Review: Dreams, Homeland And Childhood, Leeds Lieder Weekend of Song, streaming from Leeds Town Hall until May 9

CHARISMATIC young singers Fleur Barron and Benson Wilson are steadily building international careers. Each took to the stage of Leeds Town Hall with thoughtfully structured recitals that owed much to their formative years and life influences.

Fleur Barron is a mezzo soprano of Singaporean-British heritage with a Hong Kong upbringing. Barron and pianist Joseph Middleton’s fascinating recital was headed “Dreams, Homeland and Childhood”. It interwove contemporary Chinese folk and art songs with Brahms’ three Heimweh (Homesickness) lieder, Charles Ives’ sentimental My Native Land, and Mussorgsky’s charming Nursery Songs. Sumptuous vocal and instrumental textures were further enriched by a cello, expressively played by Ashok Klouda, in songs by Aleksandr Borodin and Brahms - his Gestillte Sensucht (Satisfied Longing).

Their deeply felt programme was bookended by two settings of the Shelley poem, Music When Soft Voices Die. The settings were respectively by Bun-Ching Lam and leading American composer Libby Larsen whose composition is scored for voice, piano and cello.

Barron’s rich palette of tone colours was perfectly tailored to the style and mood of each song. Closing my eyes and pinching myself made it hard to believe there was just one singer on stage, such was the breadth and range of Barron’s voice.

Sunday afternoon’s recital was given by Kathleen Ferrier Award Winners Benson Wilson, a New Zealand born baritone of Samoan heritage, and pianist Ella O’Neill. Since this recital was livestreamed on Anzac Day (25th April) the singer entitled his programme “Maumaraha” - Remembrance. A selection of songs by Mahler, Butterworth and Kurt Weill probed themes of war and remembrance; ending with spectacular renditions of a pair of arrangements of Maori traditional songs by Robert Wiremu. Wilson and O’Neill began with two songs from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn: the shapely line of Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen - Where the beautiful Trumpets blow - and Revelge (Reveille).

George Butterworth’s Six Songs from A E Houseman’s A Shropshire Lad displayed Wilson’s gift for vivid story telling. There followed three of Kurt Weill’s Four Walt Whitman Songs delivered by Wilson and O’Neill with tremendous relish. Finally came the powerful Maori songs - firstly the Lullaby for two sons born in wartime, Oriori! O Nohomaiterangi, then the stirring Victory and Glory song - Ake ake kia kahe e!

Both of these wonderfully diverse recitals are streaming until 9th May. Programme notes and passes are available at

Geoffrey Mogridge