The Arthur Bliss Society
2017 Events
The 2017 Annual Lunch was held at the Queens Hotel, Cheltenham on Monday, January 16th, and was attended by forty one members and friends, including our President, Ian Venables, and the Chairman of the Bliss Trust, Andrew Burn.  We were delighted to welcome two of our patrons, Mark Bebbington and James Gilchrist, who each gave a short preliminary description of their experiences in performing the Bliss works which they had selected from their recent recordings for us to hear. One of our members, Jeff Coulthurst, reported the occasion in the Spring Newsletter: “Neither post-Christmas blues nor a rather dull, damp and chilly January day could curb the pleasure clearly felt by those of us who assembled for lunch at the Queen's Hotel, Cheltenham, on 16 January. The gathering numbered almost fifty members and friends drawn from as far afield as Cumbria, Yorkshire, Bournemouth, Bedford and London, as well as a goodly number from the Cheltenham area. We were joined by representatives from other associations, including the Holst Birthplace Trust, The Ivor Gurney Society, Gloucester Music Society, the Cheltenham Music Festival and the Harrogate Festival. The proceedings were presided over by our indefatigable Chairman, Gerald Towell (right), who reminded us that the Queen's Hotel had special associations with Sir Arthur and Lady Bliss by reading from letters written by them on the hotel's headed notepaper. Gerald explained that they always stayed at the hotel whenever they came to Cheltenham during the period when Sir Arthur was President of the Music Festival. The letter Gerald quoted from Lady Bliss was written to the committee thanking them for giving her such a splendid lunch, which was apparently held in the same room as our lunch on this occasion, making the venue even more special for us. From the convivial atmosphere that prevailed during the lunch it seemed clear that everyone was enjoying the excellent meal which was followed by recordings of Bliss music introduced by Gerald, some of which were new to at least one member and were quite delightful. We heard first a recording by James Gilchrist on the LINN label of the Elegaic Sonnet with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet. This was followed by some pieces from Mark Bebbington's two CDs of Bliss Piano Music on the Somm label. Listening to this music was delightful in itself but what made it so much more special was to have the two artists speak to us about the music and the recordings and their appreciation of Bliss’s music. The applause that followed each of their contributions was a clear indication of how much everyone present appreciated not only their artistic and interpretative skill but also their willingness to give us their time to explain the significance of the works for them.” photos by Jennie Shakespeare ___________________________________________________ In addition to the annual lunch, the Society organised coach travel for a group of local members and friends to attend a Hereford Cathedral Lunchtime Organ Concert in May, when Tim Harper, who is Assistant Director of Music at Ripon Cathedral, played his organ transcription of Bliss’s Colour Symphony. Hugh Thomas, one of our members, gave us his ‘Concert Reflections’ in the Newsletter: “I suspect that for Bliss aficionados one thought present in the mind before the recital was the question: however is Tim going to do it?  That is to say how will he be able to recreate the intensity and colour (no pun intended) of a work wrought during the period almost immediately after the Great War when the dangers and horrors of the Front Line must still have loomed large in the mind of the composer.  The task of reproducing the wide palette of sound available to the orchestra with the more restricted sonorities of the organ seemed an impossibility.  Yet Tim Harper [see left] achieved a good compromise with great skill in performance – available for the audience to see on a big screen.  The themes were clear and well enunciated despite the echo inevitable in a building such as the Cathedral and the decorative passages in the upper register delivered with aplomb. . To the purist who views such arrangements as little short of anathema, no doubt there were faults to find, but for us who listen to music at a less elevated level, the general feeling was one of great satisfaction.  The themes were well enunciated and clear despite the echo inevitable in a building such as the Cathedral.  While some of those present had attended a live performance of the Colour Symphony, many probably had not, and the likelihood is that due to constraints of time and distance they may never hear the work performed by the large orchestra required in the concert hall.   This was a much more-than-adequate substitute.  In short we were favoured by a performance in which Tim Harper’s accuracy of transcription coupled with his technical skill as organist and his great affection for Bliss’s music resulted in a performance which was as satisfactory as it was impressive. A stirring Praeludium of Nicholas Bruhns and a wistful Fileuse by Ronald Perrin completed a most enjoyable programme.” ___________________________________________________ The AGM Recital was held at St Andrew’s Church, Cheltenham on Saturday, June 10th: L to R Matthew Secombe, Julia Liang, Alexander Kirk, Gerald Towell, Ian Venables Pre-performance talk by Giles Easterbrook: “Buried Treasure, Hidden Gold Montpellier Duo:  Julia Liang (violin) and Alexander Kirk (piano) Sonata for Piano and Violin          Arthur Bliss Three Pieces Op 11     Ian Venables Violin Sonata No 2 in A minor        John Ireland Matthew Secombe (tenor), with Alexander Kirk (piano) Little Elegy          Arthur Bliss The Fallow Deer at the Lonely House          Arthur Bliss This Night          Arthur Bliss The Invitation to the Gondola     Ian Venables Comment from John Wright: “It was a most enjoyable day. I thought Giles's talk became especially fascinating when he got onto describing the origins of the violin sonata. The thought of another full score still hidden away in Alice Elgar's possessions was tantalising and exciting! The concert was excellent and I thought Bliss, Venables and Ireland shared the platform extremely well. The final Ireland work was on a large scale compared with everything else, and I was reminded what a fine composer he was. Like Bliss, he often deserves more recognition. The duo performed well and I thought Alexander was a particularly fine accompanist. Julia is also an accomplished player and displayed much technical agility in a programme that demanded a wide spectrum of moods.  It was very special to hear Matthew performing his great grandfather's songs with such commitment.  He hasn't got the big voice of his grandfather Harry yet, but bearing in mind he has only recently switched from studying zoology to singing it shows much potential and he made a lovely sound. He is someone to watch in the future, and it's encouraging that the Bliss tradition will be carried forward by a member of the family.”  ___________________________________________________
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