Four professional singers from Germany will fill St Thomas's church with the glorious sound of romantic church music. Their programme includes works by Mozart, Fauré, Franck, Elgar and Britten, together with a selection of traditional spirituals arranged for four voices. The ensemble comes from Soest, a small cathedral city in Westfalia – famed for its medieval churches, its imposing half-timbered houses, and its historic pubs. Their name “SONGS” is short for “SOest's New Guild of Singers”.
The group have been singing together for 12 years. Jana Stehr has made a name across Europe with her vibrant soprano voice – she has been a soloist with the Prague opera, and she is a regular singer in the Cologne Philharmonie. Her colleagues Maren Tröndle (mezzo-soprano) and Frank Rinsche (tenor) are both known in Westfalia as interpreters of church music. The baritone Peter Griffith is actually British (as one might guess from his name), but he has been living in Germany for more than 30 years. He began his career as an actor, and now runs a flourishing theatre company as well as accepting singing engagements. Peter's humorously informative introductions to the songs are an integral part of “heavenly sounds”. The fifth member of “SONGS” is the pianist Bettina Casdorff, who holds the ensemble together, and whose energy and musicality more than make up for her diminutive size! Bettina is a highly successful chamber musician and accompanist, and gives concerts all over Germany with her trio “Tityre”. She also frequently plays piano duets with her husband, who was a professional musician before he became a clergyman.
The group's repertoire is wide, extending from classical part-songs to scenes from Mozart operas, and from Viennese operetta to Gershwin musicals. For their “Heavenly Sounds” programme in May, they have chosen a rich selection of English, French and German religious music from the romantic era, including Fauré's exquisite “Cantique de Racine” and Elgar's magnificent “Ave Verum”. These are followed by a sequence of spirituals both lively and emotional, ranging from old favourites like “Deep River” to less familiar works like “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”. All four singers are accustomed to performing as soloists, and the programme includes not only works for four voices, but also solos, duets and trios.
The concert is part of a Whitsun tour of churches in southern England. Four of the musicians will be making their first visit to Salisbury. The fifth (Peter) lived in Kent and Somerset before
moving to Germany, and is familiar with both St Thomas's church and Salisbury cathedral – Salisbury is one of his favourite English cathedral cities, and he is particularly looking forward to reacquainting himself with its fine buildings and its homely atmosphere.
Tickets cost £10.00 and are available at the door.