Little Dartmouth Classical Weekend – reviews

Helena Benthall and Zoe Silkstone with Peter Adcock at piano

Little Dartmouth Double Classical Weekend Concerts – Reviews:

“Archaeology reveals evidence of Bronze Age gatherings at Little Dartmouth and perhaps there have been occasional soirées ever since. But it is very unlikely that such beautiful music has been heard there, at any time in the last five thousand years, as was heard during last weekend’s fabulous concerts.

Held in an old stone barn, the concerts showcased a group of fine young musicians from all over the country, from Glasgow to Torbay, and raised funds for the Dart Music Festival, which starts in May.

The barn, until recently home for farmyard animals, has been converted by the Benthall family into a wonderful venue, the perfect setting for two evenings of classical music expertly produced by Sally Benthall and Marilyn Bird.

Fionn Connolly

Friday night began with Fionn Connolly, only 17 and already an accomplished violinist. His rendition of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major was a splendid start to the evening.

He was followed by eight performers, including singers and instrumentalists, who between them performed 23 pieces.

Highlights included Zoe Silkstone, soprano, singing a charming Scottish Folk Song about love, and Peter Norris, bass-baritone, singing Schubert’s haunting Doppelganger. They were joined by two counter-tenors, the multi-talented Oliver El-Holiby, who sang Warlock’s Frostbound Wood with great emotion and his friend, Peter Oakley, who treated us to two beautiful Handel pieces.

The instrumentalists were not to be outdone. Felix Canetty-Clarke, played three contrasting Marimba pieces with flair, including Tyson’s A Cricket Sang and Set the Sun. Finan Jones, on the bassoon, gave a captivating rendition of Tansman’s Sonatine for Bassoon and Piano. And Jade Gall, a talented saxophonist, played Debussy’s Syrinx and Tanaka’s Night Bird, with electronic accompaniment, most beautifully. All had great stage presence.

The Friday evening finished on a high with the splendid sopranos, Zoe Silkstone and Helena Benthall, performing an entertaining “aircrew” version of Delibes’ Flower Duet, choreographed with lifejackets, oxygen masks and whistles (aka carrier bags, coffee cups and party streamers) by  Josephine Benthall.

Ji Liu

On Saturday, the star attraction was Ji Liu, the internationally acclaimed pianist. His magical touch and entertaining style have graced the great concert halls of the world. 
But last weekend a small audience of just 120 people were enchanted by his performances of Chopin, Schubert, Beethoven andLiszt. Having won our hearts with Schubert’s Fantasie in C Major, Op. 15, and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata he introduced us to Autumn Leaves, a hauntingly beautiful piece by the Chinese composer Wang. Hearing Ji in such an intimate space was a rare and special treat.

It would be remiss not to mention Peter Adcock, well known to Dartmouth music lovers, who  accompanied brilliantly many of the artists on both evenings. Both concerts were sold out. The audiences were captivated. Let’s hope these were the first of many such concerts at Little Dartmouth”. (Name withheld)

Just to refresh your memories, this recent DMF fundraising event was a Double Classical Concert weekend at Little Dartmouth: 

On Friday: ‘A Celebration of Youth’ Concert with talented young musicians from the universities of Cambridge, Bristol and Exeter, The Conservatoire of Scotland, The Royal Welsh College of Music and The Guildhall School of Music, London performing from their classical repertoire.

On Saturday:  Piano sensation Ji Liu, the UK’s biggest-selling classical breakthrough artist of 2014, following last year’s stunning success when his debut album ‘Piano Reflections’ shot straight to No. 1 in the UK Classical Chart, performed a selection of awe-inspiring works by some of the world’s greatest composers, including Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninov and is supported by Peter Oakley, Oliver El Hollby, (counter tenors), Zoe Silkston (soprano) and accompanied by Peter Adcock on piano.

Felix Canetty Clarke, Ji Liu and Marilyn Bird

Other reviews for this very special event include:

An awesome weekend of music.  I have to admit I took a risk – not normally my cup o’ char, but, “By Jove!”, as you say down here – in the old books anyways,  we were blown away! The perfect venue with the perfect performers. My wife and I would like to thank you both for the incredible planning, wonderful engaging ensemble and the resulting extraordinary event – also please pass on our regards to our hosts for the superb hosting and provision of a fantastic space”  MM

“Lots of hard work behind the scenes, I’m sure. Congratulations, Marilyn!” CH

What a great weekend of concerts! Each performance a jewel following another and topped off by wonderful piano playing. Many thanks for all the hard work in putting it together.” R & L C

“They say a picture paints a thousand words! It’s been a very special night, so glad we could be there” H & G A.

Good to meet you both on Friday and Saturday. Thanks for asking me to accompany some of the soloists, and to be a part of such a memorable weekend for the Dart Music Festival. Best wishes” PA

“Just to say how very much we enjoyed the concert.  Ji Liu is the most extraordinary pianist and we had never come across him before but will certainly follow his career now. His playing is so sublime but he is also clearly a very engaging character who enjoys talking about music: a wonderful combination. Congratulations on organising such an excellent evening and I hope that it exceeded your fund-raising hopes”. RY

“What an outstanding performance by all last night – that will be the closest we get to a famous pianist in action. Thank you for the opportunity to hear such artists. Thank you so much for those two wonderful concerts on Friday and Saturday evening.  They were so special and memorable and, needless to say, because of the unique way you two make these occasions happen. Thank you, thank you for your extraordinary generosity and two just wonderful evenings” JL

“What a blast!  We really enjoyed Friday evening with all those young musicians. What talent and what fun. Well done for putting it on and getting us in the mood”. MN

Many thanks to our generous hosts Edward and Sally Benthall for this very prestigious fundraising event – it is very much appreciated and we are delighted that the weekend was such a success.


15th, 16th & 17th May 2015