Milly Forrest and Lauren Joyanne Morris at Chiswick House Festival

Arias and drinks on the lawn of the Walled Garden in aid of Chiswick House and Gardens.

My photograph shows the two singers, Milly Forrest and Lauren Joyanne Morris, as shining colour in the darkness and that’s how this evening felt: at last bringing the colour of live singing back to us still in the gloom of Covid.
There was great musical energy from the artistes and a pretty good setting. Even with the public health restrictions, it was so much better than anything online or recorded or broadcast where you don't get the shared experience of going to the concert venue or the communal response to the music: online is just not so human. But there’s still a long way to go. Meanwhile, we can hope the proceeds help to give encouragement to these local young artistes who have trained at London’s Royal College of Music, as well as some finance to the venue, Chiswick House.
Milly Forrest and Lauren Joyanne Morris’s programme was varied including opera arias and songs by Handel, Dvorak, Bizet and Humperdinck. Tom Lehrer’s satirical Poisoning Pigeons in the Park finally got an audience reaction beyond polite applause. Spacing the audience out, as currently required, does inhibit audience bonding and the audience’s rapport with the performers.

The walled garden turns out to have reasonable acoustics, though there was more than ample sound amplification to be sure. But the A4 trunk road outside the garden walls and the planes a thousand feet up and a mile or so away turned out not to be a problem. The chilling wind swishing in the silver birches was more obvious as well as the squeaks of flocks of parakeets who took flight from Chiswick House gardens’ bigger trees; their screeching spooked by Milly Forrest’s lively and lovely singing of the Habanaera from Bizet’s Carmen made an unforgettable moment. The sunset added just a bit of a colour show but we also saw geese and a couple of phalanxes of swans overhead, flying home to roost at the end of their day.
A small stage, a row of remarkably clean mobile toilets and us audience seated in squares marked out on the lawn with white tapes. Tread on a tape and you’ll get Covid! But very practical to mark out avenues for access to the socially-distanced seating enclosures as well as for those of the audience who needed to go to the handy bar between numbers. Exemplary Covid safety precautions throughout, which were universally respected.

Milly Forrest (soprano)
Lauren Joyanne Morris (mezzo soprano)
Ian Tindale (piano)

Canada Geese feeding on the rising tide at Chiswick Mall with the lights of Barnes in the distance
My walk home along the Thames Path included more wildlife encounters: Canada Geese feeding on the rising tide at Chiswick Mall with the lights of Barnes in the distance.