Latest News

"London Mozart Players, Davan Wetton, St Giles Cripplegate - rousing Shakespearean revel"

6/28/2019

We are delighted to close this year's festival with an excellent review from Bernard Hughes for The Arts Desk:

"The festival Summer Music in City Churches is in only its second year, filling a gap left by the demise of the long-running City of London Festival. This year’s festival had the theme of Words and Music and offered an enticing programme of recitals, talks and walks, focusing on English music through the ages, and finding enterprising ways of combining solo performers with resident ensembles the London Mozart Players and the City of London Choir. The closing concert showcased works inspired by Shakespeare plays, presenting them alongside Shakespeare’s words, spoken by actor Tama Matheson.

The orchestra were on fine form in the opener, William Walton’s suite from Henry V, described by (the not disinterested) Laurence Olivier as “the most wonderful score I’ve ever heard for a film”. Matheson, dressed in tweed jacket and a union jack t-shirt, declaimed the St Crispin’s Day speech from the pulpit, leading into the fabulous overture, trumpets blazing. The slower central movements featured the strings, conductor Hilary Davan Wetton taking “Touch her soft lips and part” at a no-nonsense tempo, avoiding any threat of sentimentality, but allowing the triple-time pulse to breathe. The “Agincourt Song” gave the choir its opportunity: first the men, then everyone intoning Walton’s stirring patriotic hymn. It sounded wonderful – literally spine-tingling – in the big church acoustic.

Gerald Finzi’s music for Love’s Labours Lost is exquisite but rarely performed. The overture has a terrific tune, Elgarian in both tone and calibre. Leader Ruth Rogers here played the first of several excellent solos through the evening. “Soliloquy I” had enough moments of astringency to avert cosiness, and the rhythmically intricate “Finale” offered lively playing from the woodwind.

 

Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music, heard in its version for choir and four soloists, was touching, the choir providing a bed of sound over which the solos could float. Soprano Rebecca Bottone was excellent in the high register, and tenor Aaron Godfrey-Hayes shone in his brief moment. But perhaps the pick was mezzo Maya Colwell (pictured left by Hope Lavelle), whose big, rich sound was gorgeous: she is one to watch.

Where the three pieces of the first half were all written in Britain within a few years of each other in the mid-20th century, the second half dived back to the 19th for Mendelssohn’s complete incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This was presented with a linking monologue, written and spoken by Tama Matheson, that told the story of the play, interspersed with verbatim extracts. Matheson’s narration was in cod-Shakespearean couplets, replete with modern references, that called to mind Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes or Ogden Nash’s version of Carnival of the Animals. It was at times a bit de trop – describing the lovers’ misunderstanding as “hashtag: abuse” was a bit, well, “awks” – but there were some clever rhymes: “Helena” with “put a spell on her” or “Hermia” with “hypothermia”. The decision to narrate the entire play, in all its intricate silliness, stretched the second half to an overlong 80 minutes but Matheson was an engaging personality, and his Shakespeare speaking really very good.

The music itself is, of course, extraordinary. The overture, written when Mendelssohn was 17, is miraculous, and the orchestra’s skittering strings and nimble woodwind drove it forward. Davan Wetton kept his players on a tight rein but found a real energy and sense of fun. Also amazing is that Mendelssohn could pick up his thread several years later and add the rest of the incidental music in the same vein. The “Scherzo” was sprightly, not to say spritely, the “Lullaby” irresistible and the “Finale” magically works its way back to the opening music of the overture for the final words of the play."

Prize Draw: Win a champagne dinner for two! ***Offer ends midnight Sunday 2nd June***

5/17/2019

We have a wonderful prize to offer, with thanks to our friends at The Bleeding Heart. For every concert ticket you buy before midnight on Sunday 2nd June 2019 – either online via this website or through The Bleeding Heart or The Don Bistro (see below for details) – we will enter you into a prize draw for a three-course dinner for two, complete with champagne. 
 

The prize consists of a three-course dinner for two at the Bleeding Heart Restaurant, starting with a glass of Taittinger Champagne and a matching glass of Trinity Hill wine with each course. 
 

Everyone who has booked tickets online since booking opened on 13th April will be included. 

Terms and conditions
One prize draw entry per concert ticket bought to Summer Music in City Churches, either via www.SummerMusicCityChurches.com or, as part of a concert/meal ticket, through The Bleeding Heart Bistro or The Don Bistro by phone or email. All ticket purchases from 13th April to midnight Sunday 2nd June 2019 are eligible. The winning name will be drawn on Wednesday 5th June and the winner notified by email or phone by Friday 7th June. The offer must be redeemed and consumed by 31st August 2019 and booked in advance via The Bleeding Heart (phone 020 7242 2056). The prize consists of a three-course dinner for two at the Bleeding Heart Restaurant, starting with a glass of Taittinger Champagne and a matching glass of Trinity Hill wine with each course. The prize cannot be transferred or taken in cash equivalent.

Irresistible offer for the 2019 festival! Two delicious courses and the joy of music in City Churches for only £29.50

5/15/2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are delighted to announce that we are joining forces with The Bleeding Heart and The Don Bistros again this year. Concert-goers are offered the chance to combine an evening of lovely music with a superb two-course bistro dinner at the all-inclusive price of £29.50 per head.

For evening concerts at St Giles Cripplegate and St Mary-le-Bow, pre-concert dinner is offered at The Bleeding Heart Bistro (Best French Bistro in London" – City AM). Please phone 020 7242 2056 or email bookings@bleedingheart.co.uk to book your ticket for the concert and dinner.

For evening concerts at St Stephen Walbrook and St Lawrence Jewry, dinner is offered at The Don Bistro (“Head and Shoulders above most places in the City” – City AM) before the concerts or, for early evening concerts starting at 6.45pm or 7pm, afterwards. Please phone 020 7626 2606 or email bookings@thedonrestaurant.co.uk to book your ticket for the concert and dinner.

Offer open as long as availability at both restaurants and concerts lasts.

Bleeding Heart Bistro

4 Bleeding Heart Yard, Holborn, London EC1N 8SJ

 

For 35 years the Bleeding Heart Bistro has been a by-word for warmth, generosity and general good cheer.

A neighbourhood favourite for the local business community and residents alike, The Bistro really shines during the summer months when the 60-seat terrace on the cobblestoned courtyard is open and the well-priced, mainly French fare can be accompanied by a glass of chilled rosé from the Bleeding Heart’s award-winning list.

 

The Bleeding Heart is very close to Farringdon Station (one stop from Barbican for St Giles Cripplegate) and also near Chancery Lane (one stop on the Central Line from St Paul’s for St Mary le Bow, or hop on a 25 bus at Holborn Circus).

The Don Bistro

The Courtyard, 20 St Swithin's Ln, London EC4N 8AD

Tucked away below The Don Restaurant, off a courtyard in St Swithin’s Lane, only minutes from both Bank and Cannon Street Stations, The Don Bistro is on the site of the old Sandeman Port and Sherry Cellars, where for 200 years the eponymous company blended and bottled its wares.

 

Its vaulted brick ceiling creates the perfect ambience for enjoying full-flavoured dishes and a wonderful selection of good-value wines.

 

The Don is a three minute walk from St Stephen’s Walbrook and ten minutes from St Lawrence Jewry.

Please reload

2018: Swords & Ploughshares

Musical Opinion Quarterly Review: an "out-of-the-ordinary concert"

11/6/2018

We are delighted to read these thoughts on 'Gathering Storm Clouds' from Monica McCabe. Full review available in Musical Opinion Quarterly: Oct-Dec 2018

"...Three works by Ivor Gurney opened the recital...Played with sympathy by Bebbington, they served to highlight the shocking waste of the young composer’s life...

Three works by Vaughan Williams followed, the first being the exquisite, mysterious The Lake in the Mountains...beautifully played, with a wide range of tone colour. He was then joined by the gifted Nigerian/Romanian pianist Rebeca Omordia, for a piano duet version of the transcription of the Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis for two pianos... it worked movingly well, Bebbington, as the more experienced performer, obviously watching to ensure synchronicity with his young partner. His piano, a splendid Bechstein, had sounded a little strident in the extreme upper register, the result no doubt of the unrelenting stonework of St Giles, but the warmth of its bass and middle registers helped bring out all the nobility of the theme, and Omordia’s Steinway seemed well-matched, both pianos beautifully in tune...

In the second half Bebbington was joined by Irene Loh. Again, the Delius On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring seemed to come off remarkably well in this piano duet version by Warlock. Bridge’s Sonata, written by him with agonising effort, between 1921-4, completed the programme... [Bebbington's] short introduction to the works of the second half was of great assistance, and he performed the Bridge with passion, power, and compassion, again revealing a wonderful range of pianistic colour. All the participants, and the organisers, are to be congratulated on the this out-of-the-ordinary concert."

"a performance to be treasured"

6/30/2018

Touched and delighted to close the festival this first year with a five star review from Amanda-Jane Doran in Classical Source:

"A new festival has been launched, Summer Music in City Churches, here commemorating the centenary of the First World War, with an emphasis on British composers affected by the Great War.

 

This programme was carefully constructed to present an elegiac nostalgia for simpler times. Peter Warlock’s Capriol Suite set a lively mood, the London Mozart Players strings playing with finesse, the stately richness of the ‘Pavane’ balanced by the dashing ‘Mattachins’. George Butterworth’s settings from Housman’s A Shropshire Lad followed in a sensitive arrangement for strings by Roderick Williams. His vocal performance was exemplary, with effortless phrasing in ‘The Loveliest of trees ‘ and ‘Look not into my Eyes’, and the solo scoring for ‘Is My Team Ploughing’ proved a masterstroke.

 

Patrick Hawes’s choral I Know the Music (2014) sets an unfinished poem by Wilfred Owen in a highly effective and descriptive fashion. The intimate details from the Front contrast with the descriptions of Nature and country life in the poem. George Butterworth’s The Banks of Green Willow (1913) provided folksong in sophisticated musical clothes and Elgar’s Chanson de matin anchored us securely in his Edwardian soundworld, and then Ruth Rogers transported us to the skies with her delicate impersonation of The Lark Ascending.

 

The bucolic dream continued in Gerald Finzi’s Requiem da Camera, haunted by strains of Butterworth and also Housman’s melancholy, especially in the opening section where ‘Loveliest of Trees’ and the bugle-call of battle are quoted. The setting of nine stanzas of Masefield’s August 1914 is quiet and close and was conveyed with light simplicity by the City of London Choir; hushed and profoundly moving. The baritone solo found Williams’s bass notes resonant with Finzi’s distinctive chromatic turns and triplets, and the final verse “We who are left” evokes the despair of the bereaved and the hope enshrined in renewal and birdsong, part of a performance to be treasured under Hilary Davan Wetton."

Daily Telegraph review: "a beautiful showcase for the glories of the capital"

6/25/2018

We are thrilled to read this glowing four star review of our opening concert from Ivan Hewett in the Daily Telegraph.

"The beautiful churches of the City of London are among the capital’s glories, and wonderful places to hear music – especially at this time of year, when the City of London Festival normally takes place.  The demise of that festival was a definite loss, which Ian Maclay, former MD of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was determined to fill. Together with Jenny Robinson, he’s created a week-long festival named Summer Music in City Churches, based around the the centenary of the end of the Great War.    

The theme has been interpreted loosely, as the opening concert in St Giles Cripplegate from the City of London Choir showed. It included settings of Psalm 29 and 48  by Elgar, which actually date from the beginning of the War, or just before, and aren’t yet touched by it. But already one detects an elegiac feeling, alongside the outbursts of fervour, and at times – in the second – a strange harmonic unease, as if the music has temporarily lost its moorings.  

 

All these feelings were beautifully caught by the choir under their artistic director Hilary Davan Wetton. They summoned a terrific intensity of tone in the final tumultuous lines of Psalm 48, but even this was topped by the incandescent ending of the evening prayer Nunc Dimittis by Gustav Holst. It’s an extraordinary piece which began with an uncanny feeling of harmony emerging from a vast distance, and gradually took shape as a homage to the great Renaissance tradition of Byrd and Palestrina.

After the interval we heard the Requiem by Maurice Duruflé, a piece composed in 1947, which may seem to be stretching the First World War theme implausibly far. But in spirit the piece is close to Gustav Holst, in the way it recreates something precious from the past, as a way to stave off the spiritual confusion of the present.  In Duruflé’s case that precious thing is church plainchant, which winds its way through the choral writing like a golden thread.

The performers, including baritone soloist John Lee caught the music’s seraphic calm, while the incisive playing of organist Mark Williams made sure the music’s radiance never seemed becalmed, which is always a danger with this piece. Occasionally the rapture was disturbed, as in the tragic Pie Jesu, which was thrillingly sung by mezzo soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons. In all it was a fine start to the festival, which promises many good things over the coming week."

Calling all groups....

6/13/2018

We've launched a 20% discount for anyone buying 4 or more tickets to any of our concerts. To claim yours, just click on BOOK TICKETS and select "Group of 4 or more". This offer is only available online - don't delay, claim yours today!

Music, Food and Wine on a Summer's Day

6/9/2018

Announcing an irresistible offer from the Bleeding Heart Bistro and The Don Bistro! Enjoy a two course meal and concert ticket for just £29.50 per head for selected performances. Deal applies at the Bleeding Heart Bistro for our concerts at St Bartholomew’s on Saturday 23rd June and Tuesday 26th June, and at The Don Bistro for our concerts at St Stephen Walbrook on Monday 25th June and Thursday 28th June. To book, please email bookings@bleedingheart.co.uk or telephone 020 7242 2056. Hurry hurry - offer open as long as availability at both restaurants and concerts lasts.

Choral Evensong in the City

6/4/2018

We are delighted that both St Bride's, Fleet Street and St Bartholomew the Great will be joining the festival with their services of Choral Evensong on Sunday 24th June. Their renowned choirs will be singing music by Parry, Walford Davies, Mendelssohn, Ireland, Dyson and Howells appropriate to the Swords and Ploughshares theme. All are welcome and we just invite you to register if you plan to attend so the churches have an idea of numbers in advance. 

Holst's Planets with a new twist

6/3/2018

Holst's epic tone poem The Planets was premiered in 1918. A hundred years later, we present it with a new dimension of poetry reflecting the themes of the planets and the time Holst was writing. We are delighted that actors Nickolas Grace and Rohan McCullough will be joining York 2 (John and Fiona York at the piano, playing Holst's own brilliant four-hand arrangement).

Summer Music in City Churches featured in the Telegraph

4/27/2018

Simon Heffer featured Summer Music in City Churches in his Telegraph column this week. Heffer spoke of how even a century on, music written in response to the Great War can still stir the soul.

Read the full article on the Telegraph website.

Please reload

© 2018 by Summer Music in City Churches

Website by Orchid Media

All photos by Helen Hooker

'Words & Music' calligraphy by Rosalind Wyatt

Artistic Directors: Jenny Robinson and Ian Maclay (Kestrel Music Promotions)

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Twitter Icon
Follow us on social media