An exquisite hour of related Shakespearean songs and speeches from a real find on the Fringe.
It’s a select gathering that have assembled in the tranquil surroundings of St Cuthbert’s Church on Lothian Road for this morning’s performance from In Voice And Verse, the very talented trio that is Heather Chamberlain (piano), Lance Pierson (actor) and Belinda Yates (soprano).
Early music plays as the audience drifts in, with a selection of “decouplets” by Roy Dean being projected onto a screen for our amusement. “Fear no more the heat of the English sun. The summer has begun” was the one that caught my eye. Has anyone looked outside this past week? Sun? Shouldn’t that be replaced with a couplet from Flanders and Swann’s “A Song of the Weather”, “August cold and damp and wet, brings more rain than any yet”?
No matter, as we had an hour of music and words to warm the heart and cheer the soul with the trio exploring Shakespearean themes including the seasons, happy and bitter love, death and the healing power of music. Lance Pierson’s rich, bass voice brings each of the selected texts to life, no more so than when he plays Falstaff in Merry Wives, hiding in the woods anticipating the arrival of both his lovers as the Windsor bell strikes twelve – we could almost have been there in the dark forest with him. He rolls words in his mouth so exquisitely and is never afraid of silence, leaving text hanging in the air, letting us enjoy the richness of the language without feeling rushed. Perfect.
Belinda Yates has a voice to die for. From first note to last, she pulls every drop of emotion and meaning from each of the songs she renders. So much of singing should be about telling a story and she does this with consummate skill. I particularly liked “It Was A Lover And His Lass”, “Where The Bee Sucks” and “Under The Greenwood Tree” but each of her renditions was superbly executed - vocal control and expression of the highest order.
And, sitting quietly in the background, was Heather Chamberlain, providing piano accompaniment to song and speech as well as well as a selection of instrumental pieces from the Shakespearean stable.
Donning costumes of the period ensured that the cast enhanced the delivery of both music and words. And the idea of running a slide projector showing the words and some very helpful explanations of the more obscure parts of Shakespearean language was a masterstroke. Whilst never detracting from the mellifluous tones of either Belinda Yates or Lance Pierson, this little trick ensured that the audience was able to draw every nuance from music and readings.
The provision of a detailed programme was the cherry on the icing on the cake of this magical, little gem of a show – the sort you search the Fringe for each year and are so delighted to find. A must see for Shakespeare and Early Music fans alike.
Reviewed by Tim Wilcock 12 August 2014
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