REVIEW: Music amongst the Art, Oxmarket Centre of Arts, Chichester

In the Oxmarket Centre of Arts at Saturday lunchtime we were treated to the joint delight of an exhibition of Catherine Barnes’ paintings and a song recital by Tom Bullard, baritone, accompanied by Terry Allbright.

The varied paintings by this local artist were beautifully set off by Finzi’s song cycle ‘Let us Garlands Bring’ and Schumann’s Dichterliebe. Between these major works was a setting of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Drawing Details in an Old Church’ by Martin Read., who wrote the song at Catherine’s request in return for one of her paintings, which seems a very reasonable transaction.

Tom Bullard, who is Catherine’s nephew, has a wonderfully mellow and mature voice. After studying at Kings College Cambridge he toured the world as a member of the Swingle Singers. He brought an intensity of emotion to the Dichterliebe that brought tears to our eyes. This song cycle was well suited to the colours, shapes and landscapes of Catherine’s paintings, describing in the poet’s delicate language the landscapes, flowers, dreams and fairy tales that contributed to his love life. The momentary memory loss made the performance all the more endearing as we came to appreciate just how many words were being recalled and intimately.

Terry Allbright was as usual a marvellous accompanist, as befits a former Cambridge organ scholar. He was playing an upright Bechstein piano, only recently discovered in a cupboard at the Oxmarket, which sported a pair of candelabra thus adding to its charm. Under his fingers it produced a lovely tone, and brought out the wonderful suspensions and chromaticisms in all three works.

Chris Coote