Warren Mailley-SmithIt is quite a haul to get to the London concert venue St John's, Smith Square from Marlborough. So how very fortunate Marlborough music lovers are to have a key recital - pianist Warren Mailley-Smith playing Chopin - in their midst, at St Peter's Church just two days after the audience in St John's Smith Square heard it as part of his Complete Chopin Cycle.
Warren Mailley-Smith studied at the Royal College of Music - winning many postgraduate prizes. He has had over thirty invitations to play for the Royal Family and has performed Beethoven's Emperor Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
When he comes to Marlborough on June 19, Warren Mailley-Smith will be one recital away from the end of his Chopin marathon at St John's Smith Square - playing all 230 of Frederic Chopin's piano compositions.
Marlborough.News asked Warren Mailley-Smith why he had set out last September on this eleven recital marathon: "I love playing Chopin's music and I wanted to stretch my personal boundaries and explore every last detail of this great composer's contribution to the piano repertoire."
And what kind of experience has it been so far? "It's been a hugely rewarding project to undertake - quite exhausting, but a huge amount of fun. I thought I might get sick and tired of playing his music - not at all - in fact quite the contrary."
His St Peter's recital will be a reprise of the penultimate recital of the series. It is a varied programme of Chopin miniatures - five mazurkas, three polonaises, the well-loved Berceuse in D flat, the Trois Nouvelles Études and more. It ends with the Barcarolle in F sharp Opus 60 which has inspired many composers.
What is it that makes the Barcarolle so special? "It is", Warren told Marlborough.News, "a masterpiece. This work was written at the height of his artistic maturity. It seems to encapsulate everything which he had developed as a composer - wonderful sense of structure, climatic build-up, ravishing harmonies and terrific contrasts of virtuosity and poetry."
Warren Mailley-Smith acknowledges that Chopin's music has never been out of fashion. Why does he think that is?: "It's the perennial quality of his melodies and because of the direct communication and the raw emotion of his music."
Reviews of his Complete Chopin Cycle series have been full of praise for Warren Mailley-Smith's interpretation and assured technique: "In Warren’s hands each (Etude) was a minor miracle, sensitively rendered and deftly delivered...the overall result was exceptionally engaging and intense.”
Another reviewer referred to his playing of Four Ballades: ”Chopin would have enjoyed the beauty, sensitivity and intellectual nous that Warren Mailley-Smith brought to his performance."
To get a preview of his interpretation of Chopin, you can watch and hear Warren Mailley-Smith playing Chopin's Grand Valse Brillante in E flat major. He says it is a composition "Brillante by name, brilliant by nature."
We asked Warren why he chose to play the Complete Chopin Cycle at St John's Smith Square: "Beautiful acoustic, wonderful piano...and an ideal location." He will certainly find a very fine piano and good acoustic at St Peter's Church - and undoubtedly a very appreciative audience.
This recital will be introduced by Robin Nelson - former head of music at Marlborough College whose Memoirs of a Music Man are appearing on Marlborough.News
Full details of tickets etc are here.
The fifth series of what must now be titled 'Brilliant Young International Pianists and Musicians' will start at St Peter's Church in October with Taiwanese pianist An-Ting Chang. Her recital will range from Mozart and Schubert to Gershwin's Walking the Dog, Copland's The Cat and the Mouse and her own arrangement of Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals.
She will be followed by the Castalian String Quartet playing Ravel, Thomas Ades and Brahms.
The fifth series will once again be sponsored by Hiscox Insurance. Watch this space for a full preview of the series coming later in June.
Holy Ground ProjectArtist Paul Hobbs combines his artistic skills and imagination with his Christian faith. The exhibition his works completed over several years is entitled 'The Heart of Things' - and faith is at the heart of this exhibition. His creations turn 'things' - many of them everyday things - into illustrations of religious beliefs that are relevant today.
At the centre of his exhibition in St Mary's Church (open Saturday to Monday, 30 April to 2 May - see link below for times) is an installation featuring pairs of shoes - each donated by an individual - some of them anonymous - and each accompanied by a short and clearly written panel telling their story.
It is called the Holy Ground Project and takes its cue from the verse in Exodus where God tells Moses at the burning bush: "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." At the centre of the illustration is an abstract representation of that burning bush.
His installation has to fit the space available - this version is four metres in diameter with twenty pairs of shoes. A larger version stretches to six-and-a-half metres in diameter with thirty pairs - and thirty stories.
"What connects all the people whose shoes are part of the installation," Paul tells Marlborough.News, "is they are all Christians and so have at some point encountered God and made a response."
It is not very helpful to pick out individual pairs and their stories from this complex installation - so with apologies, here are three pairs:
Haile Gebreselassie Laura Callenberg Sabina
This is a pair of Haile Gebreselassie's running shoes. As a schoolboy in Ethiopia he ran ten kilometres from home to school each day - and ten kilometres back again: "When I was young I always dreamed of becoming an athlete. And it's thanks to God that I was able to realise my dreams" - and run to achieve Olympic glory.
These pink sandals - with, I can assure you, have perky little heels - were donated by New York model Laura Calenberg. Her modelling career led her into the depths and she finally realised she had, as she puts it, "neglected my relationship with God and chosen my own way." She went on to found the organisation Models for Christ.
Third - and last of the three I have selected - are the pair of boots donated by a Kosovan mother called Sabina: "These are my daughter's boots. They are not the shoes that Katerina wore when she was killed...a bomb blew our home up and we ran for our lives."
These are shoes that may not fit neatly with the lives of the people viewing the installation - but they make us all think about people's lives and our own.
Paul Hobbs' 'Ten Words'
The other large installation is called simply Ten Words. Blocks made into eleven towers in all sorts of liquorice colours - ten carry words from the ten commandments juxtaposed with appropriate newspaper headlines. The eleventh tower depicts Christ: "Ten words and the final word."
And to one side there is a smaller version of Ten Words which visitors can explore and re-arrange.
Paul Hobbs There are some more representational works. And there is one 'ordinary thing' put into a frame to make us think about the extraordinary and the dreadful: 'In emergency break glass' is simply a machete in a glass case - whose blade can catch the light filtering through the church to make it look extremely chilling.
It acts as "a memorial to the tragic bloodletting in Rwanda, Sierra Leone or Kenya." But it is also about what fear can push humans to do - and asks what we would do in similar circumstances.
Paul Hobbs, who lives and works in Gloucester, has been touring with this exhibition for three years - three or four locations a year. It is, as someone described it, 'a bit of a travelling circus' and certainly complex to set-up.
Two Australian visitors to the town visited the exhibition in St Mary's on Saturday (April 30). They told Paul they were atheists, but that they found his works thought provoking - and thanked him for the exhibition.
You can find details of opening times and of supporting events here.