Lunchtime Chamber Music Concert at St Wilfrid’s Church, Haywards Heath, review, April 6

From left: Ethan Merrick (cello and double bass), Tony Donovan (clarinet) and Andrew Storey (piano). Picture by Melvyn Walmsley
From left: Ethan Merrick (cello and double bass), Tony Donovan (clarinet) and Andrew Storey (piano). Picture by Melvyn Walmsley

St Wilfrid’s Consort and their returning guest, Ethan Merrick, drew out the spring-like optimism suffusing their menu of 18th to 20th century chamber music from Europe and South America – defying the wintry April air outside St Wilfrid’s Church to warm their Saturday lunchtime listeners’ hearts.

Tony Donovan (clarinet) and Andrew Storey (piano) caught the English summer’s afternoon relaxed yet vigorous mood of William Hurlstone’s nimble Four Characteristic Pieces – not unlike early Elgar. No wonder Stanford rated this student’s sadly short-lived talent above that of his others, such as Bridge and Ireland.

Next, 18-year-old Edward Storey (violin), joining his father, demonstrated his effective building on grade 8 success. He conveyed confidently the bittersweet beauty of Suk’s subtle variations and key changes on a wistful Czech folk melody, as Un Poco Triste’s charming echoes of Suk’s father-in-law Dvořák were made apparent by the Storey duo.

Guarnieri, almost as celebrated as his fellow Brazilian contemporary Villa Lobos – but too modest to use his first name, Mozart – weaved Latin American melodies and rhythms into his youthful Canção Sertaneja. Andrew communicated the combination of power and tranquillity in that slow dance, ending in a soft keyboard ripple – the Amazon’s wavelets kissing its sun-beaten banks.

Enter Ethan to join Andrew, bringing the smooth, warm, unhurried tones of his cello. A limpid arrangement of Vaughan Williams’ take on Greensleeves, leading into Granados’ contemplative Madrigal, were book-ended by Tartini’s gentle baroque Lento Mèsto and the cascading scales and see-saw musical debate between the instruments in Christopher Bunting’s Dance Caprice.

Finally, Ethan’s double bass. The audience, captivated by unshowy artistry throughout a well balanced chamber programme, braved again the April chill with the all-too-brief stately dance rhythm of Michael Rose’s Ballade No. 1 resonating in their musical memories.

Dame Patricia Routledge and Piers Lane: Admission One Shilling, review. Click here to read more.