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Rachel Fenlon in Saint Stephen'sLast week's recital proved the power of one person: Rachel Fenlon's riveting one-person performance of Schubert, Britten and Alma Mahler was utterly brilliant. The rain and thunder which accompanied only seemed to heighten the drama. 

I had questioned whether a performance by a single singer-pianist would have the emotional power and communication of the much more common combination of separate singer and pianist. I shouldn't have. Rachel's passionate singing and breath-taking playing held the attention from start to end.

Beforehand, I and other audience members were debating why it is that the singer-cum-player combination isn't more common. Some people were saying that they had known - years ago - such performers. Is it that the modern musical world, in which soloists are trained so specifially in their own single, focussed disciplines - could not possibly have room  for such double-headed skills? Or was it that precedents like Les Dawson give the combination a bad reputation?

But Rachel proved us wrong. And it's not as if she was holding back in either department. Many accompanist-only pianists would shy away from Gretchen am Spinnrade; many singers would think twice about tackling the Alma Mahler songs. Rachel doesn't. And then she goes on to perform (and broadcast) incredibly complex modern works by Messaien and George Crumb. Not to mention the Dowland (which we didn't hear on Wednesday, sadly) which would have involved plucking the strings. 

After the concert, we all agreed. There's no doubt that in the right hands and the right larynx, the singer-pianist (of art song and lieder) is a real THING.

This week's recital will show the power of two - not just one singer, but TWO - and an accompanist. Peter Wagstaff and Tom Oldham (with Claire Alsop) will perform music by Vaughan Williams, Henry Purcell, Schumann and Finzi. Some wonderful English music (and Austrian with a Spanish flavour).


Our Autumn series of Recitals featuring the most popular song cycles continues with Schumann's Dichterliebe, sung by Robert-John Edwards in the Wardrobe Theatre, Old Market, on October 6th. Buy tickets for the concert here

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Recitals in our September Lunchtime Series

 All our Lunchtime recitals are in Saint Stephen's Church in the centre of Bristol (just behind St Augustine's Parade, diagonally opposite the Hippodrome). Entry is free (although we do encourage you to donate to the retiring colletion)


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4th September
Louise Geller

Fresh from her success at the Edinburgh Fringe, Louise brings an operatic feel-good factor to the start of our September series

Biography | Programme

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11th September
Emma Winscom

Accompanied by Steven Kings, Bristol graduate Emma sings a recital of 'Reflections of Summer', with music by Fauré, Bellini, Quilter and much more besides 


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18th September
Pocket Opera

A romp through some well-known Mozart arias and ensembles, woven together in a new storyline with Bristol-based Pocket Opera!

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25th September
Esther Mallett

We end our September series with a bang as highly talented Esther revisits us with a programme to amaze and delight!  

Song of the Day

Enjoy tasters of what is to come in our lunchtime recitals with specially selected videos and soundtracks from sites around the web.
Since it's Spring at last, we thought we ought to give you a song called 'Spring'. By Ivor Gurney, it's sung here by Susan Bickley accompanied by Iain Burnside


Song Recitals in Bristol

Our listing of song recitals coming up in the Bristol area. 

We don't know of any upcoming recitals!

Help the Song Recital Series

The Bristol Song Recital lunchtime Series is a free-to-enter series of concerts. At the end of each lunchtime concert, we collect money to pay for the use of the church, for the advertising and other running expenses. Any money which remains is given to the performers - as performers ourselves, we know how important this is, and it allows us to attract the best singers.

If you would like to donate money we'd love to hear from you at martin@bristolsongrecitals.org.uk or using the contact form at the bottom of the page. 

But in order to expand, like everybody else, we need extra money! But we also need extra help in the form of ambassadors, stewards and administrators. If you feel you can help with any of these roles, please let us know. You can email martin@bristolsongrecitals.org.uk

Our blog

Recital Series curator Martin Le Poidevin talks about recitals, the Series, performers and more

Rodrigo and Debussy

This week's recital (Wednesday 22nd May, 1.10pm in St Stephen's, sung by Katy Garden with Claire Alsop at the piano) gives two sides to the music of twentieth century composers. 

First is Rodrigo's Cuatros Madrigales Amatorios, a set of four songs based on much earlier originals, from the 16th century Spanish court of Prince Philip II. The result is a music which is consonant and pretty immediate with its dance rhythms, with large overtones of the late renaissance and early baroque. One commentator suggested that it's among Rodrigo's most folk-orientated works. The words are folk-like, too - simple but ambiguous. 

Debussy Ariettes Oubliées is an early project. A set of six songs to words by Paul Verlaine, they show the nascent Impressionistic style. Much more worked than the straightforward melodies of the Rodrigo, they also require virtuosic performances from both the singer and the player. Nevertheless they're compelling works of art, and a hugely important stepping stone on Debussy's path of progression towards his mature style. 



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