It felt right to speak of Mr Stafford at the start of Friday’s concert, held in the beautiful setting of St Michael’s Church Framlingham. His influence shone through every part of the evening’s programme, and in the heart of every performer. And it would have been an evening I like to think he would very much have enjoyed: for the achievements of the pupils, and for the pleasure – the considerable pleasure – they brought to a large and appreciative audience.
The Chamber Orchestra first: Telemann – a delightful Suite with a theme: Don Quixote. The Orchestra’s sense of direction and purpose was unambiguous and brilliant, unlike the eponymous hero’s, and set the standard for the rest of the evening. Mozart took up the baton (as it were) with a Divertimento played with delicacy and joy, before Fletcher’s rather more free-and-easy, rustic Folk Tune and Fiddle Dance from 1914. Yes, Mr Penny had found another gem in the box under his bed (I think that’s what he said), and the Orchestra polished it for us beautifully.
We are perennially blessed by the playing of our wonderful ensembles as well as our Orchestras, and the latest combination to take our stage was a quintet to grace any stage, performing the first movement of Schubert’s Trout Quintet. The sense of conversation between the five was breath-taking: the air of attentive musical collaboration just what one would wish for. In conversation afterwards rumour has it that they plan to add a few more movements over the next few months. It will certainly be worth the wait.
The Chamber Choir sang the second half of the concert. Two glorious solos, by Charlie Green accompanied by Harrison Cole (also busy as brilliant accompanist to the full choir when not singing himself), and Rhiannon Humphreys, counterbalanced ten pieces from the choir embracing multiple continents, languages, centuries and styles. The fresh sound (all those new faces…), the heightened emotions, and the repertoire itself combined to make this a very special programme.
Between them, Mr Penny, Ms Weston and the Chamber musicians pulled off an absolute triumph; the audience left full of praise, of joy, of admiration, and of affection for friends present, and for one dear friend so sadly absent.