The beautiful church of St. Nicholas, Alfold provided the setting for the autumn Charity Concert given by musicians from both Senior and Prep schools. This was the first visit the schools have enjoyed to Alfold for this annual concert, and if the large audience is indicative of its popularity, it will not be the last visit to this venue. The full spectrum of age range was on display; this was Cranleigh Music 7-18 at its best.

The Wind Quintet began the concert, and despite their relative youth, showed both why they are the premierAlfoldConcert101014-7355 wind ensemble in the school, and that they have real potential to develop as an ensemble for the next two years. Fayruz Megdiche led Elgar’s Salut d’amour with a lovely plangent tone, and was well-supported by Ellie Williamson’s rich bassoon bass, and the musical playing of Josh Wilson-Khanna, Ellen Talbot and Eva Solt. Their sense of balance within the ensemble was sensitive and sympathetic.

Zoë Dixon gave a mature and stylish performance of J.S. Bach’s Prelude from the Suite no.3 in C major, and met its difficult technical challenges head on. This timeless music was perfect for the acoustic and ancient setting, as was Theo Golden’s lovely interpretation of ‘Ah, per sempre io ti perdei’, from Bellini’s I Puritani. There was a rare honesty and integrity of expression about his interpretation; he is a young man who has great charisma on stage, but one who eschews showmanship, preferring to serve the music first.

The Clarinet Ensemble, featuring six players on a variety of instruments performed Freddie Mercury’s BohemianAlfoldConcert101014-7367 Rhapsody, under the baton of Head of Woodwind & Brass, Ruth Williams. Her subtle and assured direction led them to craft the sensitive phrases in a confident manner, and showcased their excellent intonation; this was real chamber music playing of quality. The contrast between the different sections was striking; beautiful sustained melodic lines were juxtaposed with rhythmic vitality, and all were alive to the tricky changes of meter and pulse. This was a strongly characterized performance showing the strength in depth in this area of music making at school.

The three advanced cellists, Zoë Dixon, Deescha Chandrasma and Emily Hill, joined forces to perform Popper’s moving Requiem, giving each the chance to showcase their individual sound, but also to show that they are capable of blending as one; the hallmark of real chamber musicians. They were perfectly supported by the excellent accompaniment of Phil Scriven, who led them through the trickier moments, and gave them the perfect platform from which to express the sense of nostalgic yearning this piece requires.

William Grainger is a young Prep School euphonium player of great promise, and brought a lovely vocal quality to Alan Menken’s A Whole New World, from Alladin. His intonation was first-class, and he performed with great style and confidence, characterizing the piece perfectly.

Catherine Beddison’s Prep School Chamber Choir have flourished under her expert direction, and a particular hallmark of their singing is the clarity of words and diction, and the range of vocal colours they convey, whilst retaining an obvious enthusiasm for the task in hand. Catherine instills a quiet confidence in them, so that their part-singing and harmony are well under control, and they engage in each and every phrase, which in turn allows them to be expressive. They gave a moving performance of Quartel’s I Remember, and followed it with Lloyd Webber’s Any Dream Will Do, in which the security and technique of the part-singing was particularly evident.

Ellen Dixon performed an arrangement of Albeniz’s Tango, and in choosing a brisk tempo from the start, AlfoldConcert101014-7391brought out the more machismo aspects of this dance. There were moments too of sensuous persuasiveness and delicacy, and her tone was particularly sumptuous in the low register; the manner in which she suspended long melodic phrases above a taut rhythmic accompaniment showed a real flair for this style.

Cranleigh’s resident jazz ensemble, Simply Blue, under the direction of John Sandford, closed the concert with two idiomatic interpretations, in which each member of the band had their moment in the limelight, taking improvised solos, but it was the blend that was most noticeable. This band has developed over the past year or two, and it is apparent that they have really thought about the sound they want to achieve as an ensemble. Their solos allow their individual characters to shine through; Noah Frett’s are clean and imaginative, Tom Cooper is fond of advanced techniques on his alto saxophone, Harrison White brings a touch of West Coast cool to his bass solos, and George Wilkinson glues much of it together on piano. Their interpretation of Dizzy Gillespie’s A Night in Tunisia allowed drummer Cameron Scheider to shine in the assured way he held together a difficult contrast between swing and bossa styles. This was assured, subtle jazz, and the slightly incongruous 12th Century setting ceased to matter. This was a hugely enjoyable concert.

Richard Saxel, Head of Performance