Sublime songs for the summer

CANTABILE, Songs for a summer evening at Guestling Church on Saturday, July 12

Molly Townson is well-known as the Director of the prestigious Hastings Musical Festival and particularly the Piano Concerto Competition at the White Rock each March. What is not so well known is that Molly herself is a most accomplished performer in many areas of music, not the least being wielding the conductor’s baton.

Thus Molly annually gives us an insight into the creation of an ensemble which spans subjects as diverse as medieval part-songs and Broadway rhythms, both of which we heard at Guestling.

The fifteen strong choir includes six soloists, plus pianiste Aaran Keith. Beginning with a song by former BBC music presenter Douglas Coombes How Much My Heart doth Love to Sing and followed by three traditional melodies, came two works by Handel O Lovely Peace and Now on Land and Sea Descending.

Broadway contributed from Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man, the tender ballad Till There Was You which paved the way for a trio of Gershwin favourites, Someone to Watch over Me, The Man I Love, and an early Sinatra hit I‘ve got a Crush on You.

Audience and performers during the interval enjoyed delicious strawberries and cream and liquid refreshment; The second half opened with the popular I Dreamed a Dream I and unaccompanied When the Stars begin to Fall and a piece of Canadian origin When Children Pray.

A poem Spring Sorrow by Rupert Brooke set to music by John Ireland, Chester-born but Sussex-resident, opened a set by twentieth century composers ending with Ivor Novello’s Keep the Home Fires Burning.

Today’s writers Howard Goodall contributed The Lord is my Shepherd and John Rutter The Lord Bless You and Keep You.

In the tribute For the Fallen with words by Laurence Binyon we were privileged to hear Molly’s beautiful soprano accompanied by Val Gibbs on the organ. The organ accompaniment was continued for the finale The Day Thou gave us Lord is Ended in a setting by John Wilson, known for his lush orchestral arrangements for his TV and concert-hall orchestra.

Cantabile’s soloists included Anne Greenhalf, Gloria Jones, Judy Atkinson, Maggie Watt, Maxine Roach and Sharon Sellens plus youthful vocalist Kate Wren. The Guestling Church Choir’s twenty members have responded wonderfully to Molly’s tuition and encouragement and their prowess is a credit to all concerned.

The piano was again kindly loaned by Chandler’s of Rye for which the church is most grateful.