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Oasis of Calm: Music for a Summer's Evening at Eaton Hall

It was Chester Races Week, an ash cloud was causing chaos in the skies above, European currencies were in ‘free fall’ and it was the night before Britain’s General Election, but out in Eccleston on the Grosvenor estate all was calm.  The deer were gently grazing as members drove down the pastoral drive to the Long Room where a treat was in store. 

About 80 Nadfas members and friends gathered and were greeted with a glass of wine and then enjoyed conversation with friends old and new before taking their seats. 

Peter Medhurst was the guest artist for the evening.  In fine voice he entertained with a medley of songs and anecdotes.

The programme began in the time of Henry V111 with a song by William Cornish ‘Come blow thy Horn Hunter’

The clock was then spun forward to the end of the 16th century, the ‘Golden Age of English keyboard Music’ beginning with two contrasting numbers by John Dowland: ‘I saw my Lady Weep’ and in lighter vein ‘Behold a Wonder Here’.

This was followed by a rapid and amusing explanation of the plot of Handel’s oratorio Semele, culminating in a surprise for many that this was the origin of the famous aria ‘Where ‘ere you walk’ which Peter delightfully played and sang.

Old Mother Hubbard - a Handel ‘spoof’ by Hely Hutchinson provided much amusement. 

The next section of music dealt with flowers and gardens.  Ivor Gurney’s rendering of Yeates poem ‘The Sally Gardens’ was followed by a ‘tear jerking’ rendition of Das Veilchen (the Violet)  - a Mozart arrangement of a poem by Goethe.  This section concluded with David Baker’s  ‘Someone is sending me Flowers’ which had everyone chuckling in their seats.  

Aspects of love were dealt with in Gerald Finzi’s ‘Fear no more the Heat of the Sun’ and another amusing and witty rhyme - the anonymous Northumberland folk song ‘Because I was Shy’ again had the audience smiling. 

A feeling of summer was reflected in the next set, first with the familiar tune and lyrics by Katie Moss (1911) ‘ The Floral Dance’ then Quilter’s ‘Now sleeps the Crimson Petal’ and finally Ronald Binge’s  familiar ‘The Elizabethan Serenade’. 

A magnificent rendering of Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General’ from the Pirates of Penzance which was greeted with warm and enthusiastic applause, concluded the performance. 

Everyone was now in good spirits to partake of more wine and delicious canapés - a trademark of Chester DFAS social functions - which rounded off a truly delightful evening.   

Well done to the Chester DFAS committee for organising such a pleasant evening – when can we do it again??????

Lynne Pearn