SACO MW selection-39.jpg

Virtual Tea Concerts


For the last few years SACO has been presenting a Sunday afternoon Tea Concert three times a year. As we are unlikely to be able to do so live for a little while, we would like to present to you a weekly virtual treat into your inbox.

We start with "Braid The Raven Hair" from The Mikado, performed by Emily Blanch (our Merry Widow) and ladies of the SACO Chorus, all singing from their homes. The photographs in the video, by our own Michael Readman, are from our 2015 production of The Mikado which was directed by Peter Kestner and David Ireson with colourful designs by Paula Chitty.

Our next offering for Afternoon Tea: Bryony Burnham and David Woods singing "Ah, Leave Me Not To Pine Alone" from The Pirates of Penzance. Bryony and David recorded this for us at their home in Harrogate.

Bryony and David have appeared in several SACO productions and concerts over the last few years. Both sang in the Gilbert and Sullivan concerts last year, and most recently, Bryony played Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus, David was Harry Benn in The Boatswain's Mate last autumn.

Leila Saleh, training at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, sings Despina's aria In Uomini, In Soldati from Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte.  Leila has taken part in several recent SACO productions at the Abbey Theatre, including Die Fledermaus and The Pirates of Penzance.

In this aria, Despina, mocks Dorabella and Fiordiligi, saying that they must be mad to expect faithfulness from men and soldiers. Leila's singing in the original Italian - click on the "cc" button below the video to display English subtitles..

Here we have the exquisite Flower Duet from Léo Delibes' opera Lakmé. Here, Catrin Lewis sings both parts, accompanied by her friend and colleague Louisa Lam in a recording they made from their homes.

In the opera, the duet takes place as Lakmé walks to the river with her servant, Mallika, to gather sweet jasmine intertwined with roses.

Catrin has sung in several productions with SACO over the last few years: she played Rose Maybud in our production of Ruddigore in 2019, and before that you may have seen her as the mischievous maid, Adele in Die Fledermaus or as the Sandman and Dew Fairy in Hansel and Gretel.

This Tea Concert video is a double treat of Hail, Poetry! and an extract from Tower Warders. The company made these audio snippets from our homes to cheer up one of our singers while she was in hospital, having fallen very seriously ill with COVID-19 in March. She spent several weeks in intensive care, but thankfully is now back home and on the road to recovery.  Michael Readman's photography is from our productions of The Pirates of Penzance in 2017 and The Yeomen of the Guard in 2011.

This version of Saint-Saëns' famous cello solo "The Swan" is from Katy' Bingham-Best's one-woman show" Jelly Bakewell Learns To Sing".

When Jelly, the heroine, joins a school production of "The Mikado", she finds herself having to sing the same note endlessly in the Act I Finale. Jelly gets bored and starts painting her nails, so her choir mistress banishes her to the orchestra, where she debuts as a cello - hence this number "Definitely Not A Swan Song".

Katy's most recent stage appearance with SACO was in Ruddigore in 2019 as Dame Hannah. At the piano is Julian Barber, who accompanies most Tea Concerts, SACO rehearsals and musically directed SACO's "Tosca" and "The Boatswain's Mate" from the keyboard.

"O Isis und Osiris" is from Act 2 of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" in which Sarastro invokes the gods Isis and Osiris to protect Tamino and Pamina as the undergo the trials of wisdom which will lead to their enlightenment. In this Virtual Tea Concert, recorded in their homes,


Des Turner is accompanied by Julian Barber. Des has appeared numerous times on stage and in concert with St Albans Chamber Opera. His recent roles with SACO include the evil Baron Scarpia in Puccini's "Tosca" and the equally evil, yet witty, Sir Despard Murgatroyd in "Ruddigore". Julian Barber accompanies most Tea Concerts, SACO rehearsals and concerts.

Recording at home and in her garden, Sara Hartley-Llewellyn brings us her re-imagining of the sparkling Alleluia from Mozart's motet Exsultate Jubilate, K165.

In 1772, the 16 year-old Mozart was on tour in Italy for the première of his opera, Lucio Silla in which the title role was sung by the castrato Venanzio Rauzzini. Rauzzini's voice captivated the young composer, so he set about writing Exsultate Jubilate (Rejoice, Be Glad) specially for Rauzzini.

Sara Hartley-Llewellyn sang the role of Mrs Waters in SACO's production of Ethel Smyth's opera The Boatswain's Mate which you may have seen at the Abbey Theatre Studio in October, 2019.

Robbie Haylett takes us to the Musicals with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s famous “Some Enchanted Evening” from the first act of South Pacific. Emile de Becque tells of how he and Nellie Forbush eyes met across a crowded room and were immediately attracted to one another.

Robbie was due to be our Danilo Danilowitsch in The Merry Widow in March, 2020. We do hope that we will be able to restage the production in Spring, 2021, with Robbie again singing Danilo.


James Schouten takes us to Paris and Off To Chez Maxim's this week with a song from Lehár's Merry Widow in which Danilo explains how he likes to escape the stuffiness of the Embassy to drink champagne and enjoy the delights of the grisettes.

James' last appearance with SACO was as a rather splendid Pirate King in our 2017 production of The Pirates of Penzance. Since then, he has been singing with the Glyndebourne chorus and should have been taking part in this year's festival.

Peter Martin and Julian Barber preformed Schubert's song cycle "Die Schöne Müllerin" at a Tea Concert in  Autumn 2018. Here they perform "Am Feierabend" ("After Work"), the fifth song of the cycle. The young man tells how he wishes he could stand out from his peers so that the miller's daughter would see how much he loves her.

Peter has taken part in several live Tea Concerts and many stage roles with SACO, including Spoleta (Tosca), Frederic (The Pirates of Penzance) and Alfredo (Die Fledermaus). Julian accompanies most rehearsals and concerts and directed SACO's productions of The Boatswain's Mate and Tosca from the piano.

This concert is rather different. We thought you'd like to see what happens before a production and so present a short series of some of our performers' auditions.

This is Richard Woodall who auditioned for the role of the evil Scarpia in our 2017 production of Puccini's Tosca. Accompanied by Martin Pacey, he is singing the Te Deum scene from the end of Act One: Scarpia orders Spoletta to follow Tosca, then gloats about how he would like to possess Tosca.

With the video are images by Michael Readman of the dress rehearsal with Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz as Floria Tosca.

Ruby Magee, our Chairman's granddaughter, recently started at The Royal Northern College of Music, on a joint performers' course with Manchester University.

Here she sings Batti, Batti, Zerlina's aria from Mozart's Don Giovanni, with Julian Barber at the piano. Masetto, Zerlina's financé, has accused her of cheating on him. In this aria, Zerlina tries to convince Masetto that nothing happened between her and Don Giovanni. She tells Masetto to get angry with her, but to forgive her - we get the feeling she is laughing at him, because she has been able to get away with cheating!

Ruby played the part of Mary-Ann in our production of Ethel Smyth's The Boatswain's Mate in October last year.

This week, we have something from the archive. Bob Little and Peter Jenkin used to take part in an annual concert for charity, and in 2013 they perofmred at All Saints' Church, Berkhamsted Flanders' and Swann's satire of the British tradesman: The Gas Man Cometh.

In their younger days, Peter and his wife Jo were members of many local societies, and Peter could be found accompanying rehearsals all over the area.

Bob has also sung with many companies in the area including Opera East and Felici, and last year took part in our production of The Boatswain's Mate and our Gilbert and Sullivan concerts. He was about to play St Brioche in The Merry Widow when lockdown struck us in March.

Here is the second of our Tosca videos.


Laura Wolk-Lewanowicz is auditioning for the role of Floria Tosca in SACO’s 2016 production of Puccini’s opera. She sings “Vissi d’Arte”, Tosca’s aria from Act 2 which is set in Scarpia’s room in the Farnese Palace.

Tosca rejects Scarpia’s advances but reflects how she has dedicated her life to art and to love, yet she feels God has now abandoned her. The fate of her beloved Cavaradossi lies in Scarpia’s hands.

Here, Lina Saavedra brings us Salomé's aria from Massenet's opera Hérodiade. Salomé arrives in Jerusalem and explains to Phanuel that the kind and gentle John the Baptist was the only person who helped her as an abandoned child.

With SACO, Lina has appeared both in concert  - you may have heard her singing in our Gilbert and Sullivan concerts last year - and on stage. She played the mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors and Elsie Maynard in The Yeomen of the Guard.

Over this series of Virtual Tea Concerts, Julian Barber has been seen accompanying many times. This week, for a change, Julian takes centre stage, playing one of Rachmaninoff's Six Moments Musicaux, Op 16.

Julian plays the 5th Moment Musical - a gentle barcarolle in D flat major, which shows Rachmaninoff in a more lyrical light. Julian says he loves playing all six pieces, but this one has a particular significance for him.

Julian has been involved in numerous SACO performances over the years, accompanying rehearsals and concerts, as well as directing stage productions from the piano. He directed The Boatswain's Mate in 2019 and TOsca in 2016.

It's our chairman's turn now. Accompanied by Julian Barber, Peter Kestner sings Papageno's aria Der Vogelfänger bin ich, ja! from Mozart's The Magic Flute. Papageno enters and tells Tamino all about his cheerful life as a successful birdcatcher, but laments that although he is really good at catching birds, he has had no success in finding himself a wife.


SACO last staged The Magic Flute in 2004. It was the first of our Spring productions which Peter directed - you may remember that it was in modern dress, and Peter had Papageno play the Stylophone rather than the pipes. Hoping that we might put on a more traditional version in the not too distant future, Peter's found a set of proper Papageno pipes which are getting their first public outing today!

This week we have a song by Gerald Finzi, first performed in 1933. Peter Martin, accompanied by Matthew Jorysz, brings us The Comet at Yell'ham, a setting of a poem by Thomas Hardy.

This setting is part of the cycle
A Young Man's Exhortation, exploring the futility of war and the natural beauty of the world. Hardy wrote The Comet at Yell'ham having watched Encke's Comet from the top of Yellowham Hill in Dorset.

Peter has recently completed his Masters of Performance at the Royal College of Music and is now working as a freelance tenor alongside teaching. Matthew Jorysz holds the position of assistant organist at Westminster Abbey.

This week, for our 20th Virtual Tea Concert, we have one of Verdi's most dramatic arias for bass. Accompanied by Julian Barber, Andrew Tinkler sings King Philip's aria She has no love for me from the opera Don Carlos.


Purely for political reasons, King Philip II of Spain has married a French princess, many years his junior. Unable to sleep, he recalls her sadness when she first saw him and realised how old he was. It is all too clear that she never loved him.


Andrew's stage roles with SACO include Sarastro in The Magic Flute and Don Basilio in The Barber of Seville. He also sings in many of our concerts, and performed this aria a few years ago in our Verdi programme at the Maltings.

For our 21st Virtual Tea Concert, James Schouten sings Siegmund's song from The Valkyrie, the second opera in Wagner's Ring cycle.

Earlier in the story of The Valkyrie, Sieglinde, the daughter of Wotan, was forced to marry Hunding. She tells Siegmund, who has taken shelter in their house, about a sword which only a true hero can wield, hoping that Siegmund might rescue her. When Siegmund speaks of his father, Wotan, Sieglinde realises that he is her twin brother from whom she was separated at birth, and as moonlight floods the room, they embrace passionately. Siegmund sings Winterstürme, comparing their feelings for each other to the union of Love and Springtime.

James' last appearance with SACO was as the Pirate King in our 2017 production.

This week Angharad Little, accompanied by Peter Jenkin, sings Alone and yet Alive, Katisha's poignant song from The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan.


In this song, Katisha sings of her sadness that Nanki-Po, the heir to the throne of Japan, has been executed. Katisha has been a terrifying character in most of her scenes, but here we see she has a much softer, more vulnerable side.


Angharad first performed with SACO in The Elixir of Love, and subsequently played Peep-Bo in The Mikado and Kate in Pirates. You may also remember her Tea Concert last year when she sang Elgar's Sea Pictures and Schumann's wonderful cycle Frauenliebe und -leben. Peter has accompanied many local theatre companies and appeared on stage in several of our productions with his wife Jo and daughter Kathryn.

As everywhere becomes carpeted in gold, Peter Kestner, accompanied by Julian Barber, sings "Autumn Leaves", recorded during the second English lockdown by his grandson, Arthur Sawyer.

Joseph Kozma, a Hungarian composer who spent much of his life in France writing film music, set Jacques Prévert's poem "Les Feuilles Mortes" to music in 1945. The English lyrics are by Johnny Mercer, who also gave it the title "Autumn Leaves" and made the first English-language recording in 1950.



St Albans Chamber Opera Trust
46 Ramsbury Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL1 1SW


01727 869069


©2020 St Albans Chamber Opera Trust   -   Registered Charity Number 1063154  -  Privacy Statement