Review of Horsham Music Circle’s 82nd Season Event at St Mary’s on the 28th September 2023

SHEKU KANNEH-MASON & PLINIO FERNANDES opened the Horsham Music Circle’s 82nd Season and it was a ‘Stunning Musical Partnership! ‘

‘Here we were, hundreds of us, packed like sardines into St Mary’s Church, transported back to the Last Night of the Proms, with the ethereally beautiful melody of Villa-Lobos’s fifth ‘Bachianas Brasilieras’ ringing in our ears, and on stage none other than super-cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason! But instead of the cellists of the BBC Symphony Orchestra beside him, we had equally superb guitarist Plínio Fernandes providing all the harmonies; and instead of the glorious soprano vocalisation of Lise Davidsen, we had the equally glorious cello vocalisation of Sheku. What a start to the programme!

The HMC, supported by a generous anonymous donation, presented this star-studded concert in association with the Loiyangalani Trust – which was given a succinct and eloquent introduction after the interval – and St Mary’s South Aisle Project, which aims to install new low-carbon heating and improve access for all. The fact that it sold out well before the concert date is a testament to all concerned, and especially to the tireless Jill Elsworthy, who introduced the performers with her customary warmth.

Throughout the programme of Finnis, Gnattali, Brouwer, Arcaro and Piazzolla, Sheku and Plinio switched seamlessly from melody to accompaniment, ‘borrowing’ techniques at times, and obviously enjoying every moment, whether luxuriating in the plangent slower themes, or displaying their incredible virtuosity in the livelier sections.

Generous applause, a gentle encore of ‘Scarborough Fair’, and the end of a most enjoyable evening featuring two quite exceptional young musicians, although many of the audience missed the expected inclusion of works by Bach, which would have added an extra dimension to the programme. Never mind – it was another huge coup for the HMC – and their supporters!’

Review by Jane Thomas (edited)