Classical music is often perceived as a serious business but there’s no reason that it can’t be fun too, as the likes of Victor Borge and, more recently, thanks to his orchestral guide stage show, Bill Bailey have shown. The Galliard wind quintet share that same combination of brilliant musicianship, breezy humour and great communication, a winning combination to which they gave full rein at a free lunchtime concert at St Alfege in Greenwich. Their take on Berio’s hilarious but complex Opus Number Zoo was masterly, with flautist Kathryn Thomas, oboist Owen Dennis, clarinettist Katherine Spencer, horn player Richard Bayliss and bassoonist Helen Storey showing a remarkable talent for interjecting half-spoken, half-sung words into what were already challenging musical parts. Their performance rightly brought the house down. Two days later at the same venue, Musicke In The Ayre, an evolving ensemble of singers and instrumentalists centred on lutenist Din Ghani, played a wondrous recital of 17th century songs from the pen of Thomas Campion, who was born 450 years ago and was a contemporary of Shakespeare, Marlowe and Jonson.
Music-lovers revere Campion for his melodies, wordsmiths for his poetry. But as this recital showed, he had a genius for both, a gift underlined through the playing of Ghani and bass viol virtuoso Esha Neogy and the soprano voices of Trinity Laban alumni Alysha Paterson and Timea Gazdag. The highlights of the concert for me were when the two sopranos sang duets such as the gorgeous There Is A Garden and Tune Thy Music To Thy Hart. But it was all a delight – and it proved yet again what an important cultural hub St Alfege is for Greenwich are its environs.