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"Breathtaking and Wonderful"

Without Borders in support of charity Migrant Help

By Robin Gregory, Friday March 1, 2019 - Eastbourne Herald


The main auditorium at the Birley Centre was near capacity on the evening on Saturday February 23. Word had apparently got round that something special was on its way, and something special it certainly turned out to be. As one entered one observed a large screen beyond seats presumably waiting for the New Network Singers. The concert grand piano was ready to go, and in front were music stands and chairs ready for the Modulus String Quartet. Oddly there was a pile of needlework items as well, and the lighting was doing far more than merely illuminate.

The printed programme was a model of what one hopes for; a dozen or so well laid-out pages giving not only information about the performers and composers, but also the texts of every song to be performed. Many years ago I edited the magazine of the International Poetry Society, and I'd have been delighted to publish the lyrics by Eric Cockrell, Dala al Mrchid (a Syrian refugee), or Warsan Shire.

The concert was presented by Composers Network which is based in Eastbourne and made up of Melody Woodham, Tim Laverack and Clive Whitburn. The charity Migrant Help benefited from the takings - indeed, the entire enterprise made one think more deeply about the plight of so many displaced people seeking a home somewhere.

Fifteen items were performed, and one was left in no doubt that both performers and composers were of the highest order. The four members of the Modulus Quartet (Jonathan Truscott, Craig Stratton, Mircea Belei and Nick Allen) were each clearly great soloists. Together they blended into a group which could switch seamlessly from fierce attack to melting delicacy. And the 15 compositions (by Clive Whitburn, Jessica Curry, Eliot Lloyd, Tim Laverack, Veera Lummi, Terry Davies, Melody Woodham and Ash Madni) proved that 'modern music' need not be problematic for the listener. With Tim Laverack in charge of both piano and electronics, every facet of this wonderful evening was clearly in good hands. Oh, and the lady continued her symbolic needlework.

Visual images were brilliantly chosen to complement the music. Especially moving was Requiem For A Boy On A Beach, written by Tim Laverack, where the choir and quartet gave musical counterpoint to a seashore where on-screen a small child is lying, dead but undamaged.

We were left with hope in our hearts as Melody Woodham conducted the premiere of her As One to a video including terrifying scenes of destroyed cities, which ultimately gave way to smiling face after smiling face. The aim of the film was to show people of all walks of life from many cultures, alluding to the fact that we are all humans, as one. Hope triumphed.

If you missed this concert keep an eye open for anything else organised as this one was. Even the eagerly anticipated return of the full London Philharmonic Orchestra to Eastbourne in March could not be more moving than this.
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