“Meetings and Greetings” was the title of a concert given by Fine Tunings, a local group of singers, Rania Savvidi, soprano, Julie McGlashan, mezzo soprano, Stuart McGlashan, tenor and John Taylor, baritone, with Christina Montgomery on piano, at the Swallow Theatre recently.
The group formed in 2011 and since then has developed a wide repertoire from classical to jazz.
The programme consisted of items which demonstrated this wide variety, and included pieces sung as a quartet and trios, duets and solos.
First on the programme was Hatton’s ‘He that hath a pleasant face’ which exhorts people to sit and listen, but if they want to talk, to take their hats and leave. Nobody left. As an opening item there was some slight ensemble shakiness, but the piece was a good start to the evening. This was followed by a Schubert song The Wraith, a Gothic tale of spectral appearances, sung by John Taylor with great expression. There followed a series of items all based on the idea of comings and goings, from Elgar’s ‘The Shepherd’s Song’ to ‘Bei Männern welche Lieber fühlen’ from Mozart’s Magic Flute. The first half of the concert ended with Julie McGlashan giving a very moving performance of Dido’s Lament from Purcell’s ‘Dido and Aeneas’. This is perhaps the most emotionally charged piece of music one could listen to. Ending with a quartet version of the full chorus which concludes the piece seemed to add to the beauty of the music.
The second half of the concert included a more light-hearted approach to the theme, and included items such as Sally Gardens, arranged by Britten, and the Barcarolle from The tales of Hoffmanin which the appearance of a Gondolier during the song caused some chuckling in the audience. A contrast was Rania’s rendition of Cole Porter’s ‘Ev’ry time we say goodbye’, and a humorous performance of Rossini’s ‘Cat’s Duet’ by Stuart and Julie.
The programme ended with the audience being invited to join in with the chorus of ‘The Hippopotamus Song’ of Flanders and Swann – an invitation for all to wallow in the mud.
No review of any concert should omit reference to the accompanist, a vital member of any group. Christina Montgomery showed her mastery of the art of accompanying singers, adjusting her tone and volume to suit the mood of the singers. Having such a talented pianist as accompanist gives singers confidence in any context, whether in a group or solo.
The evening was very enjoyable, and apart from some issues of balance, and slight intonation problems at times, the Fine Tunings group make a very pleasant sound, well worth listening to.