English music and Brahms

St Martha’s was filled with people and glorious music by a double bill in the Guildford International Music Festival.  (See the review of Oxus and Lukasz Jakimow performance of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet below.)

On a day when the sun and first daffodils cheered the wintry woods, Kiera Lyness sang English songs and her clear tones and exquisite control lifted our spirits.

Kiera brought her bicycle with her (she has three: one for the Velodrome, one for super-fast racing and this Fratelli, the most suitable for St Martha’s Hill.)  She is – obviously – a keen cyclist and drew interesting comparisons between the activity of singing and of cycling. 

They are both kinetic and pneumatic, require careful navigation and long, often tedious practice.  After hours of hard rehearsal, they both yield occasional moments of pure joy.  They both, when well practiced, have a sense of flow.

As a result of these connections, Kiera likes to move from cycling to singing and from singing to cycling.  As she pointed out herself, this can lead to her being both underdressed and overdressed for the same concert.  To parody broadcasts of the Met Opera, heard on winter Saturday evenings in the UK on Radio 3: "Ms Lyness was elegantly clad in a high-necked black lycra long-sleeved cycling top paired with a full, long dark purple silk skirt."

An Ivor Gurney setting of W.B. Yeat’s Cloths of Heaven (“Tread softly because you tread on my dreams”), with “Bread and Cherries” and “A Piper” succeeded several songs by Quilter.  All the songs were based on poems of romantic love.   


Kiera sang at Ian Venables’ 50th birthday party (what a party that must have been) and her performance of “The Way Through”, “Flying Crooked” and “The Hippo” were a revelation of the beauty of these delicate compositions.

Britten’s haunting “Down by the Salley Gardens” (WB Yeats again) preceded the stunning finale of Arthur Sullivan’s “Poor Wand’ring One” from Pirates of Penzance: Kiera effortlessly, without bicycular aid climbed to the top E flat and held us there in awe of her skill.

Thank you, Kiera.  We loved your recital and learnt a great deal about bicycles!

See Kiera Lyness at the Royal Opera House

We then enjoyed a performance of Brahms Clarinet Quintet by the Oxus Quartet and clarinettist Lukasz Jakimow.  This too was superb.  

Brahms was 57 and had been enjoying retirement, when he was inspired by Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet to write his own.  Brahms’ Quintet reignited interest in the clarinet as a solo instrument and marked a new period of Brahm's compositions.


Some of the music Brahms wrote during this period reflected earlier works.  During the Quintet, there seemed to be an echo of "Gaudeamus Igitur" - did Brahms fish this bit of the Academic Festival Overture out of the recycling bin?


In the hands of Oxus and Lukasz, the opening querulous “argument” of the first movement resolved into the gently melancholic theme of the clarinet, leading to the second movement’s reflective discourse. 

Moving into the third movement was like stepping out to a clear spring day (like the moments between the showers outside the church): upbeat and energetic. 

The last movement was a lilting dance underpinned by the solemn cello bringing all echoes of dispute into harmony.

The church was full.  Your kind donations will go to the upkeep of the church, so we are doubly grateful to the generosity of Kiera, Oxus and Lukasz for their time and wonderful performances.

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For more information about concerts at St Martha's see the Music at St Martha's Facebook page or ring 01483 503301