Roger Quintana as the golfing virgin Fidel Castro in rehearsal

Monday, 12 September 2011

Wicked Fairy

On Saturday at London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, Harvey Brough conducted the Guildhall Graduates Baroque Orchestra and combined choirs of Morley College and the Centre for Young Musicians (CYM) in his A Fairy Dream, an adjunct to Purcell's Fairy Queen written for the Baroque composer's 250th birthday in 2009 and commissioned by Youth Music. The youths on show were excellent, their voices fresh and keen, their intonation exact, their words clear. They were not put off by Brough's occasional lapse as he brought in Choir 1 when he meant Choir 2 and vice versa. Brough's music fits comfortably between the items of Purcell's Masque of Seasons, his rhythms and harmonies are contemporary but his ostinati and instrumentation Baroque. We flowed from past to present, new to old, dream to reality with easy fluency. The piece deserves more outings, not least because it is an ideal exercise for children's voices, a skill for which Brough is becoming widely known.

The soloists were led by Sophie Junker, winner of the Handel Festival Singing Competition 2010. Her silky soprano was spellbinding in The Plaint in Act V.  She was joined by tenor Mark Le Brocq, who made a dramatic and impressive entrance at Come all ye Songsters, and bass Lawrence Wallington who performed an excellent alcoholic in the Scene of the Drunken Poet.

I should declare an interest. I was a lecturer at Morley College in 2009 when I wrote about Holst's revival of The Fairy Queen there in 1911 on my Purcell Blog for BBC Radio 3. In fact I proposed this very Purcell-Brough performance to Morley's Director of Music Andrea Brown who thought it an excellent idea and then sacked me. I'm not credited in the programme and even my proposal to write the notes met with silence. I was replaced at Morley College by Edward Breen who was the counter-tenor soloist on Saturday, but was rather outsung by the others. No doubt he's a brilliant lecturer.

My daughter, a student at CYM, sang the part of Cobweb - very well, I thought, but then I'm biased.