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Theatre of the Ayre

Crucible Studio

A LARGE and diverse audience gathered for a concert centred on songs and dances by John Dowland. It was a joy to hear this quietly glowing music performed so sensitively by four musicians of high order.

Conscious that a menu entirely of Dowland, though delicious, might prove a little over-rich, the programme was beautifully balanced with works by his contemporaries and by Rachel Stott (b1968), whose Songs and Dances from the Lords’ Masque ranged from highly Dowland-esque to decidedly not.

A witty and inventive work, it featured some intriguing instrumental effects and offered a refreshing re-imagining of the timeless originals.

Lute player Elizabeth Kenny had more notes to play than anyone, many of which demanded considerable virtuosity. And, by way of splendid contrast, she also included a Spanish-tinged Preludium, which ached with tenderness.

Robin Blaze didn’t let an uncharitable cold affect his mellifluous and expressive countertenor contributions, not least in Dowland’s signature song Flow, my tears and in Tobias Hume’s witty song Tobacco.

The latter, wonderfully programmed two items before the end, brilliantly defused the tension that had been building throughout an intimate second half.

Having hitherto enjoyed sonorous, rather stately lines, Pamela Thorby’s recorder playing came alive after the interval in a series of increasingly daring and virtuosic items by van Eyck which rightly prompted thrilled applause.

Alison McGillivray played a selection of viols with poise and beautiful shaping. By the end, we had been drawn inexorably into the sixteenth century, into an unusual; intimate sound world created by a combination of repertoire, venue, and occasion.

Fraser Wilson

Centenary celebration

A PARTNERSHIP project between Showroom Workstation and Music in the Round, Transformations, is set to mark two important centenaries that reshaped the economic and cultural landscape of Britain for decades to come – the birth of one of its greatest composers, Benjamin Britten, and the discovery of stainless steel, right here in Sheffield.

The aim of the innovative project is to synthesise music by Britten with moving image and archive film to create new and completely unique pieces for a performance, which will be simultaneously streamed in cinemas across the country from the Showroom Cinema on Saturday, May 11.

The music by Britten is Six Metamorphoses (‘Transformations’) after Ovid for solo oboe and Showroom Workstation is seeking to commission an artist working in moving image to create a new piece of art, approximately 15 minutes in length, in response to the music’s stimulus.

It will be performed in May alongside a live performance by oboist Adrian Wilson, with whom the filmmaker will collaborate to create the piece, as part of an Ensemble 360 concert of three Britten works (one of them a short film score) and a new one by Charlie Piper to footage from the British Film Institute archives

Transformations will then go on to form part of Music in the Round’s Around the Country tour in 2013-14 and be offered to other arts venues in recorded format. Closing date for applications is Friday, February 15, see www.showroomworkstation.org.uk/workstation/creativenews