir was held at the beautiful home of Robert and Caroline Jackson in Southmoor. Those of us who arrived early enough, and before the rains came, had a chance to enjoy walking in Robert and Caroline’s splendid gardens.

The tenor James Gilchrist, one of our Vice-Presidents, opened the concert accompanied by Anna Tilbrook in a performance of Jonathan Dove’s song cycle “Under Alter’d Skies”. This cycle, written specially for James and Anna, sets extracts from Tennyson’s great elegy “In Memoriam”, and was striking and deeply moving. It also reminded several Choir members of Dove’s choral work “For an Unknown Soldier”, which we had performed, and greatly enjoyed, in 2015. Next the distinguished clarinettist Janet Hilton (who is also a member of the OBC) was joined by Stephen Clarke to play Poulenc’s Clarinet Sonata. A classic of the woodwind repertoire, the sonata reveals a mixture of insouciance, sly wit, and (especially in the slow movement) sensuous melancholy which is highly characteristic of its composer.

After an interval when a delicious supper was served, our performers gave us two pieces by Vaughan Williams, a composer who worked closely with the OBC for almost half a century. Janet and Stephen played his “Six Studies in English Folk Song”, which had originally been composed for cello and piano, but which VW later arranged for the clarinet. These little-known but very beautiful miniatures bear eloquent witness to the composer’s lifelong love for folk music. Finally, James and Anna ended the evening with VW’s early song cycle “Songs of Travel”. Several of these songs, such as “The Roadside Fire”, are well known and loved, but hearing them sung as part of the complete cycle gives them a deeper emotional resonance and significance.

The audience responded with great enthusiasm to the superb performances given by James, Janet, Anna and Stephen. We are most grateful both to our artists for their music making, but also to Robert and Caroline Jackson for their warm hospitality and generous collaboration in enabling a most memorable evening.