Songs for a Summer Evening – Concert Review

In the grounds of Olantigh House, Kent – August 2003

Friends of Canterbury Festival newsletter (October 2003)

On a perfect August evening, 160 patrons strolled among the water channels in the landscaping and the beautifully kept lawns that sweep up to the Queen Anne style frontage of Olantigh (described more accurately in the English Heritage Register as “a mid-19th-century design established over earlier features”).

In addition to this visual feast, their ears were charmed by the exquisite singing of the Vasari Singers. Under conductor Jeremy Backhouse, their delicate coloratura in bird items by Janequin, Gibbons and Delius, not to mention “A Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square” was at times accompanied by the more straightforward melodies of the English blackbird. The delicacy and refinement of the singing was a delight in works by Saint-Saëns, Stanford and a Swingle arrangement of Scott Joplin’s “Weeping Willow”.

The repertoire of the evening illustrated the wide range of styles mastered by this distinguished choir, whose programmes this year have embraced Brahms’ “German Requiem” at St John’s, Smith Square, concerts of Italian music in St. Martin in the Fields, Songs of Praise and Canterbury Cathedral Evensong, specially commissioned new works, work with Ward Swingle and Songs from the Shows, with 14 CDs already to their credit.

The culinary delights of picnicking ranged from the full Glyndebourne treatment to a glass of wine and a crisp. Our thanks to Mr and Mrs James Loudon for their hospitality and to Secretary Sylviane, Director Mark, Peter Cox and to the members of the Committee who looked after us, ensuring our cars were properly parked and the Pimms had the final leaf of borage.

John Harris


© Jeremy Backhouse