REVIEW BY Melvyn Walmsley
Charity concert of music and readings, St Wilfrid's Church, Church Road, Haywards Heath
Saturday, November 23 2019
The well-balanced programme that pianist / presenter Andrew Storey had planned at St Wilfrid’s Church, Haywards Heath, in aid of Tearfund’s Toilet Twinning charity, omitted its finale. No wonder – it was Happy Birthday, sung by all to the stunned Andrew! The church’s director of music Nic Robinson then presented birthday and thank you cards and gifts from grateful parishioners for Andrew’s many years of making such charity concerts possible.
The applause was as warm and deserved as for the listed items. The first half had introduced a rising young mezzo soprano with wide vocal range, controlled power and presence. Small wonder that Hannah Robinson joins the prestigious Armonico Consort in 2020. Equally spellbinding in Finzi songs, Mozart arias and emotionally charged Brahms lieder, the highlight was conveying her terror and shock in a scene from Handel’s oratorio Jephtha that reveals the composer’s operatic pedigree. Her father Nic’s piano accompaniment was equally assured and accomplished. In between these, commanding our rapt attention, Andrew played two of his own piano works: the première of Waltz: The Bells - with nightmarish echoes – and Lullaby (1999) - tender yet unrelenting, marking a tragic infant death.
After the interval, father-and-daughter music making gave way to husband-and-wife, as Jane Storey (alto), accompanied by Andrew, caught the simple joy of Gurney’s 1921 song about singing and ploughing with father to celebrate a peacetime harvest. Cue for the welcome return of soprano Marion Smith after her acclaimed St Wilfrid’s debut in October, accompanied again by Andrew. Their contrasting musical theatre items were dynamic and uplifting. Marion’s last song, Kern’s Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man (Show Boat), sent us home happily after an unforgettable night that had also featured well delivered readings by parishioners - from Omar Khayyam to the Bard, and about Trinidad’s inspirational singer Ella Andall.