This third concert in the series of six was even more obviously allied to St. Machar’s Cathedral since it was actually recorded there. I must congratulate not only the performers but the two people  responsible for the filming and the sound. The filming was done by Rachel Birse whom regular watchers of the series will remember as the clarsach player in the first concert. The sound, so clear and so perfectly well balanced, was done by Tom Williams, son of Roger and Katherine. Obviously a talented young man with a great future ahead of him on the recording side of music.

If last week’s concert made me think of a lovely party at Fiona Kennedy’s house, this week’s concert with its professional fades between items and programme notes spoken on the steps of the Cathedral before the choir stalls by Roger and Katherine made me think of a BBC Four television programme. It was presented in such an outgoing and professional way.

As Roger Williams himself commented, the first piece in the concert was perfectly suited to the world we live in today. It was Handel’s aria from the opera Rodelinda, ‘Art Thou Troubled’. Well, yes I am. But the singer goes on to say, ‘Music will calm thee’ - yes, as performed by Katherine and Roger, it certainly did! There was a perfect balance between the smooth-flowing voice part and the supportive piano accompaniment. The sonic ambience of the Cathedral also added something particularly special to the sound.

Debussy featured strongly in the programme since, as we were told, French music of this period is one of Katherine’s special interests. French was my subject at the University and I can say that Katherine had it at the tip of her tongue. She sang two of Debussy’s most delightful songs, ‘Nuit d’étoiles’ a setting of a poem by Théodore de Banville followed by ‘Beau Soir’ a setting of words by Paul Bourget. Debussy often painted musical pictures and both poems are very graphic and colourful. In the second song, Bourget describes the rivers turned to the colour of roses by the setting of the sun.

In ‘Nuit d’étoiles’ the rippling piano accompaniment had a lovely transparency beneath Katherine’s easily soaring soprano line while the arpeggiated piano accompaniment for ‘Beau Soir’ accompanied the lovely smooth flowing voice in painting a beautiful sunset picture in the music.

The Cathedral has a magnificent Father Willis organ and Roger went back to Handel and his ‘Fughetta’ which rang out with splendid clarity through the Cathedral.

Debussy’s ‘Romance’ is another setting of words by Paul Bourget. Katherine gave the free-flowing soprano part a refined well-controlled quality over a wide range.


Regular viewers will remember the performance of Fauré’s famous song ‘Après un Rêve’ in the version for violin performed in the first programme. Katherine and Roger gave us a lovely performance of the original song in which the expressiveness of the piano nicely matched that of the voice. The words were from a poem by Romain Bussine (1830 – 1899) who, in addition to being a poet was a celebrated baritone singer. Along with Camille Saint-Saëns and Henri Duparc he founded La Société Nationale de Musique to promote contemporary French Chamber and Orchestral music. It nearly died out in the 1930s but was revived by Messiaen.


The concert had begun with one of Handel’s most popular arias and the duo concluded with another even more popular song, ‘Where’re You Walk’ from his musical drama ‘Semele’. There are several pauses for the voice and each time Katherine came in right on time and spot on in the middle of the note. First class! Not every singer does that so precisely.

Here was another excellent performance in the series, and next week we will hear a programme of jazz music by ace saxophonist Matthew Kilner and pianist Neil Birse, another member of the North East’s most talented musical families. Make sure you log in to hear them!