Hopefully I wasn’t the only one present not quite sure what to expect from a Concerto for Beatboxer. But knowing that the work was co-written by Eduardo Reck Miranda, Professor in Computer Music at Plymouth University, the musical credentials should be well assured.
Devonshire Cream is well known across the country, and when Devon Baroque under director, Andrew Wilson-Dickson is on the kind of form it is now, then it, too, deserves to be equally as renowned way beyond the county boundary.
While this year’s annual Ten Tors expedition will be taking place once more in a couple of months, the orchestra that proudly bore the same name since 1998 has now given its final concert back in the same Dartmoor town where it started.
While this was effectively the last Ten Tors Orchestra Gala Christmas Concert as such, conductor Simon Ible ensured that every member of the packed audience still went home full of seasonal cheer and goodwill.
If you asked any choir aficionado to name a large-scale oratorio by Haydn, it would be a safe bet to expect The Creation by way of a reply.
University of Plymouth Choral Society concerts always tend to have something special about them, and none more than the Christmas event. However, this year’s event just seemed to have some extra charisma.
To Messiah, or not – that’s the annual dilemma for choirs as Christmas approaches.
Variety is the spice of life, they say, and when this applies to programme planning, it can be particularly telling.
Truro’s Three Spires Singers have this off to a fine art. If a vocal work is long enough to stand on its own, then fine. But when it’s not, conductor Christopher Gray doesn’t just pad things out with a few vocal stocking-fillers, but comes up with something more inventive, that makes optimum use of his available singers and players.
This special programme – a musical celebration of the Queen’s 90th Birthday earlier this year – got off to a great start with an electrifying performance of Walton’s Crown Imperial March, which must surely have tugged at the heart-strings of even the most hardened antiroyalist.
Having got the party-mood in full swing, it then seemed a shame that the next couple of pieces did little or nothing to maintain this. Clearly these two works for strings only, were intended to give the brass section a vital breather, but there are, perhaps, some other options out there.
But bring on Ralph Vaughan Williams, and everything is back on track again, in the captivating form of his mini-concerto for violin and orchestra – The Lark Ascending. From the first to last note, this was an outstanding performance from New Zealand-born Benjamin Baker, despatched with such simple, heartfelt emotion, over a finely-contoured and immensely warm accompaniment from the orchestra.
From then on, the celebrations kicked off again with great aplomb, starting with Walton’s Charge and Battle from his Henry V Suite – wisely slotted in before the interval – to ensure everyone was back in real high spirits for Holst’s Jupiter, and finally Elgar’s glorious Enigma Variations. Here, conductor Anne Kimber could not have asked for more from her loyal subjects, led by Dawn Ashby, resulting in one of the orchestra’s most inspired performances to date.
PHILIP R BUTTALL
Even ‘Wild Women’ aren’t immune from the seasonal bugs doing the rounds at the moment, and which always hit singers hardest.
Ten Tors Orchestra has just had a makeover, only to rise again under the banner of Peninsula Arts Sinfonietta, although admittedly any outward signs seem more political, than musical.
This stimulating bit-by-bit reassembly of the string-quartet medium, opened with a confident and expressive performance of the Sarabande and Double from Bach’s First Partita for solo violin, by quartet-leader Pierre-Emmanuel Largeron.
Orchestral concerts often include one concerto, but two are unusual, unless you’re talking shorter works from the Baroque. Three is virtually unheard of unless you happen to be Torbay Symphony Orchestra (TSO), who not only played the first three Beethoven Piano Concertos on one night, but followed this with the Fourth and Fifth the next day.
Over the recent summer months, St Andrew’s has hosted its now annual Lunchtime Recital Series where, each week, audiences have been able to get a light lunch, while enjoying some forty or so minutes of musical entertainment by well over thirty different performers, from organ recitals and a school choir, to small brass and string ensembles, and more besides.
Medics aren’t usually best-known for blowing their own trumpet – except, that is, when they play the top two parts in a brass ensemble. Some three years ago, medical doctors Ben Dawson and Bruce Fox teamed up with academic doctors Debby Cotton (horn) and Matthew Watkinson (tuba) – educational researcher and geologist respectively – and professional trombonist Jamie Dove, to form Portland Square Brass Quintet.
Picking a lunchtime recital programme is not unlike planning a midday meal. Shorter and immediately appealing items are generally better tolerated than something heavy and ponderous, and which then might need the rest of the afternoon to digest.
What a pity this thoroughly-entertaining recital could be enjoyed only by those lucky enough to be in the city centre around lunchtime, as it was really too good to miss.
With the variety of instrumentalists and singers taking part in this year’s series of Summer Recitals at St Andrew’s, it’s all too easy to forget that the church still has one of the largest, and indeed finest organs in the whole of the South West.
Over the years there have been many choral events in Plymouth’s Mother Church, but The Palace Theatre Choir and Orchestra’s concert was simply quite unlike anything else.
Having already commented on the piano tone, it was somewhat worrying to see it miked up this time, where every sound was now going to be amplified, and played back through the PA system – something that tends to make things worse, rather than better.
This year marked The Exon Singers’ Golden Jubilee, so the closing event of the 2016 annual festival should prove to be something rather special.
It takes a lot of organising to plan a lunchtime recital series with almost twenty weekly events – to say nothing of needing to be on hand each time, just in case something goes wrong.