Congratulations to everyone involved in the extremely successful Northern Chords concerts last weekend. Organisers, performers and helpers excelled themselves! We received a glowing 5 star review, which can be read in full by following this David Nice on FIVE STARS!!!!

From bouncy Haydn mass to Mendelssohn in chorale mode, a day of great performances

by David Nice Tuesday, 27 October 2020 –

Whatever happens next – and even in Tier 3 the Royal Liverpool Phlharmonic goes on playing to carefully distanced audiences – this will be remembered by all participants as a day of brilliant autumn light, matched by so much of the music in four concerts and a service.

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In the best (and shortest) of sermons flanked by the mostly buoyant settings of Haydn’s Nicolaimesse, the vicar of the bright and airy church of St James and St Basil in the leafy Newcastle suburb of Fenham, James McGowan, made everyone beam by investing Jacinda Ardern as the very model of a compassionate leader, the resident saints and all the musicians involved with a trinity of virtues: honesty, authenticity and vulnerability. Energy and hard work would also figure here, above all in the incredible hard work of Northern Chords Festival director, programmer, conductor and cellist Jonathan Bloxham. Vitally, he felt, it gave the locals not only joy but also the confidence to attend life-affirming events such as this.

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It’s impossible not to love the church, its well-tended garden and its welcoming hall, carefully reopened for the first time in months, with a further resource in the nearby wide open spaces of what’s called the Town Moor where cattle still graze. The unusual dedication bears the names of a local ship merchant’s two sons, James and Henry (known as Basil) Knott, whose grief-stricken father had the church built to commemorate their loss in World War One. All of a piece in its 1928-31 Arts and Crafts simplicity, light floods in through the delightful windows depicting all the nature featured in Psalm 104, and the woodwork of the organ casing adds a Moorish-Islamic touch. The lively acoustic will be mitigated by the installation of a £13,000 sound system and with its tradition of regular concerts the church also raised £25,000 for a Kawai grand, sounding richly various in the masterful hands of Martin James Bartlett and Daniel Lebhardt. 

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