Review: Full marks to Dame's stand-in at Warwick concert

St Mary's church in Warwick
St Mary's church in Warwick

Clive Peacock reviews the Chelys Consort of Viols and Lachrimae at St Mary's Church, Warwick

How do you replace a sick Dame Emma Kirkby at St Mary’s?

What a dilemma on the morning of her long awaited return. Inevitably, Leamington Music finds a solution and the concert performance as programmed, with just one omission, takes place. John Dowland’s seven pavans which make up Lachrimae – reflections on a sorrowful song were competently delivered by Chelys Consort of Viols with lutenist, Jamie Akers, paying tribute to the lute playing composer, Dowland.

Having taken the children to school and walked the dog, Stile Antico’s Rebecca Hickey takes the call asking her to attend the rehearsal at St Mary’s by mid- afternoon. Professional musicians and singers are pretty tough; fortunately, with her background in linguistics York University, her involvement with York’s early music traditions and a decade in music publishing, Rebecca is a quick learner. What’s more, she will be aware of the excellent acoustics, thanks to Stile Antico’s frequent appearances, but probably not the extreme cold of a late January night!

Compositions by the 16th century master, John Dowland, interspersed with works by 16th century colleagues, Robert Jones and Anthony Holborne, plus works by William Lawes and John Wilbye and an instantly recognisable encore by Orlando Gibbons – The Silver Swan - completed a rescued evening. Full marks must go to Rebecca Hickey for her efforts. Attempting to replace Dame Emma at very, very short notice is an impossible task.

One very pleasing surprise was a performance by students playing in the Warwickshire County Viols group, affectionately known as “Gutted”. With Owain Davies-McCrorne singing in support, their infectious enthusiasm for their instruments, and the coaching received from members of Chelys Consort, was a highlight for them and many members of the audience keen to see the young become increasingly involved in classical music delivery.

The programme warned its readers of an indulgence in the glorious melancholy of Dowland; to a very great extent this was achieved with the exception of Paduana and Volta, given a makeover by Thomas Simpson – far and away the liveliest work of the night.

* The concert took place on Tuesday January 24. Visit leamingtonmusic.org for details of future concerts organised by Leamington Music.