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Classical Music Concert at St Nicholas' Church

Review by Co-Director Stewart Howe of "Fenlandia" and Terry Brignall MBE:


On Saturday, 25th May 2024, the historic St Nicolas’ Church in Glatton played host to a remarkable evening of music, paying tribute to one of the village’s most illustrious former residents, the English writer Beverley Nichols. The concert was a resounding success, featuring celebrated British pianist Martin Cousin in a programme inspired by Nichols’ musical selections for his 1955 BBC Desert Island Discs broadcast.


Beverley Nichols, born just outside Bristol in 1898, was a prolific writer and a quintessential member of the 1920s and 30s ‘bright young things’. His Glatton home, ‘Allways’, was a hub for London society celebrities until 1937. Nichols’ passion for music and his keen skill as a pianist were evident throughout his life, making this concert a fitting homage to his legacy.


A Programme of Musical Delights

The evening’s programme was carefully curated to reflect Nichols’ eclectic musical tastes, featuring works by Jeanne Demessieux, Gustave Charpentier, Mozart, Couperin, Elgar, Chopin, Delius, and Rachmaninov. Notably, it included two of Nichols’ own piano compositions, performed for the first time in modern times.

Highlights from the Recital:

  • Beverley Nichols’ “Shadow Prelude”: This piece, composed for his play ‘Shadow of the Vine’, resonated deeply with the audience. Written in 1949, it reflects Nichols’ personal struggles with his father’s alcoholism and showcases his profound emotional depth.

  • Rachmaninov’s Prelude in G# minor Op.32 no.12 and Moments Musicaux No.3 in B minor, Op.16: Cousin’s performance of these pieces was both technically brilliant and emotionally evocative, capturing the rich, sonorous textures characteristic of Rachmaninov’s work.

  • Jeanne Demessieux’s ‘Rorate Caeli’ from 12 Chorale Preludes on Gregorian Chant Themes, Op.8: Adapted for piano, this piece highlighted Cousin’s versatility and the timeless beauty of Demessieux’s composition.

  • Edward Elgar’s “In Smyrna”: Inspired by Elgar’s Mediterranean cruise in 1905, this atmospheric piece transported the audience to the exotic locale that had so captivated the composer.

  • Frederick Delius’ “The Walk to the Paradise Garden” (arr. Perry): This arrangement for piano was a poignant rendition of one of Delius’ most famous orchestral works, beautifully brought to life by Cousin’s sensitive interpretation.

  • Beverley Nichols’ “Etude in D-flat”: Found in manuscript form in Nichols’ autobiographical book ‘Father Figure’, this piece was both stormy and reflective, echoing the influence of Chopin’s ‘Revolutionary’ Etude.

  • Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Op.9 no.2 and Ballade No.3 in A-flat Op.47: Cousin’s performance of these iconic works was the evening’s crowning glory, demonstrating his mastery and deep understanding of Chopin’s music.

A Night to Remember

The concert was a true celebration of musical heritage and exceptional talent. Martin Cousin, one of the most distinguished pianists of his generation, delivered a performance that was both technically impeccable and emotionally profound.

Fenlandia extends its heartfelt thanks to Rev. Becky Dyball, Church Warden John Piggot, and Terry Brignall MBE for their invaluable assistance in organising this unforgettable event.

As the notes of Chopin’s Ballade faded into the night, the audience left St Nicolas’ Church with a sense of having been part of something truly special. The evening not only honoured Beverley Nichols’ legacy but also showcased the timeless power of music to connect us with our past and inspire our future.

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