Review of Ludlow English Song Weekend 2017
What a glorious feast of music we had this year in the beautiful setting of Ludlow!
Where to start? This year’s theme was an exploration of musical links between Britain and America, mainly looking at settings of American poets by British composers. Iain Burnside – the master craftsman of thoughtful juxtapositions – put together a wonderful set of concerts that revealed an amazing range of poetry and compositions. The unfamiliar provoked us to wonder why we didn’t know so many fine songs, whilst the familiar gave us a sense of coming home, valued all the more for having travelled.
This rich fare was provided by a splendid range of superb singers, whose engagement with texts and music were completely focused, whilst their partner pianists and string quartet skilfully provided additional colour, drama, and commentary – a reminder of how enriching art-song is as a medium. We were treated to an excellent new composition by the transatlantic Tarik O’Regan, as well as his skilful workshop with four very accomplished young composers. Their works were performed by four students from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, who also participated engagingly in the Masterclass by Roderick Williams. He gave us a masterclass in how to give a Masterclass, as well as having opened the Weekend with Iain in intense, polished performances of three contrasting song-cycles.
Words were also important – not just the texts from Longfellow to Millay, Dickinson to Goodman – but also in superb readings of Whitman by Alex Jennings, interleaved (sic!) between a great variety of settings of his poems. As always at LESW, there were informative and interesting discussions, this year skilfully facilitated by Katy Hamilton. The film shown on the first evening was John Bridcut’s sensitive exploration of the life and music of Delius.
This was the first year that LESW has been under the aegis of Ludlow Song, and we are grateful to colleagues in Finzi Friends who helped make this transition as seamless as possible. We thank Arts Council England, and the many Trusts and individuals who provided essential financial support. Aileen Morrison, our Administrator, did a really great job, supported by teams at Ludlow Assembly Rooms & St Laurence’s Church. With the benefit of questionnaire responses and other feedback, we shall make future LESWs even better!
There was so much to enjoy and ponder from just two and a half days, one felt nourished for at least a year. Which segues neatly into the dates for 2018: We have moved the Ludlow English Song Weekend a bit earlier to April 6th–8th, 2018. This earlier date resulted from a complex triangulation of availabilities of people, events and places, but may prove felicitous. Whether you were with us for LESW-2017 or, by misadventure, you missed it, you will want to fix LESW-2018 in your diary now. The theme and content will gradually be revealed!
We look forward to seeing you then. Best wishes,