Promoting Light Orchestral Music Concerts
PCO Review – Music from the Palm Court:
A bright and very clear Palm Sunday afternoon greeted concert-goers as they made their way to the Platform venue to savour the Promenade Concert Orchestra’s latest musical offerings from the Palm Court heyday of live light music-making. It has become a trade mark of this fine orchestra, under the enthusiastic tutelage of founder-conductor Howard Rogerson, to provide carefully constructed programmes containing variety and originality as well as familiar melodic charm and this very enjoyable concert was certainly no exception.
The first half commenced with a dramatic operatic overture in the Weber/early Wagner tradition –Die Felsenmuhle von Estalieres by Reissiger – and ended with a relatively early but characteristically tuneful and well-crafted work by Eric Coates – Suite: From the Countryside. In between these two slightly more substantial pieces came some musical gems, several of which gave individual members of the orchestra the opportunity to shine – and, along with an occasional hint of Spring, this was to be one of the themes of the afternoon. Of particular note was the hauntingly beautiful, folk tune-inspired Celtic Lament by J. H. Foulds with a memorable ‘cello solo by Bob Buller, an arrangement of the Valse des Fleurs showpiece for two flutes by Kohler in which the solo parts were expertly played by Christine Lorriman and Suzanne de Lozey, and the gently melodious and wistful suite from the TV commissioned Victorian Kitchen Garden by Paul Reade, in which clarinettist Janet Barlow and harpist Maxine Molin (about whom more later) excelled.
An arrangement of the military march, The Mad Major, by Alford got the second half off to a rousing start, and before the well orchestrated selection of popular tunes from Jerome Kern’s Roberta, including Smoke gets in your Eyes, which brought the concert to a happy conclusion, the always appreciative audience received several more musical treats. Of special mention, Christopher Irvin’s recently composed and very pleasing Valse – Springtime Saunter was performed for the first time, with the composer present, whilst The Violin Song, a beautiful arrangement of Paul Rubens’ Play to Me (from Tina), featured Leader Julian Cann in intricate and masterly interplay with the orchestra. In addition, Maxine Molin, suitably attired, produced some brilliant harp playing in the quirky and entertaining Baroque Flamenco for solo harp by Deborah Henson-Conant. Even the seagulls up above declared their appreciation!
Another successful performance, therefore, by the Promenade Concert Orchestra in their penultimate concert of the 2017-18 season – which contained splendid ensemble and sectional playing as well as the solo playing already mentioned – while Conductor Howard Rogerson’s oversight of proceedings was as insightful, innovative and informative as usual. If you have not yet had the good fortune of attending a PCO concert you still have the chance to support Morecambe’s own orchestra in the current season – on Sunday May 20th.
REVIEW OF PCO ‘LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS’ AT THE PLATFORM:
On a balmy late spring day, Morecambe’s Promenade Concert Orchestra ended its latest successful season in style adding the forces of a fine local choir and vocal soloists to its own considerable talents. As conductor Howard Rogerson commented at the outset, mounting this concert posed a few logistical challenges for the Platform venue, which is rarely faced with accommodating such a combination of performers, but in the event every musician, together with the sizeable audience, appeared to fit in quite nicely! The assistance of his ‘Pooh Bah’ (his wife, Valerie Baulard) in applying the final touches at various key junctures was also rightly and warmly acknowledged.
Although the Sunday afternoon performance concluded in the traditional ‘Last Night’ fashion with Parry’s Jerusalem and Elgar’s first Pomp and Circumstance March, the rest of the concert contained a number of welcome innovative features and celebrated the worlds both of opera and of light music from the UK. The music making commenced with Weber’s well-constructed and tuneful Euryanthe overture – the only purely orchestral piece in the first half – whilst Verdi’s rousing and impressive Triumphal Scene from Aida suitably rounded off proceedings before the interval. In between were a broad selection of attractive arias and choruses from seven well-known works by Donizetti, Gounod, Mascagni, Johann Strauss and Verdi. The second half contained two orchestral works – the sparkling Celebration Overture by living British composer, Philip Lane, and the skilfully crafted and folk song based Cumberland Square by Lancashire composer, Ernest Tomlinson. These sandwiched a further operatic gem – the Fly Duet from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld – before the Fantasia on British Songs and Dances by orchestral member Julian Davies (originally commissioned by Lancaster Priory in 2014) led on to the final celebratory pieces.
Rowena Thornton was the soprano soloist, singing alone in four arias, as well as with the chorus in further pieces, and in the duet. The challenging arias from Rigoletto, Faust, and Die Fledermaus and the soloist contributions in the Easter Hymn and the Fantasia were performed with skill, sensitivity and panache and gave many opportunities for this versatile singer to display her fine, pleasant and wide ranging voice. The experienced bass soloist Brian Lancaster is well known to concert goers in the region in a variety of singing roles, and besides singing in the Fantasia, he featured prominently and entertainingly with Rowena Thornton in a very amusing and accomplished rendering of the Fly Duet which the audience enjoyed greatly.
The Carnforth and District Choral Society choir, including their chorus master, Martin Webster, had a very important part to play in the afternoon’s proceedings. From tragedy to triumph and from folk songs to hymn tunes they produced a very pleasing mix of sound in a variety of choral contributions, including the moving Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, and were not fazed by the occasional exuberance of the orchestra’s magnificent brass playing! In addition, tenor Ederic Ibbotson, one of their number, sang the solo part very effectively in the chorus of wedding guests from Lucia di Lammermoor.
The various sections of the orchestra were given every opportunity to display their skills in the array of beautifully scored music to be performed, which they took eagerly. In addition Julian Davies’ Fantasia was in part intended to ‘show case’ individual section leaders, including Jill Jackson, guest leader on the day, and all responded with élan.
Howard Rogerson had the far from easy role in this ambitious concert of keeping everybody together and achieving the right balance in terms of sound between singers and orchestra. This he achieved well for the most part and the audience responded warmly to the rare feast of music on offer, including participating in the community singing at the end. Another successful season now over, the conductor and orchestra will be back again in November and hopefully for many years to come!