Thursday, 28 April 2016

Village Quire at New Radnor

"Do you know where we're going?" Jane asked, in the absence of a GPS.
"Oh, head to Kington and keep going," Brian said confidently.
We kept to the main roads, rather than attempting the hill roads via Painscastle.
"There's Old Radnor," I said.
And a little way further on, we came to the turning for New Radnor. "There's the church!" I said. We headed up Broad Street and turned into Church Street. "Where's it gone? I'm sure it was over here somewhere. Oh, there it is, behind us up the hill!"
We found a place to park quite easily, and wandered through New Radnor, admiring the pretty cottages - well, apart from the two modern houses on the footpath up to the church. You have to be fit to go to church there - it's a steep climb!
Inside, it's a very Victorian church, but the outside looks older. The audience was quite small, enough that the three of us from Hay made a difference. We sat near the front, despite being warned that we would have the best view of the sopranos' backs. Phil Smith, the narrator, was sitting just in front of us, and let us look at the field glasses he was using as a prop in the interval.
The first half of the show, Back to the Garden, was based on the letters from William Bevan, at the Western Front in 1918, to the man he'd been head gardener for before he was called up. I forget the name of the landowner, who had a big house somewhere near Lyonshall in Herefordshire, but he was obviously a good employer from the tone of the letters - the letters to William did not survive. William was married to Alice - but if he wrote to her, no letters survive either.
William was no ordinary gardener - he was also assisting his employer in breeding new types of daffodil, with a trumpet of one shade of yellow and a corona of another shade. At one point, designing a new garden (with gardener's cottage on the South facing slope) distracts William from what's happening around him, as his platoon (he was a Corporal) is rotated forward to the trenches for eight days and then rested before going back again. I'm not sure if the songs were written specially, or were very carefully chosen to go with the letters from songs of the time. They were, as always with the Village Quire, beautifully performed.
The second half of the show was selected highlights from earlier shows, including Precious Bane, and readings from The Rape of the Fair Country, where Phil Smith sported a carnation in his button hole like the character Iolo Milk "for ladykilling" and made good use of his "five Welsh accents, all of them bad."
CDs were on sale at the back of the church (I have three of theirs now), and on the way back down the hill in the dark, Phil Smith and Brian chatted about astronomy as we looked up at a clear star filled sky. On the drive home, the moon was full and golden over the hills.
They'll be performing at Craswell in May.

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