21st May: Lunchtime Concert – Molly Parsons Gurr & Christopher Benham (Cello & Piano)

In our third May lunchtime concert we welcome two performers new to St John’s, cellist Molly Parsons-Gurr, who will be accompanied by pianist Christopher Benham. They will be performing Chopin’s exuberant cello sonata and some elegant Beethoven variations. The sonata is one of only nine works published during Chopin’s lifetime written for instruments other than the piano, and is also the last work published before his death in 1849.

As ever St John’s will be open for an hour before the concert begins, with volunteers from the pop-up café team offering lots of home made sweet and savoury treats as well as hot and cold drinks.

The concert will begin promptly at 1pm. Admission is free, but those who are able to afford it are asked to make a donation. The suggested amount is £5.

About Molly Parsons-Gurr:

Molly Parsons-Gurr began her cello studies in Kent with Anne Smith at the age of thirteen, then completed her undergraduate course at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance with David Kenedy and Naomi Butterworth, then took a place at the Royal College of Music gaining a Master of Performance degree, studying with Alexander Boyarsky and Amanda Truelove.
Molly’s performances are varied and have incorporated concerto performances, of which the first was in Canterbury at the age of eighteen, performing the Vivaldi Double Cello Concerto, which she performed again in 2018 with the Hitchin Chamber Orchestra. In the last three years Molly has been involved in the JAM On The Marsh Festival, in the first year performing Messiaen’s ‘Quartet For The End Of Time’, the second year a recital with pianist and fiancée Adrian Oldland including the Poulenc sonata, and the third year performing the London premier of ‘Voices of Vimy’ for choir and solo cello with The Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge at St Brides Church. There have been many diverse recitals, including an event held by Boris Johnson, an event at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, performing in the First International Festival of Music at Chateau des Jalesnes in France, being an on stage cellist during a performance of Dracula, playing in the Women of the World festival orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall and in orchestral tour of North China.
Alongside her performing career Molly teaches cello and piano privately, in St Albans school, St Christopher School in Letchworth and with the Hertfordshire Music Service as an instrumental teacher and orchestral coach.

About Christopher Benham:

Christopher Benham began his musical education as a chorister at Wymondham Abbey, Norfolk. He then went on to study piano and organ at the Colchester Institute School of Music, where he won prizes for solo and ensemble piano playing. After graduating, he joined the Institute’s staff as a piano accompanist. In 1996 he became organist and Director of Music at All Saints’ Church, Hertford, where he continued to develop the strong choral tradition and successfully managed the overhaul of its fine Willis organ.

Chris is a trained teacher. He has held a number of teaching posts and is currently both a teacher of music and the chapel organist at St Edmund’s College, Ware, England’s oldest Catholic school. He performs regularly with a number of instrumentalists, singers and ensembles and has established regular lunchtime concerts in Hertford and Harlow.


25th October: Lunchtime Concert – Elgar Cello Concerto – Nathaniel Watson

17-year-old Nathaniel Watson, from Oundle, will be playing the much-loved Elgar Cello Concerto in a free lunchtime recital in St John’s at 1pm on Thursday 25th October. Nathaniel is in his last year at Eton College as a Music Scholar. and will be playing the Concerto with the school orchestra in December. He gave a well-received recital in Peterborough Cathedral in August 2016 and is looking forward to playing at St John’s. He will be accompanied by the talented young Canadian-born pianist, conductor and musicologist Naomi Woo, who is currently studying for a doctorate in musicology at Clare College, Cambridge.

Admission is free, with a retiring collection.

28th September: 7.30pm Evening Concert: Emma Besselaar and Antonio Oyarzabal (Cello & Piano)

This duo recital by Dutch cellist Emma Besselaar and Spanish pianist Antonio Oyarzabal features music composed in times of war.

Book nowAdvance tickets will be available from the welcome counter in St John’s when the church is open at £8, or online for £8.50. Tickets will also be available on the door for £10. Doors open at 7pm. Interval refreshments will be provided by The Green Backyard pop-up café team.


Debussy – Cello Sonata (1915)
Janáček – Pohádka (1910-1923)
De Falla – Suite Populaire Espagnole (1914)
Martinu – Sonata No. 2 (1941)

About Emma Besselaar:

Emma Besselaar is currently a Guildhall Artist Fellow at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London. In June 2017, she completed her Masters Degree at the same institution with Distinction, studying with Louise Hopkins. Previously, she studied with Quirine Viersen at the Conservatoire of Amsterdam, graduating in June 2014 with ‘very good results’. During her studies, she followed regular lessons with Dmitri Ferschtman and studied baroque cello with Viola de Hoog. From the age of 15, Emma attended the Young Talent Class at the Conservatoire of Amsterdam, where she took lessons with Maarten Mostert.

Emma attended masterclasses including with Raphael Wallfisch, Troels Svane, Adrian Brendel, Anner Bylsma and attended the International Musicians Seminar at Prussia Cove in April 2015, following masterclasses with Ralph Kirschbaum. She is a laureate of various competitions in the Netherlands and an active chamber musician – her piano trio was awarded the first prize in the St. James Chamber Competition and in July 2016 she performed Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time at the Torroella Festival (Spain) with another of her chamber groups, the Idiomelo Ensemble. In May 2017 she performed chamber works by Mahler and Webern in the Barbican Hall, London. In the Netherlands she regularly gives concerts for Kunst in de Kamer and Live Music Now and is involved in the Dutch chamber music initiative Cugnon Project. As an orchestra musician, Emma has been a member of the European Union Youth Orchestra, the Britten-Pears Orchestra (at Aldeburgh Festival) and the Dutch Youth String Orchestra, where she was the principal cellist.

Emma plays on a cello (Francesco Toto, Cremona, 2007) given on loan by the Dutch National Instrument Foundation. Her study in London is made possible by a scholarship from the Dutch Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.

About Antonio Oyarzabal:

Antonio Oyarzabal is a concert pianist born in Bilbao (Spain) in 1989. He studied in Musikene with Marta Zabaleta and Miguel Borges. Later he graduated in Masters as a piano soloist at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he recently finished the Artist Diploma, studying with Caroline Palmer. Antonio combines solo piano and chamber music performances. As a chamber music pianist, Antonio has recently made his debut in Barbican Hall performing Webern piano quintet for a pre-LSO performance . He has also performed with clarinetist Andrew Marriner, and with the Allegri Quartet and Southbank Sinfonia. As a soloist with orchestra, he has played Mozart Piano Concerto nº23 with Aldwych Sinfonia, Mozart 9th Piano Concerto with JOL in Spain, Shostakovich Piano Concerto in F with London Euphonia Orchestra and Poulenc Concerto for two pianos and orchestra (Spain). Antonio has also performed Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue with European Union Youth Orchestra in Grafenegg, Austria. In January this year he performed Ravel Piano Concerto in G with YMSO at St John Smith Square.

As a solo pianist, Antonio performs recitals around the UK, in Spain, and abroad; and has recently presented his CD The Inner Child around Spain, in St Martin in the Fields (London) and in many cities around UK. This debut CD was recorded with Orpheus Classical international record label and has very recently been awarded the Golden Melomano prize in prestigious Melomano magazine.

Antonio received the Audience Special Prize and Finalist Prize in Campillos International Competition 2015, and the 2nd prize at the “Concours International d’Ile de France” in Paris, 2008. Antonio was the pianist of the London Philharmonic Orchestra – Foyle Future Firsts Programme 16/17.

5th June: Lunchtime Concert – Ellen Porter and Alec Hone (Cello & Piano)

For the last but one of our Spring lunchtime concerts we are delighted to welcome back cellist Ellen Porter and her accompanist Alec Hone, after their very well received Tuesdays Till Two début two years ago. Ellen will be playing two of her favourite cello works: the Haydn Cello Concerto No. 1 in C Major, and Shostakovich’s Sonata for Cello and Piano (Op. 40)). Remarkably, the Haydn concerto was for many years thought to be lost, but was rediscovered in 1961 when copy of the score was found in the National Museum in Prague. It has since become a staple of the cello repertoire. Like the Shostakovich sonata, composed some 170 years later and during a turbulent period in Shostakovich’s personal life, it is a work full of both expressive melody and virtuoso passages to take your breath away.

As usual the café will be open from noon, serving a range of hot drinks and homemade quiche, cakes, scones etc. All profits from the café will go to The Green Backyard.

The concert will begin promptly at 1pm. Admission is free, but those who are able to afford it are asked to make a donation. The suggested amount is £5.


Haydn – Cello Concerto No. 1 in C major, Hob. VIIb:1
Shostakovich – Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 40

About Ellen Porter:

Ellen Porter is a British cellist and studies at the Royal Northern College of Music with Eduardo Vassallo. She previously studied with David Smith, and has attended masterclasses with Hannah Roberts, Guy Johnston, Gillian Thoday, Emma Ferrand and Miklos Perenyi. As a passionate orchestral cellist, she has been Principal Cellist of the CBSO Youth Orchestra and has worked with conductors such as Edward Gardner, Jac Van Steen and Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla. Ellen studies baroque cello with Susan Sheppard, and receives regular coaching from Roger Hamilton, Harvey Davies, Annette Isserlis and Pauline Nobes. Ellen plays in a string quartet at the RNCM, who have a busy summer planned with concerts in and around Manchester as well as at the Oundle International Festival. As a soloist, Ellen has performed locally as well as in Hertfordshire and frequently in Manchester. Having grown up in the area and taken part in local music making, Ellen is delighted to return to Peterborough to work once again with pianist Alec Hone. Ellen would like to thank The Edna Newill Charitable Trust for their continued support throughout her musical studies.

29th August: Lunchtime Concert – Helen Downham & Kate Wishart (Cello & Piano)

For the last of our Tuesdays Till Two concerts of the summer we welcome cellist Helen Downham, who’ll be accompanied on piano by John Davy Kate Wishart. They’ll be playing an all French programme entitled “La Belle France” featuring the music of French composers such as Gabriel Fauré and Camille Saint-Saëns. We’ll have more detail about the programme nearer the date of the concert.

As usual the café will be open from noon, serving a range of hot drinks and homemade quiche, cakes,scones etc. All profits from the café will go to The Green Backyard.

The concert will begin promptly at 1pm. Admission is free, but those who are able to afford it are asked to make a donation. The suggested amount is £4.