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Article by Peter McElhinney for “The Ashtonian” – magazine of St Martin’s Ashton on Mersey

A Recital of Music for countertenor and classical guitar.

This was our official First Musical Evening of 2009.

By 2pm, the Church Hall was practically set (each table with chequered cloths and little wax lights in glass holders, six places set with matching cutlery carefully selected by Betty and Rita and tall glasses holding Italian Original breadsticks. Pat arrived to curl the butter and mix the salad. At 4pm, an expectant hush descended. The kitchen staff had gone home and it would be two hours before those who were to perform would turn up to practise.

Against one wall a little stage awaited Alessandro Balsimini, from Treviso, Italy, classical guitarist (by the way, for those who might be confused, it is the guitar not the player which is classical to identify it from the electric guitar, the weapon of every Pop Group)

At a little after six o'clock, Alessandro and his girlfriend Daniella arrived with David Solomons (from Sale Moor). They set up and began their rehearsal.

I really am getting quite proficient in causing confusion. In fact I'm thinking of taking my Master's Degree in it. People began arriving at ten minutes to seven because they thought the concert started at seven o'clock; others at seven o'clock because they thought it was seven-fifteen and Father Robert and Father Stuart arrived at almost seven-thirty, thus ensuring that everyone else had turned up before them. The net result was that the performers did not have all that much time to rehearse.

I can assure you it had not the slightest effect on the ensuing concert, which was highly polished and performed with consummate skill.

The songs were either composed or arranged by David, our very clever home-grown composer who lives just down the road in Sale Moor. They were sung in Yiddish, Japanese and, for the mono-linguists, English.

The countertenor voice has a long history, going back to the castrati of the Renaissance period, and it was greatly favoured in the Georgian Age particularly in such things as Handelian Operas. It then died out until quite recently when Alfred Deller made it popular once again and today Andreas Scholl is considered foremost as a performer.

Perhaps the most popular example enjoyed by the vast number of music followers is the part in The Carmina Burana by Carl Orff entitled "The swan" which depicts the roasting of a swan on a spit and apparently enjoying it as its fate in life!

Complementary to David's singing was the superb playing of the classical guitar by Alessandro. He played such a sensitive and the same time complicated accompaniment with a skill that I could have listened to all night.

As Father Robert said at the end of the concert, the performance reminded him so much of the Tudor period with a modem idiom; like stepping back in time and taking the 21st  Century with us.

I was left with the feeling that I had surfed through a whole kaleidoscope of moods, thanks to David and Alessandro.

Pasta supper, a delicious pasta bake and lasagne with Italian salad, followed by panacotta and raspberries ended the evening; all accompanied by an Italian wine or non-alcoholic drink. My thanks to Betty, Rita, Pat and Pam for providing it all and to everyone who helped make the evening a success. I happen to know that the cooks were congratulated by our Italian guests who pronounced the cuisine as "Bellissima!"

It was a memorable night and raised £345 for the church funds.

Daniela, Father Robert, Alessandro and David, awaiting the Italian delicacies Videos of some of the music  performed can be seen here. Alessandro and David performing something....

Article on the recital at St Martin’s in February 2009