Define happiness – not easy. Pursue happiness – we all do it. Achieve happiness – maybe. All of which may or not be relevant to the smiles on the faces of the audience last week at the Milverton Concert Society’s superb evening of music and words in the company of Jenny Agutter, Diana Ambache (piano) and Jeremy Polmear (oboe etc). ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ is an eclectic collection of readings, poems and musical items loosely related to the theme of happiness, and presented in a way which could not fail to generate the aforesaid emotion even if only temporarily.
Jenny Agutter’s poised and wonderfully varied readings produced everything from wry smiles to belly-laughs, as she ranged from Epicurus to John Betjeman, Shakespeare to Roger McGough, Huxley to Gyles Brandreth. Her range of accents and ability to project the emotions behind the words showed why she is so loved and respected in the theatrical world and we enjoyed every word.
Music has always been a great stimulus to and expression of the vast range of human emotions from the tragic to the comic, and we were treated to an astonishing banquet of virtuosically played items to complement the spoken words. Husband and wife team Diana Ambache and Jeremy Polmear enthralled and truly entertained us with thoughtful and introspective Bach and Mozart, exuberant Cole Porter and Offenbach and some absolutely stunning playing throughout. I still don’t understand how wind players do ‘circular breathing’, but Jeremy’s brilliant playing of Lalliet’s variations on ‘The Carnival of Venice’ was a jaw-dropping demonstration. He and Diana are musicians both of the highest technical calibre and interpretative skill, and these were performances to relish.
This wasn’t just an evening of words and music; it was an evening of sheer enjoyment, involvement of performers and audience, and sociableness. It made us happy – which of course was the whole point and substance of the event. Thank you performers and thank you Milverton Concert Society – you hit the bullseye with this one.
Review by Harold W. Mead