This year’s Autumn Concert (Friday 11th October) was held not, as usual, in a Cranleigh church, but in Holy Trinity, Bramley, fast becoming a leading venue for concerts thanks to the Bramley Music concerts organised by Mr Stuart White. Recent artists in his concert series have included our own Richard Saxel and OC Tom Hollister. The retiring collection was shared between the Steinway fund, close to reaching the target needed for the church to own its fine piano, and Cranleigh’s regular charity, following the launch of the Zambia project, ‘Beyond Ourselves’. Parents, pupils and other web-readers who live near Bramley are invited to the church on Saturday 9th November for a celebrity piano recital by local musician and recording artist Lucy Parham (who has come a long way since her appearance on ‘Opportunity Knocks’). Pupils can buy tickets for just £5.
The 90-minute programme began (after a warm welcome from the Reverend John Bundock) with the Wind Quintet taking us from the first chills of autumn to a sultry Cuban atmosphere. In Fauré’s lovely ‘Après un Rĕve’ the tenor Theo Golden found an aptly nasal French quality in his tone and sacrificed articulation for line, appropriately in a melody that the composer also arranged for solo ’cello. The high note at the end held no terrors for this confident performer. Zoё Dixon and Deescha Chandrasama moved us to Spain in an adorable dance by Moskowski, a favourite of Queen Victoria’s: the two pianists phrasing with subtle nuances.
Four young violinists joined Kevin Weaver in Telemann, playing with near-immaculate intonation, and Phoebe Bagge sang Gluck with a sense of drama as well as with beautiful tone. Ellen Dixon later explained to me that an impending Grade 8 viola examination led her to play Brahms’s FAE scherzo on the lower-voiced instrument (it was written for violin) and it suited the lyrical middle section very well, while adding to the bowing challenges for the outer sections. This was a mature and enjoyable duo with Richard Saxel on the Steinway.
‘Simply Blue’ gave us two numbers from their charity concert given the week before and John Sandford (Cranleigh’s own Cannonball Adderley) and his young colleagues brought a lively variety to the 1966 composition, ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ by Adderley’s keyboard player, Joe Zawinul. Rather aptly, the talented George Wilkinson sang Jamie Cullum’s recent release ‘When I get famous’: one audience member who had not heard him sing before told me he was a ‘born performer’ as are, indeed, Noah, Tom, Harrison and Cameron. At the end of the concert band members joined over a dozen others in the Big Band under ‘Uncle’ Bob Wilson, for three of the band’s repertoire of standards, ending with Louis Prima’s ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ in which the East House rhythm section led the way. Many of us had forgotten that Richard Saxel is also a trombonist, his versatility following on from Noah Frett’s, who changed from trumpet to the Steinway for a subtly caressed reading of Duke Ellington. Before that the Cranleigh Prep School Chamber Choir sang two pieces of popular song under Catherine Beddison and accompanied by Marcus Pashley.
Two of the most accomplished senior musicians played solos which seemed to blossom in the attractive acoustic of the church, with Tim Ayling expertly adept in Abbott’s ‘Alla Caccia’. My personal highlight was the irresistibly French ‘Sarabande and Allegro’ by Grovlez, played with a sweetly beautiful oboe tone and astonishing nimbleness by Fayruz Mediche. There were many Cranleigh ‘supporters’ in the church, but I am sure some of the local Bramley audience were impressed with the sheer quality and range of the School’s musicians.