The decision to hold a mini event in what had been the fallow years of the biennial Honiton Festival has proved to be a popular success. Just four varied concerts again attracted great attention from supporters from a wide area.
The tiny church of St. Michael, Cotleigh, just outside Honiton, was packed for the opening recital by the inimitable internationally known trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins and organist Ian le Grice.
One of the world’s great exponents of the instrument, Crispian Steele-Perkins brought his easy-going personality to a recital which, in many ways, was an illustrated lecture on the development of the trumpet from the instruments found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, through the early natural trumpets, to the various experiments with keys, down to the modern sophisticated instrument. His array of early instruments was put to good use in music by Purcell, Handel, Mozart and John Stanley. The major item in the programme was Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto and there was a Prelude from George Gershwin to bring things up-to-date. The old trick of playing on a hosepipe – Handel’s Water Music, of course – brought the usual applause.
Ian le Grice found the small Cotleigh organ much to his liking, and very appropriate to the mostly baroque music in the programme. The concert was preceded by a very convivial reception at the delightful nearby home of the Festival chairman.
There was something very different for the second concert when three former doctors who call themselves Instant Sunshine brought their programme of scatty songs to St. Paul’s Church. Few of their offerings would have been familiar for they were original confections by the group in the tradition of Flanders and Swann, and Noel Coward. With guitar accompaniment their songs brought the humorous side of life to the audience with titles like At the Launderette, My Dog has Fleas and Who Mowed the Lawns of Eden?
Another change of musical style came with the lunchtime concert, preceded with a buffet lunch, given by saxophonist Hannah Marcinowicz and pianist Daniel Swain. They proved that the saxophone has a legitimate place in the field of classical music, with works originally written for it, such as Jules Demersseman’s Fantaisie sur un Thème Original, Pierre Max Dubois’ Pièces Caractéristique, and to bring things right up to the moment Leonardo’s Dream by Giles Swayne, commissioned by Hannah Marcinowicz. Debussy’s Syrinx, originally for solo flute, went well on the soprano saxophone, and pieces by Grieg and Bach were interestingly transcribed. This was a very revealing recital played with great panache by these two young musicians.
The best was left until last: a fine recital by one of ‘the most remarkable pianists of the day’ according to the Daily Telegraph. Russian Dmitri Alexeyev, known throughout the world for his electrifying performances, delighted the Honiton audience with a programme consisting mostly of works by Chopin, including his Barcarolle, Rondo in C minor, Nocturne in A flat major, Polonaise in A flat major, and a selection of Mazurkas. Two works by Schumann completed the programme: his Blumenstück, Op.19, and Kreisleriana which took the fantastical works of E.T.A. Hoffmann as a starting point.
Even for a mini-festival this was an astonishing week of music making.