Howard and Haji

Yesterday afternoon’s Mazzoleni Songmasters concert featured local tenor Andrew Haji and Welsh baritone Jason Howard in a program somewhat loosely linked to England.  Neither singer was, I think, 100% well (Haji’s cold was announced, Howrad’s merely obvious!) but both battled through manfully and gave us some fine singing.  There were some interesting contrasts especially in the first half of the program.  Andrew kicked off with Francesco Santoliquido’s I canti della sera.  I’m no expert on Italian art song but these did sound like songs rather than opera arias, at least in the hands of Andrew and Rachel Andrist.  In contrast, Jason’s set (Tosti’s L’ultima canzone, Respighi’s Nebbie, Tosti’s L’ideale and Verdi’s In solitaria stanza), with Robert Kortgaard sounded distinctly operatic and suited Jason’s darkish voice rather well.

The first half of the concert was rounded out by Andrew singing three Frank Bridge settings of texts by Mary Coleridge with Robert Koortgaard at the piano.  This was more familiar territory for me and very enjoyable.  There was a lovely delicacy to Where She Lies Asleep, more passion in Thy Hand in Mine and a knock out, no holds barred, rendition of Love Went A-Riding.  Andrew can push out some really powerful high notes when required.

The second half kicked off with a most amusing four hand arrangement of Grainger’s Country Gardens.  I’ll never hear this hoary old standard quite the same way again!  This was followed by Jason and Rachel in a mixed English/Welsh set.  Keel’s setting of Masefield’s Trade Winds was followed by Bridge’s setting of Landor’s O That It Were So.  These are almost hackneyed but still fun to let a baritone loose on.  Jason was obviously enjoying himself.  In a sense the Welsh pieces were similar Williams’ setting of Gwynfyd is a choir and parlour favourite and Hughes setting of Y Dymestl was the “test piece” at the 1880 National Eisteddfod.  The latter is quite showy for both pianist and singer and Robert and Rachel let rip in appropriately Victorian fashion.

Schickele’s four hand arrangement of the overture to The Civilian Barber wasn’t quite as daft as the Grainger but it served as a suitable introduction to the closing comic duets.  First up was Coward’s In a Bar on the Piccola Marina which was nicely camped up.  Both these guys can do comedy.  G&S’ We’re Called Gondolieri was appropriately idiomatic and brought things to a fitting conclusion.  All in all, a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Next year’s season was also announced and I think it’s as follows (I’ll confirm when I get something official).

  • October 16th 2017 – Erin Wall and Asitha Tennekoon in a “seasons” themed concert.
  • January 21st 2018 – Russell Braun and Carolyn Maule with Schumann’s Dichterliebe.
  • 16th March 2018 – Lucia Cesaroni and Allyson McHardy in a Rossini diva show.
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