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<<  -- 2 --  Rex Harley    SOMETHING SPECIAL

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My meandering return journey -- I seem still to be doing the figure-of-eight dance of the bee -- takes me along the Severn foreshore north of Avonmouth, and offers me a view of the most recent of the three bridges, long and low and, in its own way, quite grand. Then I'm back at Aust with some time to kill before the eight o'clock concert. I suggest to the lady who gives me a splendid dish of vegetable chilli that the festival, if not exactly a well-kept secret, could benefit from a little more promotion. Not so far as the catering's concerned, she says pointedly. I take a half of bitter, straight from the cask, settle down on the grassy knoll, and find myself immediately in conversation with the storyteller and a visiting balloonist. The sun goes down and we make our way into the church.

Clare Norburn and Jenny Lewis of the Troubadours
Clare Norburn and Jenny Lewis of the Troubadours

The concert has a title: The Art of Loving Honourably. Actually, my programme says The Art of Living Honoroubly, but the rest of the material for the concert is exemplary. There's background information from the performers and translations of all the relevant lyrics. As the evening begins, the lights are lowered to leave only those in the chancel and the candles in two candelabra, and this tribute to the troubadours opens: not with their lyrics, but with the poetry of Jenny Lewis, whose work offers a telling contemporary spin on the themes of love, jealousy, passion and the sexual drama.

The Troubadours, soprano Clare Norburn and harper Bill Taylor with poet Jenny Lewis performing at Aust church. Photo © 2003 Peter Dobbins
The Troubadours, soprano Clare Norburn and harper Bill Taylor with poet Jenny Lewis performing at Aust church. Photo © 2003 Peter Dobbins

Which sets the stage and creates a suitable anticipation for the entry of the musicians -- singer Clare Norburn and harpist Bill Taylor -- unexpectedly, through the south doorway of the church. The pattern of the concert has been established, and it seems to me a wise move. However good the performance, the music alone can start to sound rather similar after a while, as can its lyrical pre-occupations. By combining poet, singer and instrumentalist, very deftly the performers are educating as well as entertaining their audience, and ensuring that we retain our concentration during the songs.

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Copyright © 16 September 2003 Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK

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