Lesley Garrett charms a sell out crowd

Lesley Garrett, Bury St Edmunds Festival, St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Tuesday May 18

The lengthy queues outside the Cathedral entrance as I drove past looking for a parking space signalled that this would be a popular concert, but it was only when I got inside that I saw that every single seat was full – another triumph for Festival Director Nick Wells who seems to have put together a winning programme this year, but also a reflection of the extremely powerful appeal of a singer who has been a professional musician for 30 years.

The term ‘national treasure’ could have been coined for Lesley Garrett – and this concert confirmed that she is still at the top of her game. Her smiling entrance to the stage was instantly captivating, and she held the audience throughout a pleasant and wide-ranging programme which covered many styles.

Enhanced by the superb baritone Nicholas Folwell and faultless accompanist Andrew West the concert began with classical music and then went on after the interval to cover a selection of musicals.

Lively and interesting introductions and explanations made the programme more accessible, and in the operatic extracts and numbers from the shows both singers added engaging characterisation and dramatic effect .

First half highlights for me included an obscure Purcell duet – ‘My dearest , my fairest’ which, with its gentle and deceptively simple style and plangent melodies captured a mood beautifully, and the Frank Bridge song ‘When you are old and gray’ in which Garrett brought out every nuance in a highly expressive performance.

The second half, ranging from Gershwin and Coward to Richard Rogers, was consistently entertaining – and the whole concert shone with musical excellence, superb communication, and that elusive quality – charm.

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Wynn Rees

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