The Gala Concert of this year’s Peninsula Arts Words and Music Festival was in many ways a joyful affair, full of schmaltzy melodies, lush orchestrations, conductor Simon Ible’s now-legendary successful mix of styles, and the contribution from soprano soloist, Jeni Bern.
Themed around the Roaring Twenties, the programme was a heady mix of musical comedy, with classical and light music, played to perfection by the augmented Sinfonietta, under Mary Eade’s inspired leadership.
Ansell’s evocative Plymouth Hoe Overture and a sparkling Lehar waltz got things off to a flying start, followed by a selection from Jerome Kern’s ever-popular Showboat, where Jeni was on top form in Can’t help lovin’ dat man, with Gershwin’s S’Wonderful and Rodgers and Hart’s With a song in my heart following on in the same vein.
The Sinfonietta was particularly impressive in Vaughan Williams’s English Folk Song Suite, and in E J Moeran’s Lonely Waters, where Jeni’s closing solo added greatly to the poignant effect. Two contrasting Cole Porter numbers confirmed her true versatility, leaving another Gershwin song, and a superbly-played orchestral tribute to Rodgers and Hammerstein to finish.
Altogether certainly joyful, the evening was nevertheless tinged with sadness since this is the very last time Simon will conduct for Peninsula Arts and the University, following his imminent retirement. He has achieved a great deal musically, and in many other ways, and will be most sorely missed by all.
PHILIP R BUTTALL