January is often rather a quiet month for the arts, so the Wye Valley Chamber Music Festival is there to cheer us all up! This year's runs from 9 until 17 January, and this year celebrates close personal and musical relationships, from the Schumann and Mendelssohn families through that of Fauré and his pupil Ravel to the pioneering folk collections of Bartok and Kodaly. Directed by co-founder Daniel Tong with fellow pianist Simon Crawford-Phillips, the Ruisi Quartet are in residence this year.
I've been rather preoccupied by work over the last six weeks or so, running the singers agency I manage, Concert Directory International. I took it over in 2009 and it has been supplying vocal soloists mainly for choral societies all around the UK for well over 30 years now.
I try to go to as many concerts as I can - and because of the way rehearsals are organised, many choirs have a concert in mid-November followed by a Christmas event in December. There's always a huge amount of enthusiasm and excitement and a real sense of occasion at these events and I always find much to enjoy. Since mid-October I have heard:
- Grimsby Philharmonic Choir singing Mozart's C minor Mass (with Birmingham-based soprano Katie Trethewey stepping in at short notice)
- Malvern Festival Chorus singing CPE Bach's Magnificat and Zelenka's Missa Paschalis (that was new to me)
- Bedford Choral Society singing Mendelssohn's Lobgesang and "Die Erste Walpurgisnacht" (also new to me, and great fun)
- Oxford Harmonic Choir singing Beethoven 9 and Bruckner's Te Deum
If I added up the number of singers involved in all these concerts it would be well over 500 - and one of the singers on my list, Alex Ashworth is soloist in no less than 4 performances of "Messiah" just this week! A love of singing indeed.
Jill Davies has spent most of her life immersed in music, from sitting under the piano while her mum gave lessons to taking up the ukulele a couple of years ago. She's an agent (mainly for singers) by day, has a personal record of going to 12 concerts in 3 days, and can't decide whether it's more fun to sing Elgar partsongs or play Gibbons viol consorts.