The Poet & the Harp: In Dreams
Tuesday, 19th May 2009, 7.30 pm - The Roehampton Club, London
The elegant and historic Roehampton Club dates back to 1901 and is pleasantly-located in Barnes, a mere fifteen minutes by train from Waterloo. Although a private members’ club, the poetry-concert I was on my way to experience was (happily for me) open to non-members. With acres of land, consisting of a huge, beautifully-maintained golf course, tennis courts and gardens, the Club is obviously well-provided to offer all kinds of sporting and social activities.
Being early, I made my way to the bar (with its glorious views over the golf-course) where I learned that the Club had, in the past, hosted royalty such as King Edward VII and Lord Louis Mountbatten as well as many famous sports personalities. The huge glass-cases full of magnificent silver cups and medals in the foyer show the high standards achieved by the Club for over a century.
Relaxing into the grandeur of the place, I made my way to the Garden-Room where the poetry-concert was to take place. A light, airy and elegant room overlooking the beautiful gardens and fountain and, on this occasion, most appropriately filled with the fading sunshine, the audience was invited to relax in gloriously-comfortable armchairs with small coffee-tables placed conveniently nearby, each one graced with a colourful, fresh gerbera and neatly-designed programmes already laid out for us. The main table, where the wine and canapés were later to be served, was adorned with a most magnificent display of huge, pink trumpet-lilies. The setting certainly made for a beautiful, relaxing and inspiring start to the evening.
The performing artists were the poet, Christala Rosina, accompanied by harpist, Lucy Haslar, two very attractive ladies elegantly- and thematically-dressed in midnight-blue (Lucy, the night-sky) and shimmering white (Christala, the moon, clouds and stars).
Christala welcomed the audience and gave an explanation of how she felt a deep affinity with the Romantic poets such as Coleridge and particularly Shelley. Before performing each poem, she described the background to its creation before delivering it in a clear and very expressive voice. Each poem was accompanied on the harp with music so well chosen and performed that, although actually selected from a variety of composers, one felt it had been especially written for each of the poems. All the music was drawn from either the classical repertoire, including pieces from Bach, Debussy and Einaudi, or the Celtic repertoire, with pieces by Kim Robertson and the Irish bard, O’Carolan.
The whole performance had a dream-like, healing quality. Consisting of fifteen poems in all, recurrent themes were nature, such as in The Cloud, To the Sea, and Mirrored Moon; mysticism, such as in The Unicorn and The Mermaid in the Mirror; and human emotion, as in Dance, In Exsilium … and Sonnet for a Wedding. Two harp solos, Debussy’s Arabesque and Mozart’s Glissando Waltz, as well as two unaccompanied poems, provided delightful contrast within each of the two acts.
The interval passed extremely pleasantly with wine and canapés, meeting the artists and chatting to other members of the audience who were obviously all enjoying the evening.
Christala had been a college-lecturer in English and Psychology for several years before devoting herself to writing and the Performance Arts and her work revealed a deep knowledge of these subjects. The evening made me realise that listening to poetry performed aloud, particularly by its creator, can be a very moving, as well as a very visual, experience, though I daresay a lot depends on the style and professionalism of the delivery. This was without question here, and I would recommend a poetry-concert with Christala and Lucy as a very special and uplifting experience.
25th May 2009
Christala Rosina, poet & Patrick Bartlett, harpist
St Giles-in-the-Fields, London, WC2
Lunchtime Concert - Friday, 2nd March 2007
by Rosemary Grave
How lovely it was to escape from the busyness of working in London and the bustle of Shaftesbury Avenue and Oxford Street and take refuge in the church of St. Giles-in-the-Fields for one of their Friday lunchtime concerts.
Here, I was transported by the Romantic poetry of Christala Rosina to the likes of a concert hall, an enchanted pool, and the seashore. St. Giles was a fitting setting for Christala to perform her poetry for it’s known as ‘The Poets’ Church’. Milton, Shelley and Byron all had children baptised there, Andrew Marvell is buried there and Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning were married before the communion table that now stands in the south aisle.
The poems were only about ten in number, chosen to fit comfortably into a lunchtime slot, from Christala’s first collection of poetry, "Watercolour Essences of Moon", published last year by PublishAmerica. Writers are not always the best performers of their own work, but Christala delivers her poems with assurance and sensitivity. Her great affinity with the Romantic poets, particularly Shelley, shines through, as does her musicality. It was therefore fitting that all but one of the poems were accompanied by Patrick Bartlett on the harp. The musical items by various composers, including two by Bartlett himself, were well selected, complementing the words rather than fighting them for my attention.
The poems are full of rich imagery and Christala’s love of nature, and its influence, was also felt throughout. I particularly liked "Contrasts", where the warmth of a spring day seems to mock the "icy prisons of the heart". But my favourite is still the poem which concluded this short recital, "Sonnet for a Wedding". Though written as a present for a friend’s daughter, it conveys universal sentiments that must surely ring true for many a singleton embarking on the life-changing journey of marriage.
Watercolour Essences of Moon
I seem to have tapped, unwittingly, into a vein of pagan and pagan-friendly poets as of late. While Watercolour Essences of Moon isn’t expressly pagan, the themes most certainly are relevant to those pagans for whom Nature is an important factor in spirituality.
Rosina’s work is inspired strongly by the Romantic poets such as Shelley, Coleridge, Blake and others; while I haven’t read them extensively since getting my BA in English years ago, I could definitely sense their influence in this collection of poems. Most of the poems at least allude to, if not center on, natural phenomena ranging from broad-branched trees to splashing, running water. However, it is human nature in specific that Rosina captures quite expertly with her carefully chosen words. While the common themes of love and loneliness are addressed, some of the poems are more playful for example, The ‘Lily and the Rose’ is a smirking jab at those who claim that ‘rhyming verse is dead’.
It took me a few times to really get into reading these poems. The author has a background in music, and the quality of the verses is such that they seem to immediately lend themselves to being spoken aloud. At first I wanted to say that this would be the most effective way of conveying the writing, but the poems grew on me over time as reading material as well. Sadly, I live across an ocean from Rosina, so I can’t hear her recite the poems herself, but I hope I did an adequate job myself in the privacy of my own home!
Some of the poems might make for good additions into ritual practices; ‘Sonnet to the Night’, for example, is a lovely tribute to that particular time, personified as female (the Star Goddess, perhaps?). However, even if you’re just appreciative of poetry, this would be a lovely addition to your collection.
Five pawprints out of five.
"(Christala’s) poems possess the fragrance and beauty of early spring and are much needed to breathe new life into our prosaic times. I particularly enjoyed The Pool (eloquently expressed and culminating in a perfect final line) and also To the Sea, which I loved. This is altogether an excellent first collection which I am sure will begin to establish Christala as a poet of the true Romantic line, holding promise of even richer outpourings to follow." Pamela Constantine, poet