Review – An Evening With Samling Academy – July 20th

The members of the Academy were in Barnard Castle for a whole week, which meant that anyone in the Witham was likely to hear someone rehearsing or being coached. To quote: ‘Samling Academy, now in its seventh year, is for young people growing up in the North East or (who) have come here to study….It offers young musicians aged 14 to pre- conservatoire….a coaching programme in voice, languages, acting, movement and performance opportunities’. Their performance on Friday evening was a delight.

The double bill was ‘Come Ye Sons of Art’ by Henry Purcell, and ‘Venus and Adonis’ by John Blow, both musicians well known at the time, and both composing for the Court. The Restoration period produced a very graceful form of music which lent itself particularly well to this group, who had been taught how to move in stately C17th dance forms such as the Courante, the Gigue and the Sarabande which they did with immense elegance and style.

The singing was beautiful, and different members of the group were given solos in the two productions – one or two stood out, particularly the two Counter Tenors for whom Restoration music offers a wealth of opportunities, but all were confident, dramatic and supremely competent. The costumes were superb – it is impossible to wear clothes of that period without being poised and elegant!

They were accompanied beautifully by the Dunedin Consort – also in costume – a group of nine professional musicians playing instruments of the period not often seen or heard – such as the Theorbo, an elongated type of Lute, and the Violone and Bass Violin – of the violin family but unlike their modern counterparts. They were directed from the Harpsichord by John Butt.

It was a wonderful evening, showcasing individual skills in a performance which demanded a welding of different personalities within the space of the week, to deliver a performance of delights for all the senses. The Academy well deserves its reputation for developing the professionals of the future.

Julia Wright