HERO and the indefatigable Michelle Holloway continue their exploration of the furthest reaches of the Midlands, this time bringing the recorder to the unsuspecting citizens of Bromsgrove in a short afternoon concert as part of the Bromsgrove Festival. St John’s, a very beautiful old church in the middle of town, is an ideal concert venue with mellow yet accurate acoustics.

    The afternoon kicked of with 2 lively dances by Andrew Challinger, the first a lively march tempo in C major making good use of dotted quaver – semi rhythm, and the second a Habanera – type rhythm starting with a repeated A, almost like Morse code, developing into some imaginative harmony and polyphony.

    This was followed by none other than the ‘Franz√∂sische Lustspiel-Ouverture‘ or French comedy Overture by Keler Bela, or Bela Keler [Hungarians like to spread confusion with name order and multilingual titles]. This brought back happy memories of my days with the Birmingham Concert Band, although HERO’s rendition was somewhat more delicate – in contrast to storming brass and drums the recorders gave the piece a distinctive olde-worlde steam organ touch, and I especially liked the tic-toc section with the tune in the bass.

    Paul Richards’ ‘The Imps of Lincoln‘ consists of three parts – ‘Trouble at t’Minster‘ has a sombre introduction leading to some lively syncopations, quotes from the Lincolnshire Poacher, and ends with a prolonged trill and hints of modal harmony. ‘Cathedral by Moonlight‘ starts with evocative suspensions and some imaginatively impish harmonies, continuing the sombre mood. The ‘Dance of the West Wind‘ eschews any wind effects and is a rustic jig in 6/8. Two lively and intriguing pieces by Soren Sieg followed, ‘Arrival in the Big City‘ and ‘Boat Trip‘. Sieg writes extensively for the recorder and is greatly influenced by African music and rhythm, I thought some sections were in 7/8 but my wife assures me this was not the case! A lookup on YouTube was richly rewarding.

    Glen Shannon’s 2012 tone poem ‘Mountain Mosaic‘ sounded even more impressive at a second hearing, and I hope I will be forgiven for repeating my previous writeup. Starting with a majestic evocation of sunrise on solo alto, we are treated to some imaginative harmonies and counterpoint from the upper sections before the lower recorders join in. A more rhythmic passage follows and then some sombre reflections; throughout great use is made of contrasting and combining the tone colours of the different sections to illustrate mountain scenes, wildlife, streams, a town festival and finally sunset. A great piece with some ravishing melodies that makes full use of the recorder orchestra’s tonal palette.

    The concert ended with ‘Evening Rise, Spirit Come‘ – an ancient Indian shamanic folk song. In a hauntingly evocative arrangement by Irmhild Beutler, this has a chordal introduction in A minor followed by the melody over a drone. The tempo picks up with some ornamentation and development, and the melody is repeated with plain harmonies at the end. Transported to the land of the Great Plains, tepees and buffalo, I awoke to find I had won a bottle of sherry in the raffle and an agreeable evening followed a most enjoyable concert!

    Review by R. Tempest