Burnham Music Group's Summer Concert

Saturday 15 June at the church of St. Mary the Virgin,

Burnham on Crouch 

A Musical Miscellany

It’s a while since I had the pleasure of attending a Burnham Music Group concert, and this one certainly didn’t disappoint. Entitled ‘A Musical Miscellany’, it proceeded to be just that, journeying us through different centuries and musical eras, via both sacred and secular offerings, all led by the very accomplished Oliver Wood Long may he lead the BMG, as the choir was on cracking form, making little work of the technically tricky Duruflé’s Quatre Motets sur des Thèmes Grégoriens. Bass timbres cut through and added a richness and depth to much of the evening, especially in Britten’s Rustics and Fisherman.

The evening opened with Oliver Wood showing he wasn’t just a one -trick-pony and that he could play the flute too, delivering Débussy’s Syrinx, one of my favourites and a notoriously difficult piece to perfect.
The audience needn’t have worried: Oliver handled it like the pro he is, and gifted us a magical, haunting, technically perfect piece with impeccable dynamics. I could have watched him all evening. I’m
rather hoping he might perform a one man recital in the Dengie.

As if one virtuoso weren’t enough, the audience was treated to two! The diminutive Meriel Barclay, who frankly didn’t look big enough to hold her magnificent harp, was not only strong enough but played with supreme mastery and delicacy a selection of music designed to demonstrate the harp’s versatility, interspersing her solos with snippets of info about the harp, its history and the provenance of much of her repertoire. Turns out that the 19th century was a boom-time in France for the development of the harp. Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

The evening came to an end with BMG’s superb interpretation of Elgar’s As Torrents in Summer, a fitting end to a wonderful soirée and quite apposite given recent weather phenomena. I had a ball!

Jane English


Burnham Music Group's Christmas Concert

Saturday 8 December at St. Mary’s Church,

Burnham on Crouch

Handel’s Messiah is a perennial masterpiece. However the tentative playing
and poor intonation of the string quartet in its overture initially augured in me a
disquiet, fortunately quickly dissipated by first, the excellent singing of tenor
Andrew Lang in ‘Comfort ye my people’ and then the enthusiasm and
musicianship of the BMG Chorus in ‘And the Glory of the Lord’, clearly re-
invigorated under their new very talented young conductor Oliver Wood; a
standard which both conductor and choir maintained not only for the rest of the
Messiah selection, but throughout the evening. This seemed to give confidence
to the quartet who accompanied them more successfully, and indeed provided a
comforting base for the truly beautiful rendition of ‘How beautiful are the feet’ by
Soprano soloist Suzanne Walker, a regular with the BMG, who just gets even
better every year. The Quartet of excellent soloists (who also included Alto
Melanie Sanders, and Terry Saunders, former BMG conductor, giving haunting
renditions of ‘He shall feed his flock’, and ‘For Behold the darkness’
respectively) also contributed two arrangements in the second half, interspersed
between carols for the BMG and others including the audience, ending with
‘Ding Dong merrily on high’; though for me the highlight of the second half was
a beautiful choral piece by Morten Lauridsen ‘O Magnum Mysterium’. Altogether
a wonderful evening.

John Phillips


An English Idyll

Burnham Music Groups Summer Concert 2018 Saturday 9th June in St Mary’s Church

 Peter Dale consolidated his return to directing the group he founded 41 years ago, with a fascinating and variegated programme, including good use of the excellent String quintet lead by Chris Gould, who not only supplied instrumental support throughout, but also played several Frank Bridge folk song arrangements plus his 2nd Idyll for strings and Purcell’s Overture to The Indian Queen featuring an exciting Trumpet Obbligato played by Will Potten. Vaughan Williams 5 Mystical Songs for Chorus and Bass featured some excellent restrained singing from ex Music Director Terry Saunders which worked well with the chamber instrumentation of what is in the main an inward work reminiscent in mood of the Norfolk Rhapsody.  Peter Dale having shepherded the BMG through 3 somewhat slick Folk arrangements by John Rutter then started to direct a lush and impassioned work of his own ‘Was ever love so fair’ but sensing it was going astray,  astutely stopped it, advising us all that we would get a much better rendition after the refreshments of the interval; in which prediction the BMG proved as good as his word. The Concert concluded with extended excerpts from Purcell’s Semi Opera King Arthur of which the highlights for me were Terry’s very funny rendition of ‘What power Art thou’ to an accompaniment like winter from Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons, an excellent performance by a radiant sounding Suzanne Walker in both ‘No Part of my Dominion’ and in a duet with Terry ‘For Love every creature’ which was immediately followed by a lovely chorus ‘Pleasure of Love’ well delivered by the BMG. Three more arias, a final chorus and a Grand Dance for strings brought both King Arthur and an excellent concert to an end.


John Phillips




Review of the Burnham Music Group 40th Anniversary Concert on Sat. 9th Dec. 2017 at St Mary’s Church Burnham on Crouch.

In order to do justice to this concert I have had to discard several drafts such was the multiplicity of its excellence.

 To start with the Burnham music group chorus was on top form, as was the small orchestra of strings and trumpets the latter of which featured prominently in the appropriately glorious performance of Vivaldi’s GLORIA which also including important contributions from the beautiful singing of visiting soprano soloist Suzanne Walker, and a returning former member of BMG alto Gavin Oddy.  It was also a pleasure for me to hear once more the lovely voice of Brenda Cashel from the BMG who contributed to a Duet with Suzanne.

 There followed a mainly reflective very English piece, that provided a perfect contrast to the Gloria. This was a Concerto for 2 alto recorders, Harpsichord and strings, by Peter Dale founder of the BMG, and now returned to conduct not only his piece but the whole concert, with a quiet authority that I am sure was another major factor in the whole evening going so well. Recorder Soloists Susan Handscombe and Louise Greening, with Harpsichordist Steve Pritchard, who is also the BMG’s accompanist, brought the piece alive. 

 After the interval, a piece Mariposa del Aire written for, and performed by, the BMG  with Peter Dale in 1989 , was revisited and with the composer present achieved a lovely effect. Using English version of Poems by the Spanish Poet Lorca, this piece had an open air quality reminiscent of Coplands ‘Appalachian Spring’ but with at times a sinister undertow of droning. The BMG chorus supported by strings gave a performance that certainly appeared to earn the composer’s approval.

Tom Potten’s ‘Three Settings for Christmas’ composed for the BMG in 2015 followed. Reflective and moving, the last piece ‘O Magnum Mysterium’ featured what reminded of Bells ringing out, contrasting with a lovely and well played counter melody for the Cello.

The concert concluded with Two Christmas hymns in which the audience were invited to participate.


John Phillips



Review of the Burnham Music Concert Saturday 13 May 2017

Last Saturday The Burnham Music Group gave a concert that was also a farewell to their conductor and trainer for a decade, Terry Saunders. It was entitled “Songs of Sea and Sky” and was devoted, in the main, to music by Elgar, Parry, and Stanford.

In the first half the most impressive piece was the haunting” Middle Watch” from Stanford’s “Songs of the Fleet”, made especially so by the BMG chorus; this being followed by Terry’s witty performance of the “Little Admiral”.


However, it was my impression that both Terry and the guest mezzo soprano, Kathryn Hannah, gave of their best in the second half; Kathryn with her impassioned performance of the last two of Elgar’s “Sea Pictures”, which she introduced herself, and Terry’s elegiac rendition of Sanderson’s “Moorings”, to which he also contributed a most sensitive accompaniment. The concert closed with two Elgar songs to words by Kipling – “The Sweepers”, featuring both Terry and the chorus, and “Submarines”.  

As for the BMG chorus, they were as good as I have ever heard throughout, and especially so in their performance of Parry’s “Songs of Farewell”.  Steve Pritchard was excellent as the main accompanist and continuo, on both organ and piano. 


On 9th December the BMG will celebrate their 40th anniversary, at which Peter Dale, their founder, will return as interim director and conductor.

John Phillips


Review of Burnham Music Group’s Winter Concert  


A  Christmas Concert to Remember

 The Messiah is so well known, and a wonder of the choral firmament, but it lasts 150 minutes, so lacking a tenor soloist and needing an interval of at least 20 minutes presented a problem. The solution was to simply have the texts of the dropped numbers spoken as biblical texts interspersing the sung items. This editorial stroke of genius combined with the recent adoption by the BMG of the sonorous Ellora String Quartet, made for a wonderful evening at St Mary’s Church on Saturday. The Quartet not only contributed a secure and beautifully toned foundation to the musical endeavour but added many felicities of theirs, not least the beautiful and ethereal Sinfonia. The BMG chorus was in great form. The two guest soloists, Suzanne Walker (Soprano) and Rebecca Dale (Mezzo-Soprano), were both excellent; indeed a personal highlight was ‘He shall feed his flock’ which they shared. At the end of the interval, following part 1, two carols were sung by all present, but with the BMG ladies adding magnificent descants which took them and us to the heights. Terry Saunders both lead the BMG with a light touch and flowing tempi, and used his stentorian bass voice to great effect with ‘Why do the nations’ sung from the podium. Steve Pritchard also contributed as accompanist and was great help to Terry in the rehearsals, which certainly bore excellent fruit.


John Phillips




Review of Burnham Music Group’s Winter Concert


If you missed Burnham Music Group’s latest concert on 30th November, then I am sad, because I thought it was probably the best that I have heard from them. The most enterprising programme was devised to celebrate two anniversaries; first that of one of our greatest composers, Benjamin Britten (22/11/1913 – 4/12/1976), and second that of a world-changing event spread over 4 years starting in July 1914, namely World War I. 


In the first half, BMG sang Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. It is a miniature masterpiece comprising seven carols set with absolute mastery for chorus accompanied with soprano plus harp and piano. After a slight initial hesitancy, the BMG, under Tom Potten’s gentle persuasion, opened their hearts and were seduced into performing better than they thought they were capable of, a high level that they sustained for the remainder of the concert. The soprano Katherine Clark was splendid both in voice and interpretation, joined in one carol by Hannah Todd, mezzo, who also sang well.

Will Potten was superb in his piano contribution, which continued after the interval, when in the presentation of a selection of numbers from Karl Jenkins’ “The Armed Man” he played not only the piano, but I believe also the trumpet, though not simultaneously! This piece is based on an amalgam of a 15th century text with the Mass and is both dramatic and a moving plea for peace. Peter Dale was dramatic and powerful as the narrator, the chorus sang not only excellently but with great sensitivity, as did the soloist in “Now the Guns have Stopped”.

All in all an unmissable evening.

John Phillips