Made in Italy – From Rome to Venice

Many performance projects at Southampton are completely student-led, from the initial idea to final realisation. Natalie Davies (year 3) tells us about the final extravaganza of our Italian weekend, featuring rare Roman cantatas matched up with Vivaldi favourites:

Vivaldi’s Gloria at St Michael’s Bugle Street

Having had just over two weeks to rehearse the Vivaldi Gloria with the choir, it was not without trepidation that we came together with the orchestra on Sunday for our last rehearsal before the evening’s concert. To our relief the rehearsal went well, which was a testimony to Jamie Harris’ (my friend and fellow third-year student) hard work and newly-discovered skills in music directorship. Having been asked by Jamie to sing the duet ‘Laudamus te’ with my partner-in-song Leila Zanette – we formed our duet ensemble ‘Bel Canto’ at the start of the last academic year- we were also given the chance to rehearse with the full chamber ensemble. Singing with such a sensitive and cohesive ensemble was a real pleasure and, despite a few hiccoughs on our part, Leila and I relished this rare opportunity to sing with a chamber orchestra.

Jamie Harris at the harpsichord

We had also been asked by lute player and early music specialist Elizabeth Kenny to sing two duets in the concert by Luigi Rossi (1597/8- 1653) and Domenico Mazzocchi (1592- 1665): ‘Occhi Belli’ and ‘Miserere omnium Domine’. Although learning these pieces was a challenge, being able to perform with such fantastic musicians as Elizabeth Kenny and Erin Headley, who accompanied us in the concert on the theorbo and lirone (a cello-like bowed instrument which can have up to 20 strings), was a fantastic opportunity that we’d be lucky to re-live! Our coaching session with Erin the previous week was also invaluable. Being both still relatively inexperienced in the field of early music performance and as the scores from that period rarely give many performance directions, it was so useful having an early music specialist at hand to walk us through tempi, phrasing and pronunciation.

Leila Zanette
Leila Zanette

The concert itself- which included well-executed excerpts from Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ by Ben Jennings and his ensemble – was a well-rounded success. Leila and I gulped at one another as our names were called but our nerves dropped away as we began to sing; it’s hard not to enjoy oneself when being accompanied by such experienced players and performing in such a fantastic (and forgiving!) acoustic as that of St. Michael’s. Above all, Jamie Harris did an excellent job in directing the Vivaldi ‘Gloria’ from the harpsichord. The choir and the orchestra sang and played very sensitively and I know that everybody involved was proud to have been part of such a successful student-run concert. I certainly enjoyed the experience and am already looking forward to Leila’s and my next performance and to working again with Jamie and crew!

Ben Jennings


Elizabeth Kenny
Elizabeth Kenny