Baritone takes satisfaction from Atlantic crossing

Ryan de Ryke,  American baritone, peerforming at the Rising Sun, Nether Green, Thursday, March 24, 2011
Ryan de Ryke, American baritone, peerforming at the Rising Sun, Nether Green, Thursday, March 24, 2011

THREE interesting concerts of vocal music are on offer over the next few days, not least a performance of Schubert’s Winterreise tonight (Thursday) at, of all places, the Rising Sun on Fulwood Road.

Singing it is Ryan de Ryke, a young American baritone of some note with a career on both sides of the Atlantic, including recitals at the Aldeburgh and Aix-in-Provence festivals on this side and a lot oratorio/ concert work on the other.

His pianist is noteworthy too - British born Eugenia Cheng who is on the academic staff of School of Mathematics and Statistics at Sheffield University.

As a pianist she tends to specialise in Lieder and song, while as a mathematician her specialist subject is higher-dimensional category theory – well, she does hold three degrees from Cambridge University!

“I first met Ryan when I was living in Chicago,” reveals Eugenia, adding that she moved there in 2004 and was on the maths faculty of the Windy City’s university. We first worked together performing Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin in 2007 on the annual Schubertiade in Chicago, where I still perform every year.

So how does his other great song cycle, Winterreise, come to be in a pub in Nether Green?

“We’re subsequently performing it in London and Luxembourg, and wanted to do it in Sheffield as well where we have been rehearsing. I have always enjoyed the evenings when Ensemble 360 have performed at the Rising Sun and like the informal, accessible atmosphere.

“We’ve invited quite a few people who are not usually classical concertgoers and are happy if the setting of a pub is less daunting to them. We like to think ‘outside the box’ a bit when it comes to performing classical music!”

Admission is free and the performance begins at 8pm. Tomorrow evening (Friday) two much shorter, though equally famous song cycles, Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Elgar’s Sea Pictures, get outings at this month’s Sheffield Music Club concert at Shirley House on Psalter Lane.

Accompanied by pianist Frances Kelleher, along with a number of other individual song masterpieces by other composers, they are performed by Leeds-based mezzo-soprano Kathryn Woodruff, the alto soloist in a Sheffield Bach Choir performance Bach’s St Matthew Passion on April 16.

The Schumann, A Woman’s Life and Love, is sandwiched between three songs by Brahms, Ständchen, Wiegenlied (everyone knows that, it’s the Lullaby), An die Nachtigall and seven French songs.

Four of these are by Fauré: Le Papillon et la Fleur, Les Berceaux, Nocturne and Chanson d’Amour; and the other three by Duparc: Extase, Serenade Florentine and Chanson Triste.

The Elgar – how many people know that parts of it were allegedly penned in the Western Bank area of Sheffield? – is similarly book-ended, also in the vernacular in the form American songs.

Two are by Samuel Barber: The Daisies and Sure on this Shining Night; and five by Aaron Copland from his two sets of Old American Songs: The Dodger, At the River, Simple Gifts, Long Time Ago and I bought me a cat. German Lieder, three items, crop in an attractive concert from the Sheffield University Chamber Choir at Firth Hall next Tuesday.

Doubtless to give the collective young voices a breather, soprano Sophia Carroll emerges from their number to sing two of Hugo Wolf’s Goethe settings, Die Spröde and Die Bekehrte, and baritone Matthew Palmer to offer Schubert’s Litanei, plus Handel’s Revenge! aria from Alexander’s Feast.

The central choral work is Victoria’s Mass, O Magnum Mysterium, while from a slightly later era are two Purcell anthems, I Was Glad and O God, Thou Art My God.

Moving forward in time, we have Bruckner’s regularly performed Three Motets: Os Juste, Locus Iste and Christus Factus Est and, further forward again, Three Pastorals by Tom James and Szeroka Woda by Henryk Górecki.

The latter, Broad Waters, is a set of five miniatures and arrangements by the Polish composer, who achieved world-fame with his Third Symphony, of folk melodies and texts taken from a couple of illustrated story books for children.

The piece dates from 1979, two years after the symphony was written, and all the texts have connections with water.