Samling Academy – Sage Gateshead – 23-10-16


A Samling concert is always an ‘event’.They always manage to bring such a sense of occasion to their performances and a professional, well-managed gloss to proceedings that it’s easy to forget that behind the glittery dresses and smart suits of the young performers these are indeed teenagers and young adults making their first steps into the world of professional performance. That said, as I walked out of the hall at the end of the Samling Academy concert on Sunday evening, humming the catchy final encore of Chilcott’s arrangement of ‘The Gift to be Simple’ to myself, I encountered a horde of buzzing young performers, all bouncing full of adrenaline, and really this was one of the sweetest moments of the evening, to see the joy on their faces. As one of them was quoted in the programme: “Singing is addictive for me!”

Formed from a mixture of solo and group performances accompanied and led by the pianists/Samling Artists Jâms Coleman, Somi Kim, Ian Tindale and Jonathan Ware, the evening kicked off with a lightly staged ensemble performance of ‘You Spotted Snakes’ by Mendelssohn, but greater delights were to come. Ana Fernandez Guerra absolutely stole the show with the next Mozart aria, ‘Vado, ma dove?’ Her voice has developed wonderfully in the last year (since I last saw her with Samling) and she controlled it beautifully.

Samling Artist Somi Kim led a successful ensemble performance of Vaughan Williams’ ‘Full Fathom Five’ – worthy of mention for the trickiness of this setting of words from The Tempest. And without even noticing the time we were nearly at the interval, when Hannah Cox (pictured) and Lewis Cullen entered for Monteverdi’s ‘Pur ti miro’ and just blew me away. The audience sat, bound by their spell, as the two young singers, entering from either side of the hall, progressed slowly towards each other revelling in Monteverdi’s suspensions and glorious harmonies. We had already been treated to Purcell’s ‘Sweeter Than Roses’ performed by counter tenor Cullen, which was so atmospheric and magical, and the pairing of his voice with the sweetness and clarity of Hannah Cox’s was intense.

The second half saw some great performances from more Samling Academy singers, including Patrick Owston, Rachel Bird and a great comic turn by Anna Little to name but a few. But I was mainly waiting to hear Hannah Cox’s solo, the emotional ‘Dreamland’ by Vaughan Williams. She truly swept us away and although completely professional in her manner, I think I could detect a crack in her voice at one point betraying the pure emotionality of the performance. Luckily, after this spirits were lifted by some more comedic items: ‘The Gendarmes’ Duet’ by Offenbach performed by Ben Laxton and Nicholas Mackay was particularly well choreographed and timed by the two lads who brought a cheer. Equally, I feel pretty by Bernstein (with Ana Fernandez Guerra as Maria) was presented very stylishly, and to finish the entire ensemble returned to perform Chilcott’s a capella arrangement of ‘The Gift to be Simple’ (with encore). But my ear was still with Vaughan Williams’ Dreamland…

Katie Lodge

Katie Lodge

I'm 28 and live in Gateshead.

A few years back I started doing something I never thought I could - writing about classical music. Encouraged by the lovely team at NE:MM I've spent the time since revelling in live performances at the Sage, as well as Corbridge and Durham, and extolling the wonderful virtues of CDs I could not afford to buy. Through NE:MM I've even been introduced to opera, my once hated nemesis!

In the rest of my not-so-spare time, I play the violin locally in the New Tyneside Orchestra and Orchestra North East.

The best bit about all of this? Reading what all the other contributors write about their specialist genre. I learn so much!
Katie Lodge

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