REVIEWS: Arundel Festival

Reviews by Marilyn Dennis


Despite the terrible Bank Holiday Monday weather, there was a palpable sense of excitement and celebration surrounding Arundel Festival’s final concert, given by the acclaimed Hanover Band.

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St Nicholas’s Church was almost full, with Father David and the audience giving the Band a rousing welcome. The occasion was graced by two special ladies who between them were responsible for setting up the band in London in 1980 – Founding Director Monica Huggett and on-going Artistic Director and Founder Caroline Brown. Luckily for us, the band is now resident in Arundel, thanks largely to the work of Daniel Hodson.

Hanover Band is renowned for its dedication to Baroque music, especially in its use of period instruments.This year they have moved forward to the Classical greats – Haydn, Mozart and Schubert. Tonight’s programme consisted of three lesser-known works by the first two.

Mozart’s Serenata Notturna for strings and timpani was composed in 1776, probably for the Carnival season. The timpanist Scott Bywater had a field day, sandwiched between the two groups of strings, making the work sound very festive and bucolic!

Haydn’s Sinfonia Concertante for violin, cello, oboe and bassoon was accompanied by the full band, with soloists Monica Huggett, Emily Robinson, Joel Raymond and Nathaniel Harrison, all both impressive and expressive in their various roles. The bassoon rarely gets many solos so it was great that Nathaniel had his chance to shine. The opening to the slow movement was especially lovely, with the outer two movements fully demonstrating the band’s commitment to rhythmic vitality.

After the interval, we were treated to Haydn’s “Miracle” Symphony, no 96. It is not clear exactly what the miracle was, but suffice it to say that it is miraculous that he wrote 104 wonderful symphonies, greatly inspiring the younger Mozart. Similarly, his works are full of “Surprises” and this one was no exception. The energetic final movement brought the whole concert to a triumphant close.

A bouquet was presented to Monica Huggett who not only led the whole band as principal violinist, but also simultaneously took the role of conductor with great aplomb!

Marilyn Dennis


It is always a joy to visit a church to find there is organ music playing.

Even better when there is a concert planned, given by an expert organist such as Fiona Brown.

Her varied recital included music by C19 & C20 French and German composers, plus one by Englishman Francis Jackson, now at the ripe old age of 97!

All the listed composers lived to a great age. Must be something to do with the King of Instruments inspiring and demanding exceptional mental, emotional and physical fitness...

This also extended to the large audience battling the unseasonal driving rain and the steep damp climb to Arundel Cathedral. All were rewarded by today’s artiste and her wide choice of music, both familiar and less so..

For me, the highlight of the whole recital was Fiona’s inclusion of two demanding works by Olivier Messiaen (1908 – 1992) from his great oeuvre La Nativite du Seigneur, ideally suited to the Cathedral’s magnificent organ and acoustics. In her erudite introduction she explained that Messiaen had requested specific additions to be made to the French organ for which it was composed.

The first piece, Les Mages, describes the long journey made by the Wise Men across the desert, following the Star, to Bethlehem. There was a sense of other-worldliness created by ethereal harmonies and timeless sonorities which was totally captivating. In turn the second piece, Dieu Parmi Nous, (God with us) contrasted majestic divine drama with gently soothing strains. Fiona was completely in her element.

Other included works were by Karg-Elert, Vierne, Franck, and a jolly novelty by Pietro Yon

No organ recital would be complete without the Master, J.S Bach (1685 – 1750), and Fiona wisely treated us to one of his great key works, the Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Another favourite was the celebrated Toccata by Charles-Marie Widor (1844 – 1937) with which her recital ended in a blaze of glory.

Grateful thanks are due to promoters Nicholas and Sarah Plumley. For other events please see

Marilyn Dennis


We were very privileged to attend two of the concerts given by The Hanover Band, one of the foremost bands of its type and situated right here on our doorstep!

Sunday’s Chamber Concert, by definition, was given by just a select few of its membership.

As solo clarinettist and compere Colin Lawson observed, this was just as well, the concert taking place in the tiny village church of St. Leonard’s, South Stoke, just a couple of miles down narrow winding roads away from Arundel.

I was very lucky to hear two of my most favourite works: Mozart’s intimate Oboe Quartet (soloist Joel Raymond) and Schubert’s larger-scale Octet, both beautifully and sensitively performed surrounded by candlelight.

Both pieces were composed with a particular player in mind – the great oboist Friedrich Ramm, whom Mozart met in Mannheim in 1777 and the clarinettist Count Ferdinand Troyer, who commissioned Schubert to write a companion piece to Beethoven’s Septet in 1824. I imagine both dedicatees were thrilled with the results, especially if they were played as expertly as today!

Both woodwind instruments were exact copies of the originals, a great deal harder to play than their modern counterparts, having little metalwork to aid rapid fingerwork. Similarly, the natural horn, played by Pip Eastop, was even less helpful, with no valves – just strong facial muscles and a good pair of ears! They were expertly supported by Nathaniel Harrison (bassoon) and string players Madeleine Easton, Kelly McCusker (violins), Daniel Shilladay (viola), Emily Robinson (cello) and Dawn Baker (double bass)

What makes chamber music so fascinating to observe is the interaction between players of this calibre – their body language intimating a melody being tossed back and forth, the sheer joy as playing as a group of friends, the decoration or support taken in turn by some instruments while others hold the main melody, the clarity of timbre, the unity of their interpretation – the list is endless!

A thoroughly absorbing concert enjoyed by all present

Marilyn Dennis