Review of Aldeburgh Recital

Thanks to Lucy Walker from the Red House for these kind words about our recital earlier this month! And thanks to Diana Moore and Iestyn Evans for their playing and singing.


“Thank you so, so much for the remarkable recital here on Friday evening. It was a very special occasion, and the audience was completely blown away. The programme was just perfect, with the mix of solemn, challenging and totally beautiful. For those attending the War Requiem study event here the next day hearing Canticle II performed so brilliantly was a particularly poignant and moving element. It was terrific to hear such a great rendition of the Soutar songs, one of BB’s lesser-known cycles, and the Busch cycle was powerful and startling. The other two songs were also perfectly chosen and placed.


All in all, just brilliant – and thank you all so much.”


Britten ‘Who are these Children’

I’m always amazed by the variety and depth of Britten’s writing for tenor, and there always seems to be more works to discover.

I spent the summer learning and performing Les Illuminations and Seven Sonnets for the North Yorkshire Moors Chamber Music Festival (run by the nicest people) and am now learning ‘Who are these Children’ for a recital in the Red House on November 9th. The writing is stunning and it’s surprising these aren’t better known. Time to work on my Scottish pronunciation…

My current favourite

Goodbye Facebook, Instagram

I’ve deleted them. Not that that’s really possible. Upon hitting the blue delete button on my page, I saw the following: ‘We have deactivated your account for 14 days. You can reactivate it an any time. After this, your data will be deleted.’. Who knows how true that will prove to be. When we signed up 12 years ago, we naively thought that we could share photos of each other and look up people we didn’t know; in short, it was fun. As the ads crept in gradually, it was easy not to notice them too much, or not to think about how they came to be there. Only now that the true nature of Facebook’s business model has been unveiled have I truly understood the power that we give these platforms, sacrificing our free time, imaginations and our data for free. So, goodbye FB, and hello to more WordPress.

On that note, by new favourite place to view the new breed of the selfie tourist is the Millennium Bridge by St. Paul’s. I walk over it at the same time each week and there is a queue on the south side every time, no matter the weather, for a selfie with the cool reverse bridge thing framing the cathedral to the north. It was on the cover of Sebastian Faulks’ book ‘A Week in December’ and there must now be literally millions of these pictures, with people posing by the identical view. Some now have serious photographic gear now too – large tripods and dirty great lenses. Why do we do this?

This one was fun – the chap with the backpack had to keep walking north to get the reflective, brooding shot of him contemplating the dome. He repeated this 10 times at least.

Boughton Aluph, Wye and Brook

Few people visit parish churches, even for the landmarks of life. This puts their future in peril, but it does have its advantages. You have a tremendous building to explore and, normally, a nature reserve in the churchyard in which one can relax and listen to the birds and insects. Sitting to write this on a bench overlooking the downs from Wye churchyard is blissful.

All Saints Boughton Aluph was sadly locked, but the churchyard and the exterior are well worth visiting. They’ve even come up with a novel way to make Portaloos look nice. We are in Alfred Deller land here- he and his wife buried in the churchyard and his son Mark does vast amounts of local music making. The building is set up high by the manor and has a wonderful view on this glorious spring day. The building is a dilapidated animal, legs creeping out underneath its vast stone belly.

Above – The church and Alfred Deller’s grave

Erecting a large, robust tower was clearly ‘in’ in these parts- perhaps the Normans needed to be especially butch here to show their control. The medieval tower over the hills in Wye is especially hilarious. I read in the guide that when the church fell down in the 17th century, the new tower took the place of the entire nave. The church of St. Gregory and St. Martin really is quite a surprise. One expects the interior to match the grandeur of the tower, but one is confronted within (alongside a mercifully cool climate) with a chancel one would expect in a Dutch church, rather than a medieval Kentish/Victorian combination. The effect is really rather Farrow and Ball… but it really does impress.

The tower at Wye

Above – Wye church tower and chancel

I finished off by nipping to Brook in a hurry, realising with dismay that I had been there before and had a hearty Sunday lunch in the local pub followed by a massage in Ashford overlooking the M20. Quite how that could have slipped my mind is beyond me. The church must have been locked as surely those wall paintings would have stuck in my mind. They are in top condition and the combination of them and the plain stone altar and chancel is sincerely moving. How blissful that I am the only one in the church, but what a tragedy that it is that this building does not have wider use.

Above – the church in Brook. The wall paintings and the bare interior. Get lunch down the road or even get an ice cream in the posh garden centre as I did. Those paintings are some of the most complete in England and there are exquisite 14th century floor tiles. I also saw an odd hole in the wall, called an hagioscope, which is for people to peek in the church to gaze at the altar. Different times…

Recital – anniversary of Sexual Offences Act 1967

To mark this anniversary, Iestyn Evans and I will perform the following programme in St. Bride’s Church, Fleet Street on Friday (3rd November):

Britten: On this Island (10)

  • Let the florid music praise
  • Now the leaves are falling fast
  • Seascape
  • Nocturne
  • As it is, plenty

Tchaikovsky: Nightingale (3)
Poulenc: Tel Jour Telle Nuit (10)

  1. – Bonne journée
  2. Une ruine coquille vide
  3. Le front comme un drapeau perdu
  4. Je n’ai envie que de t’aimer
  5. Nous avons fait la nuit

Britten: Canticle I (11) – My Beloved is Mine





I was working in Colchester throughout September, and therefore had the privilege of visiting Copford at least three times. My little car also broke down in the car park, thus furnishing me with a glorious opportunity to explore. What a treasure! No one would surely expect this just a few minutes off the A12. Thank you, people of Copford.

Paul Klee’s ‘Burdened Children’

I teach music to about 400 children each week, aged 5-17. I am sadened daily by the weight that we load on their shoulders each day. I see children crushed with a negative image of adulthood and the world. From year 5 onwards (age 9-10), children are relenentlessly oppressed with exams, and fear of the results. Barely any are encouraged to have any original thought. Jealous of the freedom of children, we adults crush a child’s hopes with our own unfulfilled expectations. 

Deleuze discusses in ‘The Intensive Reduction’ that an artist should ‘render [life] visible’, and that Klee is the master of this. Never have I seen this image of childhood better expressed than in Klee’s picture ‘Belastete Kinder’, that was on display in the Tate a few years ago. 

Klee’s ‘Burdened Children’

Klee’s strength is always, for me, in his simplicity. It requires no further comment. One can stare at it for hours.

What is the answer? There are hundreds of teachers out there who work against this trend of preparing children for ‘real life’. Who let them run around, be weird, sing, shout, cry and imagine. Creative schools, painting academies, youth theatre and opera, dance. The budgets for these organisations are being cut. Head teachers have so much pressure to keep up the mark schemes of STEM subjects, that music, art and dance are sidelined or omitted entirely in our state primary schools. Bright, creative people who could be amazing teachers avoid schools, chasing money in offices instead. Would the country be healthier and happier if we encouraged our children to be funnier and more imaginative than us? Or shall we just clone ourselves, perpetuating this drudgery ad infinitum? Providing children with limitations? 

Let’s preserve innocence! Long live fantasy! Campfires! Imaginary best friends! Quirkiness! 

Grades are not the answer. Surely. Let’s sing and dance. 

Gainsborough’s Daughters. Can be seen for free in the National Gallery.