REVIEW: Music At Boxgrove.

Around four miles from Chichester – and between the village of Boxgrove and the hamlet of Halnaker, there stands an incredibly handsome Parish Church, which was built as long ago as 1105 – during the reign of Henry 1st.

As the Boxgrove Priory utilizes lots of significant external structure, this not only facilitates the provision of highly appropriate spaces for an orchestra and soloists, who can perform from the Purbeck stone floor of the altar volume, but also provides an excellent ambience for all those in the audience – in the nave. Not only do the elegant flying buttresses assist the support of the external walls and roof structure, but have also facilitated the construction of some graceful arcades each side of the main nave, which certainly do support the clear-stories and their substantial windows. All these features provide good lighting quality and an exceptional atmosphere for everyone present, especially during such an outstanding concert that has recently been given by the Boxgrove Festival Orchestra – conducted by Steve Dummer, who is also a solo clarinettist.

This wonderful atmosphere was strongly embellished when an 80-strong orchestra commenced with the stridently rhythmic and highly melodic Piano Concerto in F Sharp Minor, composed by the highly original and amazingly creative composer of Russia, Alexander Scriabin – in 1897. The brilliant solo-pianist, Hugh Potton, then continued to wholeheartedly participate in the intensity of the final movement, which awesomely expressed this spatial Boxgrove volume.

This was impeccably followed by the eerie atonality of Maurice Ravel’s setting of Trois Poemes de Stephane Mallarme, when Hugh Potton and a passionate group of musicians once more combined with the conductor to express the grandeur of this interior, especially when joined by dynamic soprano, Lara Moyler.

After the lively Interval, the heavenly sound of Claude Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie once more merged perfectly with this glorious environment, particularly when the supreme resonance of solo clarinet, strings, percussion and brass rose flawlessly into it.

This truly distinctive concert then concluded with Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, which was, once more, transformed into this towering environment, especially when piano soloist, Hugh Potton, and loud cymbals combined during the sonorous, highly rhythmic, closing bars – to which all those present in the nave and aisles of this stylish building responded enthusiastically, especially when the soloists and conductor continued to return – in a decidedly vigorous style!

John Wheatley