#BRISTOLPROMS DAY 1 – Prombassadors: Guy Withers

Guy Withers

Guy Withers

Guy Withers
Guy is an experienced tenor and theatre maker from Bristol.

Bryn Terfel – My Life in Song
Bristol Proms – Mon 28th July 2014

The Bristol Proms, and its audience, must reckon itself very lucky to have an international talent such as Bryn Terfel singing in its Festival. A voice big enough to fill both the Metropolitan Opera in New York and The Royal Opera House, his lung capacity was ample for the relatively modest though stunning interior of The Bristol Old Vic. Accompanied by a fantastic young pianist David Doidge and in conversation with the charming John Suchet, the concert was bound to be a success, and so it was.

Mr Terfel’s repertoire took us on a journey lasting his entire career as a singer, and almost every corner of western classical music; A wide and varied programme that proved just how versatile a performer he is. Bryn’s first songs, in Welsh, showed a man still rooted in his heritage; performed so vibrantly with ringing Welsh and very well controlled mezza di voce. In contrast the English songs that followed brought out a most delicious raspy ‘dirty’ bass of a voice, allowing us to briefly witness the inner bad-boy. Bryn’s Schuman and Schubert were of course a masterclass in lieder singing, second only to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; even his Mozart, though now totally outgrown, was sublime. The best was left until last, a howling Wotan and a show-stopping encore Green Eyed Dragon.

Bryn Terfel Photography Mark Douet

Bryn Terfel Photography Mark Douet

Each pair of songs were bookended by casual, though insightful, discussion between Bryn and John about all things singing; and were in fact my favourite sections of the performance. To not only hear the man, but to experience a part of his life as well is an inspiring experience for a young musician. It was very humbling to hear him list his own musical heroes – Benjamin Luxon, Geraint Evans and Robert Tear in particular. Most humorous of anecdotes included Bryn’s mother taking a selfie in the Queen private Toilet at ROH and many from his Guildhall days. In particular being able to witness such feats of musical mastery from only 2 meters away, in the theatre pit, made this experience unique and quite unforgettable. Soprano Menna Cazel, who joined the festivities and delighted with some Puccini, also impressed; a young but fully lyric voice and one to watch out for.

Erebus Ensemble – Bach in the Dark
Bristol Proms – 28th July 2014

After a similar outing at last year’s Bristol Proms, Tom Williams and his Erebus Ensemble returned with an even more absurd notion – Bach in the Dark; a concert of Bach held in mostly complete darkness. The idea was to remove any sort of interference that might distract from experiencing totally the wonder of Bach’s music, leading us into some kind of meditative state. It is certainly a novel concept and an idea I feel needs to be explored more in musical performance. On this occasion it was mostly successful. Even though the repertoire was very familiar to me, the concert turned out to be a wholly new and enlightening experience.

Bach In The Dark Photography Mark-Douet

The Erebus Ensemble – Bach In The Dark Photography Mark-Douet

A very popular choice with audiences it would appear, this Proms performance was also successful in bringing in a diverse range of individuals to witness the choir’s spectacle. No tweeting was allowed, no distraction what so ever, It was to be Bach in its purest form and at its most transformative. I must say that the level of singing from this young, though truly talented, group was highly impressive. With Musical Director Tom Williams at the helm, the sound of these young voices has been crafted and balanced almost to perfection. At moments a little rough around the edges, the choir achieved a great deal in a very challenging programme and in the circumstances. The moments I most enjoyed were those in complete darkness; then I was able to lose myself completely in the delightful sweetness of Tallis’ If Ye Love Me, the choir’s opening work. The main work of the concert, Bach’s Jesu, Meine Freude, a notoriously difficult motet, was executed with great skill and vibrancy from the choir. The formations too that surrounded the audience, enveloped them and surrounded them with a womb of consonance and harmony, were the most effective. However, slightly unnerving was the sheer amount of choir reformations that occurred, and at points when, following their conductor, the choir were forced to turn away completely from the audience around them. However this did not detract from a concert that as a whole that was an extraordinary experience, and a wonderful opportunity to take in the pure beauty of choral music of the highest standard.

#BRISTOLPROMS DAY 1 – Prombassadors: Jon James
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