England, Shakespeare and St George
Theatre by the Lake, Keswick
23 April 2004
For his last concert as conductor of the Wordsworth Singers, Michael Hancock devised a programme to celebrate all things English.
George Dyson's resolute setting of Three Songs of Courage set the tone of appreciative pilgrimage.
The pianist, David Jones, gave a plangent rendition of Salut d'amour by Elgar, which was forcefully juxtaposed against a set of bawdy catches by Purcell.
Andrew Leggott, who read the poems throughout the evening, became Prospero as he set the scene for Vaughan Williams' magical setting of Shakespeare's Tempest, and then directed the mischievous Puck to go Over hill, over dale in search of a potion for love.
Northumbrian folksongs followed. The sprightly rhythms of Dance to thy Daddy and Bobby Shaftoe were delivered in good warm Geordie accents. Then there were mellow renditions of Scarborough Fair and the Irish song She Moved through the Fair.
The women sang Charles Wood's beautiful Music When Soft Voices Die and the evening was completed with Vaughan Williams' setting of lines from the Merchant of Venice in Serenade to Music. These words, “How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank", marked the end of an evening and the end of an era for the Wordsworth Singers.
Tonight's concert was imaginative and inventive.
Let us hope the Wordsworth Singers continue to provide us with equal pleasure in the future.