Cantabile at the National Liberal Club

Tuesday 10 September, 6:45pm
National Liberal Club, Whitehall Place, SW1A 2HE

We are delighted to have arranged a concert at this special venue, conveniently near Charing Cross station for those travelling from Tunbridge Wells, featuring the wonderful ensemble, Cantabile - The London Quartet.

Their sparkling programme runs for one hour from 6:45pm, allowing time for dinner after the show, and the bar will be open beforehand from 6pm.

Tickets are £20 from www.ticketsource.co.uk/mkctw

Further information:
The National Liberal Club 
Cantabile - The London Quartet


Serenade to Music

Saturday 8 June, 7:30pm
Tickets £15 on the door, or £12.50 in advance. Under-18s free.
Booking information

A feast of English songs with Ellen Smith (soprano) and Paul Clark (piano), and the famous 'Serenade to Music' by Vaughan-Williams, celebrating the Queen's official Birthday.

Ellen Smith and Paul Clark present a sequence of songs by Purcell, Quilter, Gurney, Ireland, Warlock and others, followed by the 'Serenade to Music', a work that moved Rachmaninov to tears at its première.

Composed for 16 solo voices and orchestra, this smaller-scale performance will feature 12 soloists and piano quintet. The players are: Marie-France Ouellet and Jane Gomm (violins), Martin Bloor (viola) and Ruth Beedham (cello), with members of the King Charles Singers and directed by Rupert Preston Bell.

Ellen Smith was a postgraduate Early Music MMus student at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, having studied classics at University College London. She is in demand as both singer and harpist at many locations throughout London and Southern England, for concerts and private functions, particularly wedding ceremonies and receptions.

"Come ho! and wake Diana with a hymn; With sweetest touches pierce your mistress' ear, And draw her home with music."

 Photo: Cantley Marsh by Pamela Abbott


Concert dates in 2019

Here's what we are looking forward to in 2019 in Music at King Charles. Tickets for all events will be available at https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/mkctw.

Friday 26 April, 7:30pm
Trio Lavolta
Distinguished players Joyce Fraser (violin), Felix Buser (cello) and Simon Marlow (piano) present music by Mozart, Part, Martinu and Dvorak.

Saturday 8 June, 7:30pm
Serenade to Music
A feast of English song with Ellen Smith (soprano) and Paul Clark (piano), as well as Vaughan-Williams' famous 'Serenade to Music', performed by a specially convened group of solo singers accompanied by piano quintet.

Saturday 21 September, 7:30pm
Eboracum Baroque
This exciting baroque ensemble led by Chris Parsons open the Tunbridge Wells International Music Festival with a programme including Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons'.

Saturday 19 October, 7:30pm
Joseph Wolfe and Anthony Zerpa-Falcon, violin and piano recital, programme to be announced

Saturday 9 November, 7:30pm
Pentagon String Ensemble, programme to be announced

Saturday 7 December, 7:00pm
Bach: Christmas Oratorio
Steven Devine returns to King Charles with the singers and players from last year's unforgettable performance of 'Messiah'.

We look forward to welcoming old friends and new supporters of our series - chamber music of the highest quality at Tunbridge Wells' most historic venue.

Please also look out for concerts by CODA, the excellent chamber music series based at Rose Hill School: www.codetw.co.uk. 


Trio Lavolta 26 April

Friday 26 April, 7:30pm

Joyce Fraser (violin)
Felix Buser (cello)
Simon Marlow (piano)

W A Mozart (1756 - 1791) Trio in G major (KV 564)
Arvo Pärt (1935 - ) Mozart - Adagio
Bohuslav Martinu (1890 - 1959) Trio in D-minor
Anton Dvorak (1841 - 1904) Trio in B flat major, opus 21

Tickets £12.50 (under-18s free)
Booking information

Trio Lavolta was formed in 1995 and made its debut at Blackheath Concert Halls with a programme that included a new work commissioned for the occasion. Since then the trio has given recitals at many of the City of London churches and at music clubs throughout the country. The trio aims to offer innovative programmes of lesser known and contemporary works alongside the standard repertoire.

The trio has also developed a series of programmes of words and music in collaboration with actors, Louise Jameson and David Warwick. The first of these, ‘A private view of Christina Rossetti’; was performed at Trinity Arts Centre in Tunbridge Wells. It included specially commissioned music for the poem ‘Goblin Market’. Other programmes in this series exploring the juxtaposition of words and music are ‘The Seven Ages of Man’ based on the famous speech from Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’; ‘Lest We Forget’; ‘A Christmas Carousal’, performed at Finchcocks and ‘Victorian Variety’, performed as part of the Richard Burnett Heritage Collection’s concert series.

Sadly, the founder pianist of the trio, Sally Mays, passed away in April 2018. Felix and Joyce are grateful to Simon Marlow for agreeing to join the trio.

Future plans include a ‘Mr and Mrs Schumann’ programme, which will be performed for the Richard Burnett Heritage Collection in Tunbridge Wells on October 20 2019 to commemorate the 200 th anniversary of Clara Schumann’s birth.


Concert at the National Liberal Club

Monday 18 February, 6:45pm
Michael Collins (clarinet) and Michael McHale (piano)

We've arranged a recital in London for followers of concerts at King Charles. It's close to Charing Cross station, at the historic National Liberal Club, 1 Whitehall Place, SW1A 2HE.

Reinecke Introduction & Allegro appassionato; Brahms Sonata in F minor op.120 no.1; Debussy Première rapsodie;  Poulenc Sonata

There's a cash bar from 6:15pm, and the recital will be over by 8pm. Limited number of tickets remaining. Booking information.


Past performers 2006-2018

We have had an amazing year in 2018, including the privilege of a recital by Gerald Finley and an incredible performance of Handel's Messiah. Over the last 12 years we've welcomed a host of wonderful performers, and, for the record, here they all are:

Adrian Bradbury | Adriano Graziani | Aiso Quartet | Alessandra Testai | Alex Metcalfe | Amanda Pitt | Ann Beilby | Anthony Zerpa-Falcon | Archaeus String Quartet | Archduke Trio | Barbirolli Quartet | Callum Smart | Cambridge Taverner Choir | Cantabile | Cellists of the RPO | Charles Wiffen | Chelys Viol Ensemble | Chris Hatt | Christopher Sayles | Clio Gould | Daniel Auchinloss | David Chatterton | David Campbell | Daniel Edgar | Daniel Tong | David Owen-Norris | David Maw | David Owen Norris | Decimus Consort | Diane Moore | Dulcinea Quartet | Eleanor Alberga | Ellen Smith | English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble | Felicity Lott | Follia | Frances Yonge | Gary Branch | Gerald Finley | Giles Davies | Gilfillan family | Greg Tassell | Guy Johnstone | Hugh Webb | Ibrahim Aziz | Jamie McVinnie | Jane Gomm | Jennifer Snapes | Jong-Gyung Park | Julius Drake | Karen Jones | Karina Lucas | Kate Andrews | Kate Semmens | Katharine Johns | Katie Stillman | Kokoschka Trio | Konevets Quartet | Ken Aiso | King Charles Singers | Lianna Jeffrey | Liz Partridge | London Bridge Ensemble | Marcus Andrews | Margaret Faultless | Marie-Noelle Kendall | Martin Fogel | Masahiro Yamaguchi | Matchbox Opera | Merry Opera | Michael Bacon | Michael Collins | Michael Grant | Michael McHale | Miriam Cox | Nigel Clayton | Oliver Davies | Owen Rees | Paul Clark | Paul Jeffrey | Paul Guinery | Pentagon Ensemble | Peter Arnold | Peter Barker | Rachel Godsill | Rachel Stroud | Raphael Wallfisch | Richard Egarr | Richard Uttley | Robert Gibbs | Robin Jeffrey | Roselyne Martel-Bonnal | Rose Trio | Royal Tunbridge Wells Male Voice Choir | Ruth Beedham | St Andrews University Madrigal Group | Sam Haywood | Sara Lois Cunningham | Sarah Stuart-Pennink | Sasha Grynyuk | Schubert Ensemble | Simon Lane | Sophia Lisovskaya | Steve Pierce | Steven Devine | Temenos Chamber Choir | Teresa Caudle | Tim Gill | Tim Lines | Tom Bowes | Tom Foster | Tom Lilburn | Trajecti Voices | Trevor Eliot Bowes | Twilight Ensemble | Unexpected Opera | William Bass | William Summers | Yeo Yat Soon | Yukiko Shinohara


Handel in Tunbridge Wells

The earliest reference to Handel visiting Tunbridge Wells appears in his letter to Charles Jennens in July 1735. Jennens had sent a libretto (probably Saul) to Handel in London, and Handel wrote: “I am just going to Tunbridge, … I shall have more leisure time there to read it with all the Attention it deserves”.

It is likely that at this time Handel was visiting the town more for its social scene and entertainments than for medical reasons, this also being the year when Beau Nash took over as Master of Ceremonies. According to Samuel Derrick (Nash’s successor) “the best musical performers of the age, often come down hither from London, and form elegant concerts, for which they are generally well paid”. Derrick was less complimentary about the fiddlers “scraping away” in the Music Gallery on the Pantiles during the hours of water-drinking – “I cannot say they yield very delightful strains.”

Nash’s Rules and Regulations recommended, among rules for dancing, card-playing and donating to the water-dippers, that visitors should make voluntary contributions to pay for the minister at King Charles the Martyr; “It is hoped he may rely with confidence for the reward of his labours, on the benevolence of those who reap the benefit of them”. Handel evidently followed this advice as his name appears in the subscription list for the Church of King Charles the Martyr in 1755.

Charles Burney wrote in 1785 that during the last years of his life, Handel constantly attended public prayers, twice a day, winter and summer, both in London and Tunbridge Wells. William Coxe reported that that during his visit in 1755 Handel had a quarrel with John Christopher Smith senior (Handel’s first copyist in London who he summoned from Germany in 1712). Smith left Handel “in an abrupt manner, which so enraged him, that he declared he would never see him again”, though Handel stayed friends with his son who acted his secretary and amanuensis and conducted the performances of his late oratorios.

The last references to Handel visiting Tunbridge Wells are in August 1758, when he is mentioned as being with William Morrell, librettist of Judas Maccabeus and other late oratorios. On this occasion Handel underwent couching (a form of cataract treatment) at the hands of John “Chevalier” Taylor, a notorious travelling oculist. (Taylor had in 1750 performed a botched operation on JS Bach in Leipzig, leaving Bach continuously ill for six months afterwards). Taylor celebrated the operation in his ode “On the Recovery of the Sight of the Celebrated Mr Handel, by the Chevalier Taylor”. One of the opening verses reads: “Great Father of Music and every Science / In all our Distresses, on thee our reliance; / Know then, in yon villa, from pleasures confin’d, / Lies our favourite, Handel, afflicted and blind.” The poetry does not improve, and neither did Handel’s eyesight. Later in his diaries Taylor admitted that “upon drawing the curtain” (i.e. removing the supposed cataract) the back of the eye was found to be “defective, from a paralytic disorder”.

The 1985 television film “God Rot Tunbridge Wells!”, written by John Osborne, portrays Handel’s riposte to an appalling performance of Messiah by the Tunbridge Wells Ladies Music Circle, but sadly there is no historical foundation to this scene.

Programme notes by Patrick Glencross


A truly magic evening

What an experience! There was an audible gasp from the audience after the last chord of Saturday’s performance of Handel’s Messiah, followed by an astonishing, prolonged standing ovation from the full house.

It was Director Steven Devine’s vision that had paid off. Bringing together superb players mainly of the OAE with world-class soloists from the world of opera, and a small, dynamic choir, his interpretation focused tenaciously on the meaning of the text’s juxtapositions of scripture. Not only was the performance of terrifically high quality, the audience were truly taken on an emotional journey that no-one there will forget.

“The best performance of Messiah I have ever heard.”
“Privileged to be there.”
“The intimacy of the setting gave us all the opportunity to feel that we were part of it. I shall never hear a better Messiah. A truly magic evening.”
“How amazing tonight was. One of the best musical experiences ever, in King Charles or anywhere. I and all the people I spoke to were pretty much lost for words.”
“I was moved afresh by the extraordinary scriptural truths of this extraordinary piece of inspired genius and the dramatic setting... overall one of my top 10 musical experiences ever.”
"It was a-ma-zing."

With thanks to the whole cast:

Soprano: Kate Semmens. Alto Tom Lilburn. Tenor: Dan Auchinloss. Bass: Trevor Eliot Bowes

Violin 1: Daniel Edgar (leader), George Clifford, Sophie Simpson. Violin 2: Stephen Rouse, Mark Seow. Viola: Jan Schlapp. Cello: Kinga Gaborjani. Double bass: Kate Brook. Oboe: James Eastaway, Geoff Coates. Trumpet: Tamsin Cowell, Kirsty Loosemore. Timpani: Stephen Birke. Harpsichord: Stephen Devine. Organ: Robin Bigwood. Directed by Steven Devine. 

Decimus Consort - Soprano: Kate Faber, Caroline Preston Bell, Ellen Smith, Polly Walton. Alto: Christina Astin, Nicholas Perkins, Ben Toombs. Tenor: Alex Churchill, Stephen Pritchard, Philip Mills. Bass: Keith Bryant, Patrick Glencross, Rupert Preston Bell.


Handel Messiah for Christmas

Saturday 8 December, 7:00pm
(Note early start time)

Directed by Steven Devine, co-principal keyboard player with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and also the principal keyboard player for The Gonzaga Band, Apollo and Pan, The Classical Opera Company and performs regularly with many other groups around Europe, including the Academy of Ancient Music.

With four world-class soloists
Kate Semmens, soprano
Mark Chambers, counter-tenor
Daniel Auchinloss, tenor
Trevor Eliot Bowes, bass

Tickets are available here. Advance booking recommended.

Suiting the early Baroque interior of King Charles church and its excellent acoustic, this performance of Handel's masterpiece with a small orchestra and a choir of just 12 singers aims to recreate something of his original conception.