2019 Winter Concert

Thursday 12th December
Unitarian Chapel, Brunswick Square

The BCGS was as always delighted to welcome a large audience of friends and family for our annual winter concert, to demonstrate our progress over the year, and to put ourselves to the test on the concert stage.

As an Ensemble we need not worry of course, having been patiently and expertly nurtured over the twelve months by Helen James, surely the most exacting-but-encouraging director we could wish for. Sadly, Helen was unable to be present this evening, as family circumstances called her away. Our very best wishes to her. Vince Smith stood in to conduct the ensemble sections of the programme.

The Ensemble opened with two of Helen’s wonderful arrangements, beginning, as a way into the programme for both players and audience, with the gentle and beautiful Duo, followed by Mário Álvares da Conceição’s upbeat waltz, Adelina.

Martin bravely went first as a soloist, playing an anonymous study and then, even more bravely, an evocative composition of his own presenting the theme and development of a broader work that we hope to hear at a regular meeting soon. Barry and Lynette followed with an intriguing piece by the relatively little-known Czech composer Milan Tesař, played with coordination and control. The style is stately and classical, and the players’ experience and skill made for a lovely rendering. Next on stage was Ciarán, with, for the second year running, an impressive composition of his own, this time a series of technically demanding and colourful variations on a well-known Irish air. Ciarán showed a sensitive use and thorough knowledge of the particular resources of the guitar.

Tony and Tim ended the first half (also for the second year in a row!) with a varied and skillfully played set of modern pieces: the melodic Canción from the duet Suite Melancólica by Venezuelan guitarist-composer Montes, which caused great admiration when it was published in the early 90s; Argentine Máximo Pujol’s lilting tango Palermo from the Suite Buenos Aires and, staying with descriptions of the neighbourhoods of great cities, the famous jazz theme Left Bank, originally a library piece, taken up by the BBC for the art programmes Vision On, Take Hart and SMart.

Cari opened the second part with another taste of South America, Mexicana by the renowned composer and teacher Peter Nuttall, played on a beautiful instrument made by our own Graham Harvey. She followed this with another very descriptive piece, the Scots-inspired Firth of Forth, and gave both pieces all the romance, and local flavor needed.

Turina’s Fandanguillo is a challenging piece by any measure, and Paul performed it next with assurance and style, negotiating well the modern harmonic approach and very melodic and unmistakably Spanish character. A varied set of pieces from Rob, Barry and Vince concluded the solos and small groups section of the programme. Boccherini’s jaunty Minuet was well known to all, and was delivered with the requisite precision; Isaac Albéniz’s two piano works Tango and Capricho Catalán are less well known even to guitarists, but the group gave an engaging performance, finishing off with a dramatic and entrancing Libertango.

The BCGS Ensemble regrouped to take up the final set of music for the evening. The demands in terms of precision and time-keeping in the Vivaldi are testament to the level of coordination that Helen has achieved with the group in order for us to take on the challenge. Brejeiro is a favourite of ours and Helen’s, and could not go un-included here. The charming Farewell to Kentraugh made a fitting end to the evening. We are cautiously optimistic that Helen would have approved of our efforts, and thank her wholeheartedly for her work with us.

As usual there were drinks and mince pies, and plenty to talk about while both were enjoyed. A great musical evening and a great year of classical guitar music. Well done and thanks to those who organized, played and listened. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

Nick Regan, December 2019