Thursday 9th December 2021
Unitarian Chapel, Brunswick Square

It was wonderful to be able to stage this year’s Winter Concert after missing the 2020 edition due to the Covid restrictions, and even more so to do so in a room packed with friends, family and brand new acquaintances to share the evening and a full programme of great music.

What a programme: modern, ancient, ensemble, solo and everything in between. Tim, ever fearless, began the concert with the beautiful seasonal bell-like harmonics of Laura Snowden’s modern arrangement of Silent Night, with Cari adding a Russian folk piece with a lovely wintry tremolo and Peter and Vince completing the Christmas picture with a German carol (the only one originally composed for guitar) and the song What Child Is This, set to the melody of the very English Greensleeves. A delightful seasonal set and delightfully played.

Ciaran moved the evening onto a non-exclusively Christmas footing with a jaunty Alemain in Renaissance tuning (3rd string in F#) before Luke, now in his 2nd year at the Ryal Welsh College of Music and Dance, took the stage to give us the moody, powerful Mertz and then the four intriguing, polytonal, high-performance Brouwer pieces with his duet partner Eòsaph.

Paul’s rendition of the evocative Albéniz dance brought us back to the beauty of the traditional Spanish guitar that the great pianist himself sought to conjure up. Our first trio of the evening, Rob Barry and Vince performed on three of a set of four new guitars commissioned by Vince from luthier Rik Middleton: a large bass, tuned an octave below standard; a requinto, tuned a 4th above, and a small quint, tuned a fifth above. The ensemble worked very well in reflecting the depth and warmth of a string quartet in a specially commissioned arrangement of the Bach Partita by Steve Gordon. Toby brought the first half to a close with another exotic Spanish piece with the flavour of the Canarios and the charming modern arrangement by Scott Tenant of the lovely Scottish air.

Another traditional air, this time Irish, began the second half, and Tony and Tim followed it with more traditional music, the melancholy Argentine milonga dance by Jorge Cardozo and the refreshingly modern arrangement of Mozart. The WAGO guitar orchestra is the new recent project of Vince Smith. The bass, requinto and quint again worked to excellent effect providing the breadth of strings, flutes and choral voicings of the Grieg suite not available to quartets or larger guitar-only groups.

And so to the BCGS Ensemble under Francisco Correa. The short Tango got us off to a spirited start. This was followed by Coste’s measured Serenade, requiring a lot of coordination and sensitivity to render the rich, graceful textures. The final piece by the Ensemble, and of the evening, was the Concertino, featuring soloist Thorben Louw. It opens with a lilting Allegretto, the theme slightly medieval-sounding among the very modern orchestration. The Minuetto is a delightful, light air and the final Allegro brings the piece to a rousing finale. For the ensemble, each member practises the part they prefer to play and Francisco’s skilled hand guides the whole group.

A big thank you and congratulations to the players and the audience for making it a very special musical occasion. It is worth remembering that music is, in principle, an experience shared in person. It was an uplifting return to sharing music for the BCGS and, we hope, an enjoyable evening of music for the audience.