Bernard Hall, Cuddington
By Andrew Gordon - 7th November 2019 4:00pm
The village's project to house a displaced Syrian family has inspired yet another brilliant musical evening, further revealing the remarkable talent now residing in our midst.
In response to the last concert in March (see here), Dominic Bevan and wife Helen, who have recently moved to the village with their small baby, assembled a group of singers from their highly musical family and friends to give us a 'night at the opera' in aid of the project.
Dominic, Sophie, Howard, Sam and Anastasia are young singers, early in their careers though well established, who bring a playful good humour to their art, to which Sunday's audience responded with enthusiasm. And laughter aside, one marvelled as ever at the power of operatic singing to open the heart and carry the listener along on the waves of emotion.
I am delighted that he and his wife, Helen Burn, and their little baby, are moving to Haddenham next week. If he carries on singing like that, he will soon be singing at the Royal Opera House and the Met as a soloist himself, just like his wonderful cousin Sophie Bevan, who we were also immensely privileged to hear. What a wonderful addition to our community they will all be!
How better to start than with the melting cadences of Sophie and Anastasia seeing their loving husbands off to the war, in Cosi fan Tutte, with Howard as the cynical philosopher taking bets on the ensuing faithfulness of the wives.
The first half of the concert was entirely devoted to Mozart — all ravishing melodic line and every kind of love situation. We had Howard again as Don Giovanni leading Sophie astray, as lady's maid, who moves from initial disdain, then slowly to interest, then to the exquisite moment of consent, and then on to taking charge. Sophie, the most experienced of the group, has a well-deserved MBE.
The second half was all 19th century romantic but starting with a firecracker: Sam as Rossini's Figaro leaping among the audience exulting in his role as the man who can fix anything. Later, Dominic, who had helpfully introduced each piece (the singers were moving effortlessly between Italian, French and German), revealed himself as an aspiring Heldentenor, in the part of Lohengrin telling the story of the Holy Grail. A big voice at all registers. Dominic is preparing the piece for competition: his Haddenham fans will be solidly behind him. Dominic's aria from Wagner's Lohengrin was simply breathtaking, despite its fiendishly difficult technical challenges!
The evening was brought to a close with glasses charged for the uproarious drinking song from Traviata, which brought the audience to its feet with prolonged applause. Special applause also for piano accompanist Miles Lallemant, always there with unobtrusive support and warmly responsive to every change of mood.
The concert and the level of the wonderful performers was beyond all expectations. It was a delightful blend of voices, all full of individual character and all singing beautifully. Many of the audience left St Mary's saying it was the finest and most moving musical event heard in the village for many years.
Villagers have been overwhelmed by the generous support for the Syrian family project by artists such as Dominic and his team. Organisers estimate Sunday's concert will have contributed a further £2,636. The project is now approaching fulfilment with the various authorities (mainly the Home Office and UN) now satisfied as to viability and a flat in the village made available. It remains for a suitable family to be identified from UN lists. Perhaps they will sing.
Update on the Syrian Family Project
by Alison Watt
On Tuesday 5th November we heard from the Home Office that our application has been approved, and they are now going to identify a family. So, after months of not much happening other than back and forwards with the Home Office, crossing Ts and dotting Is, we are now moving on to the next stage — I can't promise it will be quick, but at least we now know that we are going to have a family live with us.