Review: Summertime American Songbook, The Denton, Worthing

Lively American jazz tunes were given an operatic twist at The Denton in Worthing on Friday.

Monday, 13th June 2016, 6:07 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 1:12 am
Jessica Zhu and guest singer Marion Wyllie perform Leonard Bernstein's America as an encore. Picture: Stephen Goodger
Jessica Zhu and guest singer Marion Wyllie perform Leonard Bernstein's America as an encore. Picture: Stephen Goodger

Pianist Jessica Zhu and guest singer Marion Wyllie presented Summertime American Songbook, featuring their own selection from composers such as George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.

It was part of Worthing Symphony Society’s interview concert series but in a slightly different format, where the pair answered questions from the audience rather than being interviewed by Timothy Chick.

Jessica, a former Sussex International Piano Competition winner, gave us a dramatic version of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, crashing through the notes in a fun way.

Afterwards, Timothy told the audience it was the first time she had performed the piece in public, so we forgave her for what sounded like just one or two notes out of place.

Her other big solo piece was William Albright’s Nighmare Fantasy Rag, a lively, exciting and complicated piece that held us enthralled and left us breathless. Great fun!

Much of the concert, though, was fronted by the Scottish soprano. Her operatic voice shone through, which gave some of the well-known songs chosen a very different edge.

The actor in her was noticeable in the range of emotions she portrayed on her face and her bright personality shone through.

Her versions of So in Love from Kiss Me Kate and Summertime from Porgy and Bess were particularly impressive and she had us smiling and laughing with her fast-paced animal noises in Aaron Copland’s I Bought Me a Cat.

Both women completed master degrees at Guildhall School of Music and Drama but it was a chance meeting on the tube after they had left that brought them together to perform. They make a successful pairing.

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