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Review; Fontanella, All Saints Church, King's Lynn

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Fontanella features four of the UK’s leading professional woodwind players who played an interlude on Channel 4’s 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown where they managed to get comedian Jimmy Carr to play a note on a recorder.

The four friends, Rebecca Austen-Brown, Louise Bradbury, Sarah Humphreys and Annabel Knight performed in perfect acoustics in the reverent setting of All Saints church as part of King’s Lynn Festival.

The quartet have played early music together for two decades and this concert drew on parallels from the liberal way of life in the 1660’s with the arts flourishing only to be followed in 1666 by the turmoil of the plague and to control the spreading of the disease the country had to be locked down. Ring any bells?

King's Lynn Festival logo (49547076)
King's Lynn Festival logo (49547076)

Opening to a round of applause from a full audience, the early evening concert showcased the talented musicians, at one point each of them played two recorders at the same time which created the sound of bagpipes when in unison. Fontanella have visited King’s Lynn before so their final rendition of The King’s Delight was particularly apt.

Between pieces, each musician introduced and explained the music of 17th century England and their present appreciation of playing live again after a period of silence in the world of performing arts.

Particularly effective wasThe Nightingale’s Response, with the bird being heard singing during the lockdown and when each skilled musician left the stage playing solos the sound of birdsong could be heard echoing in the church.

A member of the audience said: ”I have played the recorder for donkeys years and I really enjoyed seeing Fontanella come back to Lynn again.”

Equally, Fontanella were pleased to return to the festival, with some family links to Norfolk, and Rebecca from the ensemble said: “We are so happy to be back in our favourite venue.”

Lou said: “It’s so lovely to perform for a real life audience in this beautiful place. Thank you for continuing to support live music.”

Annabel and Sarah took the opportunity to thank the sponsors professor Keith and Elizabeth Rix and to the Continuo Foundation who awarded a grant that has allowed early music ensembles to continue after the pandemic restricted them.

Fontanella combined virtuosity with each musician having the chance to really shine, and the message to look inward but forward, thinking of today and not just tomorrow.

Their countdown to perform live has arrived and not before time.

Jenny Beake

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