Jamie Harris (year 3) describes Music’s weird and wonderful day of folk music performance at Turner Sims in honour of Benjamin Britten:
Last Saturday many of the pianists and singers from the University of Southampton collaborated on a project to perform the complete folk song arrangements by Benjamin Britten. The project was led by broadcaster and head of keyboard studies David Owen Norris. In a year where the UK has gone Britten-mad on the centenary of the composer’s birth, it was a fantastic opportunity for us to contribute towards the University’s celebrations, and on a personal level, it gave me the chance to gain an insight into a composer whom I’ve not had the pleasure of performing prior to this event.
After all the folksongs were assigned to the pianists and singers, we were left to our own devices to prepare and rehearse the pieces to the best of our ability. As pianists, we don’t always have a huge amount of contact time with other musicians, often hiding away alone in a practice room. It was a great opportunity for all the pianists to improve our ability to accompany a singer, as well as meeting some of them too! The day itself consisted of an informal morning of performing the (almost) complete collection of the Britten folksong arrangements, a morning that showcased what talented musicians we have at the university! This was followed by a well-earned lunch break, with music provided by the Fo’c’sle Folk club, a Southampton based folk group. They would later join us in the main folk concert in the Turner Sims, combining selected Britten settings performed by myself and other students, alongside traditional versions of the songs performed by members of the Fo’c’sle group. In doing so, we gained an insight into the narrative and its importance to the folk song tradition, something that Benjamin Britten relaised and was careful to preserve and accentuate in his arrangements.
In a day that combined beards and Benjamin Britten, it was a fitting way not only to celebrate the tradition of British music that was so important to the composer; but also a way for us to make our contribution to the centenary celebrations taking place all over the country. Congratulations to all that took part, and thanks to David Owen Norris for organising the event.