REVIEW: Funtington Music Group's Christmas Concert

Funtington Music Group's Christmas Concert at the University of Chichester  was in complete contrast to previous years.

Laura Ritchie
Laura Ritchie

For a start it was a free extra concert in the annual membership programme, but with the expectation that it would be a fund-raising event for the University’s Music Department’s John Speir Musical Instrument Library. So what better musicians to perform than the Head of Music at the University, Ben Hall, and Laura Ritchie, Professor of Learning and Teaching, also from the University.

Their first piece was Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata for Piano [Ben Hall] and Cello [Laura Ritchie]. This is one of the most celebrated of Schubert’s later life cello compositions, and both musicians enraptured the audience in a brilliant aural experience of lyricism and tranquillity. In their rendition of the Finale the duo most effectively captured the kaleidoscopic range of emotions that this piece demanded.

Ben Hall then played, as a solo on the Chapel organ, two linked pieces, one by Maurice Durufle, followed by Litanies from Trois Pieces by French composer Jehan Alain, who was so tragically killed by the Nazis when he was only 29. Ben Hall had set up cameras which showed both the organ keyboard and the pedals, which proved to be a welcome addition for the audience who were able more easily to appreciate the intricacies and skills required of the organist.

The concert concluded with a return to the piano and cello. After playing works by Borowski and Bruch, the duo concluded their programme by playing Hungarian Rhapsody by David Popper, a piece that challenges any musician. Laura Ritchie played this with a warmth of tone, and agile finger work, which aptly demonstrated her talent. The sympathetic piano accompaniment, provided by Ben Hall, matched her in both skill and brilliance throughout the piece.

David Tinsley, Chairman of the Funtington Music Group, thanked the two musicians, saying, “It is such a privilege for FMG to have Ben Hall as President and Laura Ritchie as our University Link, both sitting on our Committee and willing to give up their time for free to give us this fabulous concert. We are very privileged.”

Finally, when the donations for the Musical Instrument Library had been added up, David Tinsley was able to confirm that, with Gift Aid, enough had been raised on the night to purchase a viola to complete the set of instruments for a string quartet. This announcement resulted in huge applause from the audience, who had already given such an enthusiastic reception to the two musicians.

Further details of the Funtington Music Group can be obtained from the Membership Secretary, Mrs Elizabeth Brooks, on 01243 378900.

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Chris Linford