On the evening of Saturday 17th July, a socially distanced audience of ninety-five finally gathered in Winchelsea Parish Church for the twice-postponed concert by Alumni of the Royal Opera House Jette Parker Young Artists Programme. This was the eleventh concert organised by Jonathan Jempson for the benefit of Rye Lawn Tennis & Squash Club, all of which have starred present and past members of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme. As in 2019, the stars of the show this year were all alumni of the Programme, with two returning to Sussex for a fourth time.
The audience gathered in the expectation of hearing a programme devised by pianist Oliver Gooch for soprano Anush Hovhannisyan, mezzo-soprano Angela Simkin, tenor Konu Kim and bass James Platt. Sadly, at the last minute, James Platt had to pull out – but baritone Yuriy Yurchuk stepped into the breach and kicked off the proceedings with a rousing ‘Toreador’ from Bizet’s Carmen. Having rearranged the programme to accommodate the change from bass to baritone, the stalwart Oliver faced a further problem when Angela Simkin, who was driving from Lincolnshire on the day of the concert, was seriously delayed and still hadn’t arrived by the interval. While the audience enjoyed a drink in the churchyard on a gloriously warm evening, with swifts soaring overhead, plans were hurriedly made by the cast to fill the gaps by singing whatever they felt they could, ably supported by Oliver Gooch at the piano. Oliver also played a comic version of the Sailor’s Hornpipe melody on the organ, which was enthusiastically applauded, and the audience enjoyed every minute of the brilliantly improvised programme. When the mezzo eventually arrived in Winchelsea, in time to hear the encore which guided her to the church, she flew up the aisle to join her colleagues. Scarcely missing a beat, they launched into the Rigoletto Quartet, bringing an unforgettable evening to a close.
Photographs by Roger Way