Past Performances

March concert - Haslemere Hall

Sat, 2 Mar 2024
Saturday 2nd March 2024

With floods and fallen trees blocking the roads, temperatures plummeting and the civilised world seemingly coming apart at the seams, anyone in need of warmth, reassurance and a bit of a lift would have been well advised to head to Haslemere Hall on Saturday evening. A typically varied Haslemere Musical Society programme comprising some more unusual material amidst a wealth of instantly recognisable, whistle-along classics provided an evening of entertainment filled with joy, pathos, excitement and reflection.

Under the direction of conductor James Ross, the orchestra’s declamatory opening salvo set the tone with the prelude to Act III of Wagner’s Lohengrin – a rollicking rollercoaster of a ride that showed off the players’ ability to shift effortlessly from raucous to touchingly sensitive at the flick of a baton. The singers, immaculate in black with daffodils on their lapels, joined in for the Bridal Chorus and more than a few of the audience could be spotted humming along

Ernest Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la Mer formed the majority of the first half with soprano Janice Watson demonstrating the power, deftness of touch and range of vocal colour that has brought her such international acclaim. Rarely performed in the UK, Poème is a masterpiece of an orchestrated song cycle with the orchestra providing so much more than mere accompaniment. Whilst soaring, plaintive woodwind and string solos (particularly in the Interlude) demonstrated individual skill and musicianship, the warmth and sensitivity of the orchestra allowed Watson to move effortlessly through the texture, taking us to the interval and a welcome glass of wine.

From start to finish, the second half was a joyous romp through some of the repertoire’s most famous opera choruses by Giuseppe Verdi and Pietro Mascagni with the choir taking centre stage. The ‘Overture’ and ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’ from Nabucco galvanised Tom Lydon’s well-drilled and enthusiastic singers, whilst the impressive array of improvised percussion in the ‘Anvil Chorus’ from Il Travatore evoked a tangible sense of the Gypsy tinkers celebrating their work, wine and women.

‘Rataplan della Gloria’ from La Forza del Destino delighted the audience, and the famous trumpet melody from Aida’s sumptuous ‘Grand March and Ballet Music’ made it almost impossible not to tap a foot or two.

To finish, a contrasting pair from Mascagni’s one-act Opera, Cavalleria Rusticana. The Intermezzo, with its haunting oboe lines and soaring string melodies, was the perfect palette-cleanser before the evening’s triumphant finale of the Easter Hymn. The echoes of Watson’s glorious final top B sent the audience away into the frosty darkness with a spring in their step, a smile on their face and, undoubtedly, humming a tune or two.

William Unwin


Centenary concert - Haslemere Hall

Sat, 2 Dec 2023
Haslemere Musical Society – The First 100 Years

The Haslemere Musical Society, founded by Annie Bristow in 1923, marked its centenary year with a concert in the Haslemere Hall on 2nd December 2023, featuring two ageless war-horses of the classical repertoire and the first performance of a new work commissioned for the occasion. The Society, unusually for such organisations, comprises both a symphony orchestra and a choir. Over the years of its existence it has mounted some 250 concerts covering a substantial part of the classical repertoire, at a standard well above what a largely amateur group might be expected to attain. This has enabled the HMS over the years to attract a succession of international soloists such as the sopranos Felicity Lott and Janice Watson and the cellists Steven Isserlis and Alexander Baillie.

The evening started, as it had in 1923, with a full-blooded rendering of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, initially intended by the composer to be dedicated to Napoleon Bonaparte, a proposal subsequently withdrawn because of the composer’s disgust at the French dictator’s assumption of an emperor’s crown. The orchestra seemed fully alive to the way this music is driven to its destiny with a kind of logical inevitability, right through to the frenetic climax of the last movement at which point, just for a moment, we fear that the orchestra might have forgotten how to stop. A wonderful show-piece for this group of talented players.

The choir then joined the orchestra for an affectionate account of Mozart’s Coronation Mass, so called because it was first performed at the coronation of the Hapsburg emperor in 1792, the year after Mozart’s death. The well-disciplined HMS Chorus provided a pleasing backing to the more florid contributions by the soloists, Clare Loosley (soprano), Charlotte Tetley (alto), Timothy Dutton (tenor) and Thomas Lydon (Bass).

Finally there was the new work by Clive Osgood, Composer, Assistant Chorus Master and Accompanist for the Haslemere Musical Society and Director of Music and Organist at St Bartholomew’s Church, Haslemere. The work is entitled ‘Sinfonia Cantiones’ and is constructed round the melodies and words of three medieval carols, with just enough ‘off-colour’ harmonies to announce itself as a work of the 21st century’. It was certainly easy on the ear, the musicians apparently relishing some moments of relative relaxation after the challenging rigours of the works that had preceded it.

Haslemere can be proud of its achievements in classical music as HMS’s Director of Music, James Ross suggested in his elegant speech to round off the occasion. We can look forward to the bicentenary year in 2123 with some confidence that the Society will survive that long, even if its individual members may not.

To finish, a contrasting pair from Mascagni’s one-act Opera, Cavalleria Rusticana. The Intermezzo, with its haunting oboe lines and soaring string melodies, was the perfect palette-cleanser before the evening’s triumphant finale of the Easter Hymn. The echoes of Watson’s glorious final top B sent the audience away into the frosty darkness with a spring in their step, a smile on their face and, undoubtedly, humming a tune or two.

Tony Goldman

Concert - St Christopher's Church

Sat, 14 Oct 2023
Opening Night Success

The Orchestra of the Haslemere Musical Society opened its 100th season with an inspirational concert at St Christopher’s Church, Haslemere, on Saturday, 14 October 2023, to an enthusiastic packed audience which included the Mayor of Haslemere, Councillor Jerome Davidson. We were treated to an evening of the popular and the less well-known regions of the classical music spectrum.

The concert began with the overture to Il ritorno di Tobia, Franz Josef Haydn’s first oratorio, which is based on the story of Tobit and his son Tobias from the Apocrypha, set in Nineveh. This short work was given a confident opening by the orchestra which includes a selection of Haydn’s delightful melodies from this seldom performed oratorio. The work was composed and first performed in Vienna in 1775.

English composer Constant Lambert (1905-51) was the founding music director of the Sadler’s Wells Ballet, (1931-47) subsequently the Royal Ballet, and is best remembered for his ballet music (Horoscope, Pomona) and his work for piano, choir and orchestra, Rio Grande (1927). The HMS Orchestra gave us a less often performed example of his output, Aubade héroique (1942) which was dedicated to Vaughan Williams, one of his tutors.

As conductor James Ross explained, Lambert’s Aubade héroïque looks back, in its dreamlike serenity, to Debussy’s Berceuse héroïque, for piano composed in November 1914. Lambert had taken the Sadler’s Wells Ballet on a tour of the Netherlands and became trapped due to the German invasion. Lambert explains that “this short piece was inspired by a daybreak during the invasion of Holland, the calm of the surrounding park contrasting with the distant mutterings of war." From the cor anglais’s entry before the orchestra joins in with gentle strings and individual instrumental highlights and distant trumpet calls before the music fades away. This captivating work was charmingly played by the orchestra.

We were then introduced to the evening’s soloist, Ezo Sarici, a young Turkish violinist who is training at the Royal Academy of Music and has won many prizes for her musicianship across Europe. She treated us to an excellent and very emotional performance of Mendelssohn’s wonderful Violin Concerto in E minor. The soloist blended superbly with the orchestra. It often sounded as if the violin was crying, such was the emotion created by this wonderful concerto. Indeed, the depth of feeling on the soloist’s face matched the melancholic mood of the music. A truly superb performance.

After the interval, we were introduced to Charles Gounod’s Symphony No. 1 in D, a work that is seldom programmed in current times. Gounod is known more for his operas, Faust (1859) and Romeo et Juliette (1867). Although composed in 1855, almost 30 years after Beethoven’s death, this work sounds more like Haydn or Mozart without a hint of romanticism. In the usual four movements, fast, slow, minuet-like scherzo and slow-fast finale, it is certainly not ahead of its time. It opened with a Haydnesque allegro with brass interjections; the delightful second movement was lively, even if the melodies were far from memorable. The minuet-style scherzo led into a slow introduction to the finale which ended with a boisterous allegro vivace. The work was well played by the orchestra and they were courageous in tackling such an uninspiring symphony.

This was a fine musical evening which was much enjoyed by the assembled music loving clientele. The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the wonderful performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto by the guest soloist, Ezo Carici. It was a delight to hear such a professionally competent presentation of this justly popular concerto in Haslemere. We left the church into a cold evening with musical warmth in our hearts.

Roger Saunders

President - Haslemere Recorded Music Society

May 2023 Concert

Sat, 13 May 2023
Haslemere’s Answer to Eurovision

Whilst much of the nation’s television audience was watching the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest, Haslemere Hall was hosting a musical event of a very different kind. As part of the Haslemere Musical Society’s centenary year, their choir and orchestra offered Mendelssohn, Schumann, Gilbert & Sullivan and a song cycle by local composer, Clive Osgood, in a concert sponsored by the Shottermill Great War Memorial Trust.

The evening began with the orchestral half of the concert featuring incidental music from Felix Mendelssohn’s musical version of Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The well known Overture was followed by the Nocturne and the very popular Wedding March. The strings began quietly before the full orchestra joined in with some panache, albeit more slowly in tempo than is usually heard. The Nocturne with exposed horn and bassoon playing has a melody of great beauty depicting the stillness of the night and this cedes into a faster section to denote the lover’s emotional turmoil. The famous Wedding March of Theseus and Hippolyta, still used at many weddings brought these extracts to a triumphant close.

There were two highlights of this concert and the first was a performance of Robert Schumann’s seldom heard Cello Concerto in A minor, composed in 1850, but not played during his lifetime, as he died within six years at a mental institution. The featured soloist was the very talented Anna Hunt, from the orchestra’s cello section who is a local music teacher at both Bohunt and the Royal School. Anna played this concerto with such expression and emotional feeling that her audience was transported by the warmth of her expertise and musicianship. I felt she encouraged the orchestra to raise the bar in their playing of this work, as they seemed to gain confidence to give their soloist the best possible support. This fine cello concerto should feature more often in orchestral concert programming, particularly when it is played as well as it was on this occasion.

After the interval, we were treated to a song cycle entitled, ‘Songs of Three Counties’ by local composer and the society’s chorus master, Clive Osgood, who is very well known locally. The five songs featured were derived from folk tunes from the counties surrounding Haslemere: Sussex, Hampshire and Surrey, but all had connections with the sea. ‘All things are quite silent’ tells the story of a woman whose lover has gone to sea and his departure is depicted in ‘The Privateer’. ‘The Royal Oak’ is the name of the victorious ship in battle, after which the sailors sight ‘The Mermaid’, an omen of impending doom and finally, ‘The Ship in Distress’ tells the story as the sailors experience their ship drifting far off course. The authors of the songs were not given, but the choir and orchestra presented them with great feeling, but on occasions the volume of the orchestra tended to overshadow the choir. A delightful set, but I felt the music may have benefitted from a more ‘sea-shanty’ like flavour in the music.

The evening came to its conclusion, and my second highlight, with excerpts from Gilbert and Sullivan’s popular operetta, The Mikado, featuring guest G&S specialist baritone, Jordan Bell, giving vent to the satirical songs more about Victorian England than medieval Japan, but that was how such operettas gained their popularity. The chorus and orchestra rose to the occasion in support of their superb soloist. We heard excerpts including: Our Great Mikado, The Lord High Executioner, I’ve got a little list, Comes a train of little ladies, Brightly dawns our wedding day, Miya sama, A more human Mikado, The criminal cried (better known by the phrase ‘The Punishment fits the crime’), On a tree by a river (Tit Willow) and the finale, He’s gone and married Yum-Yum and The threatened cloud has passed away. The choir and soloist sang these popular excerpts extremely well and Jordan Bell was a superb interpreter of the complex lyrics. Altogether this was a most enjoyable evening.

Roger Saunders

Haslemere Recorded Music Society

March 2023

Sat, 4 Mar 2023
 Haslemere Musical Society’s very successful ‘Carmen’ Evening

As we move into springtime, Haslemere Musical Society brought some welcome, warm Spanish sunshine on a bitterly cold evening at their concert in Haslemere Hall on Saturday, 4th March. Those attending were rewarded by hearing the orchestra, chorus and soloists perform a programme of wonderful Spanish influenced music. This was an evening filled with popular, well known melodies and the performers certainly raised their game to delight the full house of music lovers attending.

We began with the popular orchestral Intermezzo from Enrique Granados’s opera, Goyescas, (after the Spanish artist, Francisco Goya). The orchestra treated us to a rousing performance although somewhat slower than the usual tempo. This was followed by the popular Ritual Fire Dance  from Manuel de Falla’s ballet, El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician), featuring some fine playing in the woodwinds. Conductor, James Ross, explained the pieces played to the audience, but stated that the plot of the main work of the evening, Scenes from George Bizet’s popular opera, Carmen, was so complex that only a brief description was possible. The programme notes provided a more thorough explanation of the story. The opera is sung in French, the language of the composer.

To round off the first part of the evening we were treated to the Prelude and selected choral scenes (Habenera; Seguidilla) from Act 1 of the opera, which also introduced us to the two brilliant soloists, soprano, Janice Watson taking the role of the fiery seductress, Carmen and her partner in drama, well known local tenor, Philip O’Brien, (Haslemere Singing Studio tutor) as the soldier, Don José. They both played and sang their roles with passion, power and commitment. Although this was a concert performance, Philip knew his role so well, he didn’t need to use the libretto.

After the interval, we heard various popular scenes and arias from Act 2, including the Bohemian Dance, the Toreador Song and the Flower Song; Act 3, including the Card Scene and Act 4, with the chorus ‘A deux cuartos’, The Bullfighter’s Procession and Carmen’s Death’, where she is stabbed by Don José, having refused his declaration of love. Of particular note was the excellent timing of the guest percussionist, Neil Marshall, whose role is so important in this strongly rhythmic music in driving the music forward and keeping the timing tight.

It seemed that the performance of the soloists, chorus and orchestra got better and better as the evening progressed, obviously down to the wonderful music they were enjoying as they sang and played. This opera is full of absolute showstoppers and the Haslemere Musical Society gave it their best. A truly wonderful musical evening. Congratulations to all who provided us with such musical warmth on this cold March evening.

Roger Saunders
Haslemere Recorded Music Society

December 2022

Sat, 3 Dec 2022

On a bitterly cold December evening, the Haslemere Musical Society’s Choral and Orchestral concert brought much cheer to the audience at Haslemere Hall with a fine programme of music in the approach to the Christmas season. Although the choir was somewhat light in numbers, they sang heartily in the second half of the evening’s festive musical menu.

The first half was devoted to two orchestral works: first, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Overture, The Wasps. Composed in 1909, for the performance of a Greek play by Aristophenes, in Cambridge, the overture shows the benefit of Vaughan Williams’ recent studies with Ravel in the colour of the orchestration, particularly how the strings imitate the sound of wasps buzzing around the landscape. The orchestra began confidently with the folk inspired melodies which appear throughout the piece.

The second item was a very challenging suite for an amateur orchestra, Sibelius’s Pelléas and Mélisande, again a work composed in 1905, to accompany a play by Maurice Maeterlinck. The suite is a set of twelve scenes from the play which Sibelius illustrated with wonderful melodies which describe the various moods both colourfully and economically. The images created include the swell of the sea and a cor anglais solo, beautifully played by Luke Owlett in the Three Blind Sisters scene. Sibelius allows each featured instrument to be clearly heard above the orchestral playing. In fact, there was particularly fine playing from the woodwind section in this work.

The second half featured both soloists and choir backed by the orchestra and brought us right into the Christmas season. Antonio Vivaldi’s very popular (second) Gloria in D, RV 598, is packed with delightfully joyous tunes, beginning with repeated ‘Glorias’. The orchestra seemed to step up a gear whilst playing this wonderful music and the choir gave it their all. Featured soloists, Clare Loosley, Kerrie Stevenson (sopranos) and Helen Bendall (alto) sang beautifully, although poor Helen had been suffering health problems which reduced the power of her voice somewhat. This sacred work is in twelve sections alternating full choir and solo parts and this was the highlight of the concert in my estimation.

A second work by Ralph Vaughan Williams, in the 150th anniversary year of his birth, brought us right into Christmastide with his lovely Fantasia on Christmas Carols. Composed in 1912, for the Three Choirs Festival, just after he had edited the English Hymnal, it includes a folk tune that RVW collected in Herefordshire, The Truth Sent from Above. This was beautifully sung by guest bass soloist, Thomas Lydon. The second carol is Come All you Worthy Gentlemen, originally from Somerset, and is followed by On Christmas Night and fragments of a further carol, all combining to make a magnificent seasonal work. The choir sang this superbly, spendidly backed by the orchestra. It is not an easy work to sing, but they carried it off extremely well.

The final work was a favourite carol by French composer, Adolphe Adam, Cantique de Noël, composed in 1850. We know this in English, as it was sung, as O Holy Night. This wonderful carol was an ideal way to bring the concert to a seasonal close and was again very well sung and accompanied. Haslemere has a wealth of musical talent in the area and we were treated to a delightful evening of music to bring in this season of good cheer amidst all the economic crises that we are experiencing. Well done, Haslemere Musical Society. Their next concert is on 4th March, 2023 when they perform Scenes from Bizet’s opera, Carmen.

Roger Saunders
Haslemere Recorded Music Society

October 2022

Sat, 15 Oct 2022

On Saturday night (15th October), Haslemere Musical Society held their first concert of the season at St. Christopher’s Church, Haslemere, instead of their usual venue, Haslemere Hall. In addition, this was a purely orchestral event rather than the usual chorus with orchestra. The concert was attended by the Mayor of Haslemere, Councillor Jacquie Keen and her husband, and she gave a much appreciated vote of thanks at the end of the evening. Also notable was the content of the programme, which ventured outside the usual orchestral ‘middle of the road’ fare that most venues offer.  The audience numbered over 80, which was exceptional for the season’s first event at a different venue.

We began with Domenico Cimarosa’s overture to his little known opera, The Secret Marriage (1792). This piece relied upon cribbed excerpts from Mozart’s much better known The Magic Flute Overture which was premiered a year earlier in Vienna. The orchestra began strongly with a huge sound in the superb acoustics of the church. A very promising start to the evening.

Mozart’s extremely popular Clarinet Concerto in A, K622, was offered next and featured a very fine performance by the orchestra’s principal clarinetist, Helen Owlett. This work was composed in 1791, the year of Mozart’s death, for his friend, the virtuoso clarinetist, Anton Stadler. The work is full of wonderful melodies which feature the soloist prominently in the highest and lowest notes of its range of possibilities. Helen played this very difficult work with great assurance, with the warmth of her clarinet sounding confidently over the orchestral backing. Incidentally, Helen’s son, Luke played in the oboe section of the orchestra.

After the interval, another virtually unknown work by French composer, Henri Duparc, (once a pupil of Cesar Franck) and his orchestral poem, Aux Étoiles. This was composed in 1874, but Duparc is better known as a composer of French songs. This work was intended as the first of a three pieces for orchestra entitled Poème Nocturne, but Duparc abandoned the project. He was a very self-critical composer and destroyed most of his works. I don’t think this particular piece rises above the ordinary as it has little memorable melodic content.

The evening was brought to a close with Camille Saint-Saëns’ Second Symphony, composed in 1859. Although not as popular as his Organ Symphony (No. 3), this four movement symphony begins with a fugue which has a cyclic connection to the other movements. The second movement opens simply on a single bass note and progresses in the manner of a salon gavotte. The Scherzo is stormy and dramatic, with a central, syncopated section. The final movement shows the influence of Haydn, with a tarantella-like dance and some brilliant trumpet work. It also includes a quote from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, yet the music retains its fervent and boisterous sense of originality. A section for muted strings is captivating, and the music heads to its close with variations in tempo. Although I noticed some suspect tuning occasionally in the violins, this didn’t mitigate the overall quality of the evenings performances, which were finely played by this amateur local orchestra and it certainly does no harm to Haslemere’s fine musical reputation. A most enjoyable evening was once again, had by all. If you missed this concert, their next event is at Haslemere Hall on Saturday, 3rd December, and features works by Vaughan Williams, Sibelius, Adam and Vivaldi. It should be a wonderful evening to begin the Christmas season.

Roger Saunders

May 2022

Sat, 14 May 2022

On Saturday, 14th May, Haslemere was treated to an evening of music composed by the Austrian genius, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91), in a concert delayed by two years due to Covid, at Haslemere Hall. Haslemere Musical Society, the local amateur symphony orchestra and chorus, performed three items from Mozart’s extensive catalogue of over 600 works: a Kyrie in D minor, K341, sung by the 29 members of the choir and supported by the 35 strong orchestral complement. This was followed by a performance of Mozart’s Symphony No. 35, known as the ‘Haffner’, as it was composed in celebration of Sigmund Haffner’s ennoblement, a family friend of the Mozarts since childhood. After the interval, the choir was augmented by two professional soloists and the orchestra performed a selection from Mozart’s opera, Idomeneo, depicting an episode from the era of the Trojan Wars. All these works were composed in the period, 1780-2, a time when Mozart was leaving his native Salzburg to become a free-lance composer/musician in Vienna, although it is now thought that the Kyrie may have been a later work.

After a tentative opening, the Kyrie was well sung by the choir. This is a celebratory work using the simple text: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.

The Haffner Symphony, K385, is a bright, upbeat orchestral work which shows off Mozart’s pre-eminent gift for writing beautiful melodies. Woodwind was strongly featured and very well played even in exposed passages. It was certainly played ‘with fire’ as Mozart had written to his father, Leopold. Although in recent times this symphony is not as popular as it once had been, this occasion made one wonder why we don’t hear it more often.

After the interval, the choir and orchestra performed selected arias, recitative and orchestral parts of Mozart’s opera, Idomeneo, based upon the return of King Idomeneo of Crete to his homeland after the Trojan Wars. He has made a pact with Neptune to sacrifice the first person he meets upon his safe arrival, which proves to be his son, Idamante, and the opera is concerned with how this plays out.

The chorus were joined by two professional soloists, Lizzie Holmes (soprano) as Ilia, a last minute stand-in for the indisposed Shafali Jalota and Alexandra Long (mezzo) as Elettra, both vying for the hand of Idamante. Both soloists were excellent, expressive, clear and with powerful voices filling the hall. I was particularly impressed by two young female choir members, Kerrie Stevenson and Sarah Furbank, who performed duets. Both were musically secure and provided an uplifting presence to their singing which was widely commented upon after the performance. The finale with full orchestra and chorus brought the end to a very enjoyable evening of Mozart’s fabulous music. Well done everybody!

Roger Saunders
President, Haslemere Recorded Music Society

March 2022

Sat, 5 Mar 2022
How good to have live music coming back to Haslemere, especially with the enthusiasm shown by both choir and orchestra who performed a range of very different choral and orchestral works before a packed house, knowledgeably conducted by Musical Director, Dr James Ross.

Schubert’s Symphony No. 3 in D opened the concert with a confident, rich, full sound played with sensitivity matching the composer’s own youthful exuberance.  The Allegretto - a graceful movement enhanced by delightful woodwind playing, led to the 3rd movement: Menuetto - Trio - Menuetto, in a very distinctive minuet form; one which the brass and woodwind captured most convincingly. Finally, a tarantella-style Presto vivace finale, allowed all sections of the orchestra to show their expertise in a thrilling conclusion.   

Very different in both mood and scale, were the scenes and dances from Manuel de Falla’s ballet The Three-cornered Hat, based on a novel with a comic storyline by Pedro de Alarcón. This more challenging ‘chamber orchestra’ work has a complex interplay of instruments; played with conviction, the orchestra caught the mood expertly of boisterous rustic sounds intruding into a placid pastoral sound-world, capturing just the right spirit of the piece; of particular note being the woodwind and brass soloists.

After the interval, the second half restarted with César Frank’s Psalm 150 and it is hoped this piece will be better know after this performance. Unlike many other settings, it begins with a solemn ‘Hallelujah’ expressing humility before the Creator, before ending with a climax of praise: ‘Let everything that hath breath.’  The tuneful music allowed both choir and orchestra, (with the more complex harmonies), to show their range of skills throughout.

The Concert Hall then fell silent for a short pause, as we remembered those suffering in the conflict in the Ukraine, and who are not able to share the liberties - of which joyful, unrestricted music-making is one - which we all freely enjoy.

The concert closed with Faure’s Requiem - a well-known and much-loved work, the portrayal of the pilgrimage of a soul to the divine. Rather than trying to match the ‘grand’ sound of other requiem settings (of Verdi or Berlioz for example), this performance was entirely in accord with this more intimate scale of writing and contrasting style of the movements.  The Treble soloist, Sam O’Brien, sang with poise and clarity in the Pie Jesu, perfectly in keeping with this interpretation. The Baritone soloist (Ond?ej Soukup), matched this, not with the usual detached, formal style, but one that you could empathise with, in the soul’s heartfelt pleading for deliverance.

From the opening, the full, rich sound of the Requiem æternam commanded immediate attention, to the final angelic, transcendent In Paradisum, an unlaboured performance led us through the full range of human feelings.

Credit is also given to Ond?ej Soukup, Chorus Master, and to Clive Osgood, Assistant Chorus Master and Keyboard, who have clearly worked hard with the Chorus to develop a clear understanding of the significance of both words and music. Mention should also be made of James Ross’ comprehensive programme notes. 

All who support live music in Haslemere, will surely look forward to the next HMS Concert on Saturday, 14th May, which promises to be an enthralling Mozart evening.

December 2021

Sun, 5 Dec 2021
On Saturday evening, 4th December, Haslemere Musical Society returned to its usual venue, Haslemere Hall for its annual Christmas themed concert, after a break of 21 months, due to covid restrictions. An earlier, orchestral only concert had taken place in October this year, but without the choir. Haslemere Hall was filled with an audience eager for the resumption of normal musical activities, so important at this time of year, and they were not disappointed. Although space was somewhat limited due to the socially distanced orchestral placing, we were able to enjoy the full sound of 40+ musicians and the added benefit of similarly sized choir to fill the hall with music.

The concert began cautiously with Rossini’s Overture to La Cenerentola (Cinderella), but when the tempo increased, the full power and dynamics of the orchestra were apparent, particularly when the first theme for strings entered the fray. This is a superb piece to begin any concert as it contains so many of Rossini’s wonderful melodies. Conductor, James Ross, then welcomed the audience and explained the ideas behind the opening work and the next item, Haydn’s Symphony No. 101, ‘The Clock’, one of the symphonies that Haydn brought to London in the 1790s. This is a bright, chirpy and melodic work full of good tunes and the second movement’s ‘tick-tock’ rhythm given prominence by the pizzicato cellos and woodwind, gives the work its title. The third movement Minuetto-allegretto, was played with great fervour and reminded one of the Womble’s pop hit in the 1970s, with a similar name.

After the interval, it became the choir’s turn to join in the proceedings and we were treated to some mellifluous a capella singing with the Dixit Maria by Hans Hassler (c.1564-1612). This was the first of five short pieces from across the centuries, including Ave Maria Stellis by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), Exsulatate Justi by Lodovico Viadana (c.1569-1627), Unser Lieben Frauen Traum by Max Reger (1873-1916) and Johannes Brahms (1833-97) Geistliches Lied (Sacred Song). The choir was in good voice throughout, although the prominence of the sopranos and the relative small number of basses gave the works a brighter, less full bodied sound than is usually the case.

A chamber music interval provided the audience with the opportunity of hearing an arrangement for wind ensemble of two movements from Dvorak’s Czech Suite, which were superbly played by the wind section of the orchestra. This work was dedicated to Anne Goldman (1938-2021), who for many years played the clarinet in the HMS orchestra and organised its summer sessions.

Then we came to the real meat of the evening, the seasonal choruses from Handel’s wonderful oratorio, Messiah. We heard: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed; And He shall purify the sons of Levi and finally, For unto us a child is born. This told us that Christmas is just around the corner and gave us the expected jubilant sound of Handel’s excellent, enthralling work, which has been popular for 280 years. The choir and orchestra gave it their all and the audience was delighted; it really lifted the mood on a dark and bitterly cold night. Amateur choirs just love to sing these exceptional choruses from Handel’s most popular and performed work and the Musical Society choir made that obvious to us all.

The next item was a special treat. Local composer, Clive Osgood had composed his Bee Carol, to a poem by Carol Ann Duffy, in 2018, for the BBC3 Carol Competition. Clive was present to play the keyboard accompaniment to this lovely seasonal work which was given its premiere performance at this concert.  The concert ended with Leopold Mozart’s Sleigh Ride (Schlittenfahrt) from his Divertimento in F for orchestra. Complete with sleigh bells and a jaunty tune, it brought the evening to a very successful close and was enjoyed by all attending and those taking part, sending us away into the night, warm and contented. The next HMS Concert is on 5th March 2022 at Haslemere Hall.

October 2021 concert

Sun, 17 Oct 2021


Haslemere Musical Society sprang into action, after the eighteen month hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with two orchestral concerts at St Christopher’s Church in Haslemere on Sunday, 17th October. A chamber- sized orchestra presented two hour long concerts, each featuring performances of Mozart’s Symphony 20, composed in 1772 in Salzburg and Étienne Méhul’s Symphony 1, composed in 1808. The early concert also included Mozart’s 3rd Horn Concerto, superbly played by soloist Roger Doulton. The later concert featured Charles Gounod’s Petite Symphonie for wind octet and flute. The orchestra was conducted by James Ross, well known to Haslemere’s concert-goers.

Mozart’s lively early symphony was a really positive way to begin these concerts as it is a festive work complete with trumpet flourishes, dialogue between the winds and strings and complete with Mozart’s usual trills and adornments. The sound filled the wonderful acoustic of this lovely church, so often used for performances of classical music. The lilting theme of the second movement was followed by a short minuet before the fast, breathless finale. It showed that the orchestra was on really good form.

Mozart’s third Horn Concerto followed with the soloist stepping out from the orchestra to perform this very popular work. Roger Doulton coped extremely well with the intricacies Mozart had written for the soloist. This was joyful, exuberant horn playing by a very capable amateur musician.

Méhul’s four symphonies are not well known and seldom played in the current era, but they are fine works and deserve to be heard more often. So HMS gave Haslemere the opportunity of experiencing the first of these works. The strongly percussive nature of the opening made one realise that time had moved on. We were now in the Romantic era, more akin to late Haydn and Beethoven, with greater energy and a much broader soundscape. The grand opening movement was followed by a gentle slow movement with raucous low horn calls. Pizzicato strings featured in the minuet before we were strongly reminded of a theme from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. However, neither composer met although both works were composed in 1808. This work established Méhul as France’s first Romantic composer.

Gounod’s Petite Symphonie allowed the wind section of the orchestra to step up and show their mettle. Composed for just nine wind instruments, it begins with a slow hymn-like theme before the tempo increases. Jaunty rhythms, a ‘hunting horn’ scherzo and a trio that has the feel of a country dance. This lovely work was a treat for the ear.

Unfortunately, the attendance at both concerts was much lower than expected, something that appears to be the norm following the pandemic lockdowns. This in no way seemed to affect the performance by the orchestra, who were collectively strong, very tight rhythmically and provided a wonderful return to live music in Haslemere.

Roger Saunders

March 2020 concert

Sat, 7 Mar 2020


This was a night of exceptional music making under the inspiring baton of Dr James Ross, meeting the challenge of very different pieces with enthusiasm and musical skill. There was something for everyone from four giants of British music. The first half started exuberantly with Soirées musicales, Benjamin Britten’s rearrangement of Rossini. The orchestra played the five contrasting pieces spiritedly, with a lightness of touch, while being honest to the precise musical writing.
A quite different work in mood and colour followed; Frederick Delius’ Walk to the Paradise Garden. The orchestra met the very different demands of sustained lyricism and generally slower tempi, yet sustaining the expressive musical form.
It is always a challenge to bring new insights to well-known pieces, but this is clearly what accomplished soprano Janice Watson did to Elgar’s Sea Pictures, demonstrating the wide range of her vocal skill and understanding.
The second half consisted of a splendid performance of Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem. Both the choir and orchestra acquitted themselves excellently in this complex and emotionally demanding work. This is Vaughan Williams response to his first-hand experience of the horrors the First World War and the looming second: very clearly an anti-war cantata. The work might be relatively short, but packs a mighty punch. The poems of Walt Whitman may be an acquired taste, (though used previously in Vaughan Williams’ Towards the Unknown Region), combined with the words of comfort from the Christian scriptures and the Mass. Though interspersed with the salutary words of John Bright MP – a re-casting of the comforting words of the Hebrew Passover, and those of the prophet Jeremiah.
Throughout, the two soloists, soprano, Janice Watson and baritone, Jon Stainsby, brought a depth of understanding and emotional power to their performance. From the opening Agnus Dei to the last Dona nobis pacem, controlled yet with an intensity fading to nothing, Janice’s singing matched the words perfectly. Jon Stainsby also showed his full range of musical skills, from the dramatic to the intense anguish of his words in Reconciliation: “for my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead.”
Mention must be made of Cole Bendall as Chorus Master, and Clive Osgood, Rehearsal Pianist, who have melded the voices into a harmonious whole; articulate, with clarity of diction and a clear understanding of the sentiment of the music and words. Mention should also be made of the team who put together the programme with its comprehensive notes.
One has to remind oneself that the performers were predominantly amateur, who gave fine performances of very different and complex works. It is to be sincerely hoped that Haslemere Musical Society will continue to prosper and perform to such a high standard.

Robert Mitchell

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