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National Youth String Orchestra of Scotland
(page 110)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series
Drams full glass full glass
Music Handel: Concerto grosso Op.6 No.1; Panufnik: Old Polish suite for string orchestra; Percy E Fletcher (1879-1932): Folk tune and fiddle dance suite for strings; Vivaldi: Concerto grosso in D minor Op.3 No.11; Arr. Edward McGuire: Chinese Air and Dances for String Orchestra; Holst: St Paul's Suite for String Orchestra
Musicians National Youth String Orchestra of Scotland, James Durrant MBE (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall (Venue 100)
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

James Durrant MBE

The National Youth String Orchestra of Scotland (NYSOS) and its Training School were established by the Scottish Amateur Music Association in 1969 to give young string players of a wide range of abilities the opportunity to play, in large string orchestras, music which perhaps they would not be able to experience in their local situation. The works studied and performed are from the rich string repertoire stretching from the 17th century to the present day. The orchestra had just completed a five day residential course in Edinburgh and this concert was its culmination. 56 young string players took the stage tonight to show the fruits of their labours under the direction of James Durrant MBE, one of the country's leading viola players and a teacher for 30 years at the RSAMD in Glasgow. True to its aims, the NYSOS presented a programme of music from the 17th to the 20th century.

The programme started with the Handel Concerto Grosso, which was in five movements. The start was a little bit hesitant with the entries a little bit ragged and the intonation slightly suspect in some area. However, things settled down and they produced a very satisfactory performance.

It then jumped into the 20th century with the Panufnik Suite. This consisted of five movements (Dance 1, Interlude, Dance 2, Chorale, Haydok). They were all derived from Polish folk tunes and the dance movements used typical folk dance time signatures and rhythms. The playing was certainly getting better and by the time we reached the Chorale, the Orchestra was in fine voice and produced a good solid sound. I don't know what a Haydok is, but I think that it must be some sort of dance. Anyway it provided a satisfactory completion to the first half of the concert.

The second half started with another 17th century Concerto grosso, this time by Vivaldi in three movements. It featured two solo violins, played by the young ladies who led the first and second violin sections. They were very good indeed and gave a very good performance and was, in effect, a concerto for two violins. The soloists were ably supported by the Orchestra and in particular, the young lady who led the cello section, who provided an excellent bass line to the soloists.

This was followed by an arrangement of a Chinese tune and a couple of Chinese dances (Jasmine Flower, Purple Bamboo Melody, Song of Happiness). This featured the leader of the Orchestra who played the tune as an extended solo. The music sounded quite Chinese, with typical oriental musical intervals, but there was a hint of Scottishness about the music.. These tunes had been very expertly arranged by Edward McGuire, who was present in the Hall to accept the applause the work deserved. The soloist gave an excellent performance.

By this time the Orchestra had really warmed up and gained confidence. The playing was very much improved, in all areas, from what it had been when the concert started, so the players were in good form to finish the concert with Holst's St Paul's suite. This is a very popular piece with string orchestras, and rightly so and is in three movements. The unison playing at the beginning was excellent with good tone and intonation. A new young lady had taken over the leaders desk and she played an excellent solo in the second movement, which was accompanied by pizzicato strings. The movement ended with a quartet formed by the leaders of the two violin sections, the viola section and the cello section. The closing movement is subtitled The Dargason, which is an old English folk tune used as a country-dance. It is a jig which I think most of the audience would have said was Irish, but Holst very cleverly interwove the old English tune Greensleeves into it and thus the concert was brought to an end.

The orchestra was directed throughout by James Durrant in his usual calm and controlled manner, but it was obvious that he had created a rapport with the players and they responded very well to his leadership. A most worthwhile concert and a good start to the 2004 festival of British Youth orchestras.

© Charlie Napier. 14 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com See also www.nayo.org.uk

National Youth String Orchestra of Scotland
© Charlie Napier


 



   

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Youth Orchestra (Page 94)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series
Drams full glass full glass
Music Britten: Sinfonia da Requiem Opus 20; John Adams (1947-): Century rolls; Tchaikovsky: The sleeping beauty, extracts from the full ballet
Musicians Stephen Gutman ([piano); Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Youth Orchestra, Matthew Gunn (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

Matthew Gunn
© Charlie Napier

This was a welcome return visit from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Youth Orchestra, this time under a new conductor, Matthew Gunn. Matthew has recently taken up the position of Head of Cambridgeshire County Music Services. Unfortunately, his orchestra suffers from one of the problems that seems to affect most youth orchestras, lack of players in certain sections. In this case it was the strings, with only two violas and one double bass, but it also had two guest French horn players. It was a large orchestra, in terms of the number of different instruments used, most of which were used in the Britten and the Adams works. It was a very ambitious programme, and a very long one, as it turned out - two-and-a-half hours, including an interval and I think it was showing in the playing as we reached the end.

The concert started with Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem. This is a three-movement work, commissioned in September 1939 to commemorate the 2,600 year anniversary of the founding of the Japanese Empire. Britten had wanted to write something for some time in memory of his parents, plus the tragedy of the Spanish Civil war and the Sino-Japanese War plus, of course, the outbreak of the Second World War.

The three movements are played without a break. The first, Lacrymosa, is really a funeral dirge, with the lower strings supporting a broad melody that eventually builds to a climax that then runs into the frantic Dies Irae. This is a quite frantic movement, with numerous climaxes eventually leading into the Requiem Aeternam which, after the frantic start, eventually changes into a major key and becomes more peaceful before fading away to silence. This was an excellent performance with the orchestra producing very good ensemble playing and intonation. Unfortunately, and no fault of the orchestra, we had to suffer from the usual Central Hall acoustics, which usually results in the brass drowning out the strings. When the brass are not playing, or are playing softly, then everything is OK.

The next piece was Century rolls by John Adams, one of the best known and most popular of contemporary composers. This work was inspired by listening to recordings of old piano rolls and came about as a result of a request from a pianist friend, Emanuel Ax, who premiered the work in 1996. It is really a piano concerto in three movements with the first two played without a break. The soloist this evening was Stephen Gutman, one of the country's leading exponents of contemporary piano music.

Stephen Gutman
© Charlie Napier

The first movement, uninspiringly entitled First Movement, was typical Adams with short motifs being repeated over and over again by single instruments, including the piano, or small groups of instruments. It was very syncopated even although the conductor was beating a strict four in a bar. I am not sure if the foot-stomps by the soloist in this movement were deliberate (shades of jelly Roll Morton!). The second, slow, movement, titled Manny's Gym, was very lyrical and in Adams own words: "Iattempted to tame my normally clangorous style of piano writing and create something that would fit the sense timbre and lyrical warmth that sets his performances apart from all other pianists". I think that Stephen achieved this lyrical quality. I am not quite sure what the connection with Manny's Gym. The final movement, Hail Bop was not inspred by Be-Bop music, although it sounded a bit like it, but was supposed to be called after the Hale-Bopp comet of 1995, Adams just got the spelling wrong. This movement is a tribute to the music of Conlon Nancarrow (1912-1997), an experimentalist American composer, whose output consisted practically entirely of music for player pianos. Stephen gave an excellent performance, despite the fact that the piano was not a full concert grand, which is what was really required in order to achieve the power required. This was really a very demanding piece, especially for the young players, and under the controlled baton of Matthew Gunn, they achieved excellent results.

The evening finished with excerpts from Tchaikovsky's ballet The Sleeping Beauty. This did not turn out to be the five-movement suite that had been devised by Alexander Ziloti in 1899, as was suggested by the programme notes, but numerous excerpts from the full ballet. There are 30 "movements" in the full ballet, and I think that we heard the majority of them. There is not much to say about the playing except that I think that the players were getting tired towards the end and the conductor had to call for a retuning just more than half-way through. The intonation in the strings was just beginning to go off, which slightly spoilt the ending, but on the whole, this was an excellent performance by a group of capable young musicians who were clearly enjoying themselves.

© Charlie Napier. 16 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.co.uk See also www.nayo.org.uk

 



   

East Renfrewshire Schools Symphony Orchestra (page 100)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series
Drams full glass full glass
Music Arnold: Divertimento No.2, Op.75; Gabrieli: Sonata pian' e forte; Anthony J Cirone: 4/4 on Four; in Britten: Simple symphony-Sentimental sarabande; Smetana: Má Vlast-Vltava
Musicians East Renfrewshire Schools Symphony Orchestra, Alasdair Mitchell (Conductro)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

This short lunchtime concert was an opportunity for the players of the East Renfrewshire Schools Symphony Orchestra as a whole, as well as the individual sections of the orchestra, to demonstrate their skills and prowess.

The concert started with Arnold's Divertimento, a three movement work for the full orchestra. The first movement was dominated by the brass section, but the other sections had their say too. The second movement was more the province of the string sections. There was quite a poignant theme in the violins and the support from the brass and the percussion produced a mysterious affect. The third movement was really lively, full of syncopated rhythms, particularly in the brass section. This reminded me very much of film music, of which Arnold was a prolific composer. The domination of the brass section is not surprising either, because he started his musical life as a trumpeter and was recognised as one of the finest trumpet players of the 1930s and 1940s in this country.

The second item on the programme was the Sonata pian' e forte (the soft and loud sonata) for brass. 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones and a tube made up the group. A sonata was originally a composition that was played by instruments as opposed to a cantata, which had voice parts. Gabrieli was a Venetian composer and organist who wrote a lot of church music, particularly choral music, but also wrote a lot for brass ensembles. This was typical Gabrieli music, polyphonic but resulting in a beautiful sonorous sound. This group of 12 young players produced an excellent sound.

Anthony J Cirone graduated from the Julliard School in new York in 1965, specialising in percussion. After a career playing percussion in symphony orchestra, he turned to education and is now Professor of Music at Indiana University in the USA. He is a prolific writer about percussion playing and a composer of works for percussion ensembles. This was one of them. Four percussion players played a variety of drums in a very exciting manner. To say it was rhythmic is perhaps an understatement. The ensemble was directed by Pamella (NOT a mistake) Dow, the percussion tutor for the orchestra.

The strings were the next section to be highlighted. They played the Sentimental sarabande from Britten's Simple symphony. The players produced a nice warm sound with a lovely tone. There was a hint of some slightly off intonation in the lower strings towards the end, but it did not distract from an overall lovely performance.

The whole orchestra came together to finish the concert by playing Vltava from Má Vlast (My Homeland) by Smetana, a series of six symphonic poems that commemorate the scenery and legends of Smetana's homeland, Bohemia. The Vltava is the main river of Bohemia/Czechoslovakia that rises in the south of the country and flows through the capital, Prague, on its way to the sea. The music illustrates various scenes that happen on the way. It is a delightful work and very emotive. It was played with great gusto and enthusiasm, especially the beautiful broad tune that represents the river as it flows across the plain. This was an excellent rendition and was most enjoyable, even although there was a little bit of raggedness creeping in towards the end.

Throughout the concert, Alasdair Mitchell, no stranger to this Hall or to youth orchestras, directed the orchestra with all his usual skill and efficiency. Overall a most enjoyable concert and I am sure that the parents and tutors were very prod of these young players.

© Charlie Napier 17 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.co.uk See also www.nayo.org.uk

Series continues Aug 25, 26, 30, 31, Sep 1, 2, 4 at 12.30 and Aug 17, 19, 20, 23, 25, 26, 28, 30, Sep 1, 2, 4, at 1930 in this venue
   

Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra
(page 17)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams full glass
Music Mendelssohn: Violin concerto in E minor; Hindemith: Symphonic metamorphosis on themes by Carl Maria von Weber; Dvorák: Symphony No. 9 in E minor (From the New World)
Musicians Gemma Bass (violin); Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra, Russell Parry (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

Russell Parry
© C Napier

This orchestra first came to this Festival in 2002. It is a fine, balanced orchestra and I am delighted to say that the standard of playing shows continued improvement; it seems to be going from strength to strength and has a tour of France to look forward to in 2005. Russell Parry has been conducting it since 1997 so there is continuity of leadership, which provides stability for the players. His direction tonight was always clear and precise and it does credit to him, and to his tutor colleagues, that they have the confidence in the players to ask them to play such demanding music in front of a paying audience.

It is the fate of youth orchestras to lose their best players when, after possibly years of training and coaching, they reach school-leaving age and go on to other things. This was the situation with the soloist in tonight's concerto. 18 year old Gemma Bass, who is the leader of the orchestra, was playing her last concert with them before going on to university to study music.

Gemma Bass
© Charlie Napier

She was given the opportunity to display her talents by playing the second and third movements of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. Only two movements were played because she was not given enough time to learn the first movement and get it to concert standard. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity for this delightful young lady. She played the two movements from memory and what a fine job she did. Her playing was very expressive and sensitive and she deserved the ovation she received, from the audience and from her colleagues in the orchestra, who provided an very good accompaniment and only on a few occasions was there a little danger of it drowning out the soloist.

Paul Hindemith was a German-born violinist who, early in his career, turned to composition. He was regarded in the early 20th century as one of the leaders in modern music. Although his name became linked with atonal music, his music was very firmly rooted in the old harmonic tradition. He fell foul of the Nazis in the 1930s and went to the USA in 1940 where he stayed for the rest of his life. One of the works he wrote there, in 1943, was the Symphonic Metamrphosis. This is a four-movement work for full orchestra and quite a challenge for a young orchestra. It was a very competent performance, with some exciting moments - not least in the second movement, which was taken at a cracking pace, when there were some rather anxious looks in the brass section. However, all ended well with an overall excellent and enjoyable performance.

After the interval, the orchestra played Dvorák's 9th Symphony, subtitled 'From the New World'. He composed in it 1893 while he was living in the USA and it was given its first performance in New York that year. It has become probably the best known of his symphonies and many people still believe that the theme of the second movement is an old negro spiritual, whereas he actually composed it himself. The work is so well known that it does not need describing. This was a massive undertaking for a young orchestra and they certainly rose to the challenge, tackling it with enthusiasm and producing a very good performance. It was only slightly marred further into the work when certain intonation deficiencies started to creep into some passages on the strings, especially the upper strings. However, they did not detract from the performance and the orchestra thoroughly deserved the ovation that greeted the end of the finale.

As an encore, the orchestra played Jupiter from Holst's Planets Suite. There was some great fun had by all and was a delightful bonus. There was even a short second encore (with some protesting from the orchestra!), which I have to admit I only vaguely recognised. There was something "Star War-ish" about it but I am prepared to be corrected. An excellent concert which was heard by a very good audience, both in numbers and appreciation.

© Charlie Napier, 17 August 2004.Published on www.edinburghguide.co.uk See also www.nayo.org.uk

Series continues Aug 25, 26, 30, 31, Sep 1, 2, 4 at 12.30 and Aug 19, 20, 23, 25, 26, 28, 30, Sep 1, 2, 4.
   

1933 and all that: Brecht, Weill & friends (Page 92)
Drams full glass
Musicians Anna Zapparoli (vocals); Beniamino Bociani (soprano); Mario Borciani (piano) + supporting jazz band
Venue Hill Street Theatre (Venue 41)
Address Hill Street
Reviewer Damon Thompson

Anna Zapparoli & Mario Borciani
Now in its third season at the Edinburgh Festival, this is a welcome return for a show that is steadily becoming, and deservedly so, a Fringe classic. Through the songs of Bertold Brecht, Kurt Weill, and their contemporaries, 1933 and all that follows the journey of Brecht and Weill from Berlin at the turn of the century to America and
success on Broadway.

Anna Zapparoli is an accomplished performer, and her talent is obvious from the very start. Although Zapparoli does not quite possess the charm and sassy delivery of the early cabaret greats - Marlene Dietrich is a hard act to follow - the songs are still brought to life in a spirited and engaging fashion. Zapparoli is accompanied on piano by her husband Mario Borciani, who devised and orchestrated the show, and an accomplished jazz band.

Borciani's selection of songs not only illustrate the story of Brecht and Weill, but also provide an insight into the social and political climate of the time: Nazi Europe and the reality of war lurk menacingly in the background. Zapparoli is joined on stage by the young Beniamino Bociani, a budding soprano, who's gifted and adds further
narrative to the unfolding tale. The transition from Berlin to Broadway, symbolised by Zapparoli's on-stage change of dress, is emphasised by a brilliant, instrumental, version of one of Brecht and Weill's most popular collaborations, Mack the Knife.

1933 and all that is a very emotive, involving and enjoyable production, which will hopefully enjoy more Fringe success in future years. It comes highly recommended.

©) Damon Thompson. 19 Aiugust 2004. Published om www.edinburghguide,com

Run 6-22 August 2004 (Not 18 August)

   

Rab Noakes (Page 111)
Drams full glass
Music His own
Musician Rab Noakes
Venue Reid Hall
Address Reid Quad, Bristo Square
Reviewer Julian Davis

Rab Noakes
What a civilised way to spend a dry but mild summer Saturday evening, sitting in the Reid Quad with a wee drink admiring the architecture and awaiting entrance to a Rab Noakes concert. Rab had done the Reid Hall last year and was obviously pleased to be back in front of an Edinburgh Fringe audience, bidding us a brief “welcome” before launching into Too old to die from his debut album Did you see the lights? way back in 1970. Here is one of Scotland’s most influential singer/songwriters totally in the spotlight and without the aid of his harmonica playing partner Fraser Speirs whom I believe had been bagged first by Tam White for his show.

For the next hour and a quarter, we were treated to selections from the vast repertoire of Rab’s collection of songs and recordings, even a cover version of a more recent pop tune – Radiohead’s High and Dry. Not all songs end up as they were originally penned. Some like the debut of Daybreaking had metamorphosed from an initial attempt at writing a song on the nearness of war. I could empathise with Rab on his feelings about being a strolling minstrel and being away from his own bed a lot, although it does sometimes give quality thinking time and ideas for new songs do develop. Whilst doing some workshops in East Lothian near Pencaitland, he came up with the idea for Light in my heart, a slow reflective but melodic number. He took us back to the context of his first song for a song recorded on his Rarities Vol.1 album which had been recorded on Ľ inch tapes in about 1969, but it gave us the more up tempo ragtime number Pile high.

There were some serious moments, like when he slowed it down for a reflective song called Gently does it which he had written about an old singer Alex Campbell who died some time ago of throat cancer and our thoughts were directed towards the Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts who is currently suffering from the same condition.

This was followed by a song he had written in Devon called Running in the Rain, an R&B styled song, and we remembered the floods earlier in the week down in Boscastle. The Red Pump Special album certainly holds special memories for many of the audience as they showed their appreciation of Branch which also appears in Rab’s Varaflames album as well. Don’t forget to cry was especially well received – an old Everley Brothers “B” side, as was the Leiber/Stoller/Spector song Spanish Harlem with its beautifully extended instrumental solo midway - which brought us full circle because the Lights back on reconnects to his first album.

This nearly brought the concert to an end but thunderous applause, whistles and cheers brought Rab back for an encore for which he performed a busker version of The fallen ones. Here was a talented musician doing what he loves best – out on tour performing live – and despite many projects with other artists and his work with Neon, we can but wish it long continues.

© Julian Davis. 24/08/2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com See also www.go2neon.com

   

University College Chapel Choir Durham (page 118)
NAYO Festival Of Youth Choirs (page 100)
Drams full glass
Music Manning Sherwin (arr. Richard Shephard): A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square; Tippett: A child of our time-Five negro spirituals; Richard Rogers (arr. David Blackwood): Blue Moon; Con Conrad (arr. David Balckwood): The Continental; Parry: Songs of Farewell
Musicians University College Chapel Choir, Durham University: Director, David Jackson
Venue Central Hall (Venue 100)
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier


This was the second of a Festival of Youth Choirs series of six concerts being run in conjunction with the Festival of British Youth Orchestras. This short lunchtime concert was given by a group of 18 singers (6 Sopranos, 4 Altos, 4 Tenors and 4 basses) all of whom are students at University College of Durham University. They all sing in the College Chapel Choir directed by David Jackson, who is starting his third year of study in music at the University. He specialises in choral conducting and organ playing. This was a delightful concert for a nice bright sunny afternoon.

The concert started with the choir in "open order" to use a military term, performing an upbeat version of that old classic popular song A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square. This was a very good arrangement for four parts by Richard Shephard. I don't know if this number was included deliberately as a tribute, but this song was written in 1915, so it will be 90 years old next year.

They continued with five Negro Spirituals from Tippet's oratorio A Child of Our Time. This was written during 1939-41 as an impassioned protest against persecution and tyranny, something that he felt very strongly about. The Spirituals were: Steal away; Nobody knows; Go down, Moses; By and by; and Deep river. They were sung tenderly and expressively.

The next two items were additions to the programme. They were arrangements, again for four parts, by David Blackwood, of two "popular songs", from the heyday of the American Musical:Blue Moon and The continental. The arrangement of the latter was not quite as good as that of the former. Showing my age, The continental always conjures up images of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Both were well sung.

The choir finished with four of the five Songs of Farewell by Hubert Parry. Written in the last three years of his life, they are settings of poems by different poets that reflect on the transitory nature of human existence and the hope of continuing life in another world. The four sung today were all composed in 1916 and are amongst the most deeply philosophical and tender music he wrote. They were (poets name in brackets): My soul, there is a country ( Henry Vaughan, 1622-95); I know my soul hath power to know all things (John Davies, 1569-1626); Never, weather-beaten sail (Thomas Campion 1567-1620); There is an old belief (John Gibson Lockhart 1794-1854). They were most beautifully sung.

The choir sang all their numbers without accompaniment and there was no dropping in pitch during the singing of each piece, as far as I could detect, which sometimes happens with unaccompanied choirs. David Jackson directed them with nice clear movements and the choir responded extremely well. All round it was an excellent concert and the only thing that I would fault would be the diction. It was not always possible to understand the words, unless you happen to know them, but then this is a fault that could be attributed to every choir. One of the reasons is that not every part is singing the same words at the same time. However, this is really a minor complaint and in no way detracted from the enjoyment of the concert.

This choir regularly sings a weekly Choral Evensong on Thursdays and a Sung Eucharist on Sunday mornings. The College occupies Durham Castle, right next to Durham Cathedral and actually possesses two Chapels, both of which are open to the public. I am sure the singing of this choir enhances the services there.

© Charlie Napier, 21 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.co.uk See also www.nayo.org.uk

Series continues Aug 28, Sep 3 at 12.30 and Aug 24, Sep 2, at 19.30 in this venue
University College Choir, University of Durham
© Charlie Napier


 



   

RSAMD Junior Academy Orchestra (page 114)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
full glass
Music Berlioz: Overture: Le Carnaval Romain; Dvorák: Romance Op.11 for violin and orchestra; Khachaturian: Gayane-Three dances; Chabrier: Espańa (orchestral rhapsody); Jules Mouquet (1867-1946): La flute de Pan Op.15; Britten: The young person's guide to the orchestra
Musicians Erica Buurman (violin); Emily Callaghan (flute); RSAMD Junior Academy Orchestra, Nigel Boddice (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

This orchestra's performance, this evening, would have done some professional orchestras proud. It stresses the much-debated importance of arts subjects, and in particular of the voluntary subject of music, in the educational system.

It is not just the musical skills that are being honed. The school-age members of thre RSAMD Junior Academy Orchestra are obviously also being taught how to behave on the stage in front of an audience. From the moment they walked on to the stage and started tuning up, it showed a sense of discipline. There was very little, if anything, that one could find fault with in any aspect of their musicianship, whether it was their tuning, intonation, ensemble playing, watching the conductor, listening to each other, encouraging each other. It was simply most professional approach which they brought to their task.

The programme they played tonight could have been given by any professional orchestra in the country. However, the works were obviously chosen to give as many members of the orchestra as possible an opportunity to participate.

Aram Khachaturian

The two big showpiece works in the first half, the Berlioz and the Chabrier, certainly provided them with that opportunity and it was seized with enthusiasm. They were both given an excellent performance. The Khachaturian Dances were played by a slightly reduced orchestra, but were given an equally excellent performance. Just one small comment: the placement of the Interval was changed and announced before the concert began, but nobody announced that the order in which these Dances were performed were not as stated in the programme. Did some people in the audience think that they were listening to a Lullaby when they were actually listening to the Dance of the maidens? The third of the dances was Lezghinka, which is like a tarantella, and one could imagine the peasant dancers whirling and jigging about.

In the Dvorák, the soloist was Erica Buurman, the leader of the orchestra, a very experienced, and talented (as well as good-looking) young lady who is going on to the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. She played this piece from memory and she played it beautifully. She had also obviously been coached on her stage-presence. Her whole appearance and performance were a treat to see and hear.

The second soloist came immediately after the Interval when Emily Callaghan played her flute in Mouqhet's La flute de Pan. I had not heard of this composer before, so this piece was new to me. It is a delightful orchestral version of a flute and piano sonata, which shows off the abilities of the flute in three movements, the titles of which describe exactly the pictures conjured up by the music: Pan et les bergers; Pan et les oiseaux; Pan et les nymphes. Again it was obvious that she too had been coached in stage-presence, which is an important part of performing in public. Emily, who is equally attractive, gave a delightful performance, fitting her interpretation to the idea of each movement. She is going on to study at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Both of these young ladies have a bright future in front of them, but with a lot of hard work to come. I am sure we will be hearing more of them.

If the concert had finished there, I would have no real words of criticism to say. However, in a change to the advance programme, it was decided that they should play the Britten Young person's guide to the orchestra.
Despite its title, this was not composed as a work for young persons to play, but rather a work for a professional orchestra to explain to young people the instruments which are used in a symphony orchestra and what they are capable of.

It consists of an initial set of variations based on a theme of Purcell's from his incidental music to Abdelazer. It starts of with the full orchestra stating the theme, in a glorious burst of sound, then each section of the orchestra (woodwind, brass, strings and percussion) plays a variation, followed by a restatement of the theme. Then follows a most wonderful fugue in which each instrument of the orchestra has an individual entry, in effect a very short solo, in which to show off, before concluding with a wonderful climax of the fugue theme being played by the whole orchestra, except the brass, who thunder forth the main theme tune. What a wonderful climax. However, because each instrument is so exposed, any weakness is very easy to spot. Fortunately, there were no serious faults, but a few times things were just not as perfect as one had come to expect.

The very experienced international conductor Nigel Boddice gave an excellent lead to the orchestra with his very clear beat and directions. That the orchestra held him in high regard was evidenced by the cheers they gave him when he left the platform at the end. But I have to take slight issue with his interpretation of some parts of the Britten. I don't think his use of rubato in some sections was entirely suitable and in particular I think the trombone part of the brass variation was a shade too slow. However, these are minor deficiencies in what was, overall, an excellent concert that bodes well for the future of music playing in Scotland.

I almost forgot, after a bit of banter with the audience that resulted in a "standing ovation", which is, apparently, a prerequisite for an encore, the orchestra played the best known of the Dances from Khachaturian's ballet Gayane: the Sabre Dance. This really did give the concert a resounding finish.

© Charlie Napier, 23 August 2004. Published om www.edinburghguide.com See also www.nayo.org.uk

Series continues Aug 25, 26, 30, 31, Sep 1, 2, 4 at 12.30 and Aug, 25, 26, 28, 30, Sep 1, 2, 4, at 19.30 in this venue



 



   

Colinton Choristers and Kincorth Academy Show Choir (Page 96)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
full glass full glass
Music Short choral pieces by various composers
Musicians 1. Colinton Choristers, Philip Hacking (Director); 2. Kincorth Show Choir, John Forrester (Director).
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

This, another of the series of six-concert mini series (The Festival of Youth Choirs), was really two concerts in one, the Colinton Choristers performing in the first half and the Kincorth Academy Show Choir in the second half.

Colinton Choristers.

Colinton Choristers

This group of young singers, ages ranging from 5 to 16, are members of Colinton Parish Church, Edinburgh. Their aim (to quote their web site) is: "To provide an outlet for young people to learn to express their love of God through song. The emphasis is placed on good singing and enjoyment as well as learning the many different types of church music." It will come as no surprise, therefore, to find that the majority of the songs they sang this evening had religious connections. They sang in unison throughout, from memory, and were accompanied at the piano by their Director, Philip Hacking.

Their programme began with Sing of the Lord's goodness (arr. Bob Chilcott) and then took the audience through many delights, some well known and others not, such as All things bright and beautiful, arranged by John Rutter, followed by the first secular piece Harold Arlen's Over the rainbow sung by Megan McCormick. Later Craig Robinson was the soloist in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Any dream will do and Nicola Whyte sang I don't know how to love him. The first half of the concert closed with Now go in peace, a Caribbean folk tune and Rise and Shine a charming action song arranged by Alan Whitmore.

These were small voices to fill such a large hall, so it was sometimes a little difficult to hear them. They were not helped at the start of their programme when the accompanist played too loudly. However, he did reduce the volume a bit as the programme went on. These young people must have worked very hard to prepare this show, and their efforts showed. This was quite an ambitious programme and they performed extremely well. They must all be congratulated for their efforts, especially the soloists, something so pleasantly different.

Kincorth Academy Show Choir

Kincorth Academy Show Choir

To quote from the introduction to their programme: "This all girls choir was set up in 2000 by Principal Teacher of Music, Mr John Forrester, to provide a setting in which pupils could experience choral singing in a 'modern' style. Not only should the aim be to produce high quality singing but also to incorporate elements of choreography into the performance." In their short life this Aberdeen Secondary School Choir has achieved a number of local and national awards, as well as being featured on radio. The music presented was "an eclectic mix of soul, rhythm and blues with the odd bit of pop and show music thrown in."

Again, this programme was a fine mix of the known and unknown, with a large number of soloists and possibly even a choral 'First'. This programme allowed the choir's many talents to shine. Cell Block Tango showed off the choreography. Jessica Yong, accompanying herself on guitar, sang Matthew. The 'First' was Reid/Reid's Sunshine on Leith. The solos were interspersed throughout the programme. Beverley Davidson and Sarah Wilcox sang a duet called Eye on the sparrow and Nicola Taylor sang two songs: Out here on my own and I dreamed a dream. Kimberely Robb followed Nicola with I'm not a girl, not yet a woman and Laura Davidson sang I'd give my life for you. Oh happy day, complete with actions, closed the show.

This choir was very attractively turned out in black shirts, black trousers, with white belts and white ties (courtesy of the John Lewis Partnership). How good it is to see a youth group getting some commercial sponsorship! The accompanist throughout was the Director, John Forrester, who even got a small speaking part in Cell Block Tango. The standard of singing and presentation was very high, especially - as I found out afterwards - the choir only meets for half-an-hour after lunch on Thursdays. Congratulations to all on a very enjoyable show.

© Charlie Napier, 24 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com

Series continues Aug 28, Sep 3 at 12.30 and Sep 2, at 19.30 in this venue


 



   

Aberdeen City Youth Brass Band (Page 96)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
full glass
Music James Cunrow: Fanfares and flourishes; John Barry (arr. A Catherall): Born free; John Mason (arr. F Rydland): Rev. Archie Beaton; Michael Praetorius (arr. A Anthum): Four French Renaissance dances; Stole, Roma & Plante (arr. G Richards): I will follow him; Barry Manilow (arr. Ray Farr): One voice; Anonymous (arr. S Roberts): Gaudete; Enrico Morricone (arr.Bernaerts): Gabriel's oboe -Theme from The Mission; Peter Graham: Gaelforce
Performers Aberdeen City Youth Brass Band, Eric Kidd (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

A very smartly turned out Brass Band took the stage this lunchtime to present to a rather sparse audience a very varied programme of music. This band from Aberdeen is the current Scottish Champion Youth Brass band, so we were hoping for something special, and we were not disappointed.

The concert opened with a rousing fanfare and some exciting ensemble playing after which the Conductor, Eric Kidd, welcomed everybody and introduced each item. The second item was the theme from the film Born Free. This showed that the band was capable of playing softly as well as "bold as brass". It was an excellent performance. This was followed by a piece written by John Mason in tribute to a Hebridean minister who had passed away, Rev. Archie Beaton. This was a very tender and expressive piece and gave us an opportunity to hear one of the euphonium players taking the solo part. (Unfortunately, there not being a printed programme I can't tell you the names of the soloists, because they were only introduced by their first name.) This was an excellent rendition.

Aberdeen Youth Brass Band Euphonium solo

The band rearranged itself into two groups to play Four French Renaissance Dances, essentially a dialogue between the two groups and was very effective. Then came another piece of film music, this time from the Whoopi Goldberg film Sister Ann and was a chance for three members of the trombone section to show their capabilities. The trio played well together and with the rest of the band produced an excellent rendition. An arrangement of a Barry Manilow song, One voice, was followed by a Stuart Roberts arrangement of a traditional tune, Gaudete. Again, this was an excellent presentation of an excellent arrangement. A third piece of film music came next, this time Gabriel's oboe, equally well known as the Theme from the film The Mission, by Enrico Morricone. There was nothing to fault in this performance.

The concert finished with one of the major works for brass band composed in modern times, Gaelforce, by Peter Graham and is effectively a three movement work, quick, slow, quick, using Irish folk tunes. The first movement was based on The rocky road to Dublin, the second on The minstrel boy, and the third on Tossing the feathers. The first movement was a very lively jig while the second was a slow and peaceful movement, with the tune being played by a solo trumpet. The third was a reel, providing an exciting climax to this performance.

There is no doubt that this band is worthy of its title of Scottish Champion. Under the excellent leadership of Eric Kidd, this band gave an thoroughly enjoyable performance. It is just a pity that the audience was not larger, but those who did attend were amply rewarded.

© Charlie Napier, 25 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com

Series continues Aug 26, 30, 31, Sep 1, 2, 4 at 12.30 and Aug 26, 28, 30, Sep 1, 2, 4, at 19.30 in this venue

Aberdeen Youth Brass Band, Eric Kidd (Conductor)



   

Edinburgh Schools Wind Ensemble and Concert Band (Page 98)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
full glass full glass
Music 1. Concert Band Claude T Smith: Declaration overture; William Himes: Creed; Robert W Smith: By Loch and mountain; Bruce Fraser: The King across the water 2. Wind Ensemble Holst: Second suite in F; Frank Ticheli: Loch Lomond; Ennio Morriconne (arr. Johan de Mey): Moments for Morriconne; Ronan Hardiman (arr. Peter Graham): Cry of the Celts
Performers Edinburgh Schools Concert Band, Graeme Hodge (Conductor); Wind Ensemble, Stephen Callaghan (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

This was another double-header from the NAYO:- two for the price of one. This evening it was the premier school wind groups, the Edinburgh Schools Concert Band, which played the first half of the concert, and the Edinburgh Schools Wind Ensemble, which played the second half of the concert. From something that Stephen Callaghan said during his introduction to the final item of the Wind Ensemble concert, it would appear that the Wind Ensemble is the senior of the two groups. Certainly there were more players in the Concert band than the Ensemble, but more of that later.

Edinburgh Schools Concert Band
The first thing that struck me was the size of the band, The stage of the Central Hall is not small and it was filled to capacity. The players list attached to the programme showed 87 players, the most numerous sections being 24 trumpets, 18 clarinets,12 flutes and 8 alto saxophones. I don't know the exact numbers on stage but however many there were, they made a mighty noise.

All the music played seem to have been composed by modern, living composers. The first item was the Declaration Overture by Claude Smith, written in 1975, dedicated to Mrs Smith and premiered in Chillicothe, Missouri (USA). I suspect that this was written for the American Bicentennial celebrations. While it was a creditable performance, I felt that the band was just a little rough, not quite together, perhaps not surprising given the numbers. It was followed by Himes' Creed. The Creed is that part of the religious service where one states ones beliefs. The programme said: "This piece tries to convey a sense of affirmation and trust and its descriptive style conveys moods ranging from reflection to exultation." It describes the music perfectly and was reflected in the performance. Again, a creditable performance, but I thought the higher pitched instruments were just a little bit out of tune.

From the title, one might think that Robert Smith's By mountain and loch had something to do with Scotland, but it turns out to have been written and premiered in the USA. It wasn't particularly "Scottish" in style or content, the main theme being the song I know where I'm going, which appeared at the beginning as a euphonium solo and reappeared throughout the work in various guises. It was just a shade on the slow side but there was an interesting array of percussion in use. It took seven players to handle all the instruments.

The Concert Band finished with The King across the water by Bruce Fraser. The title refers to Bonnie Prince Charlie after the Battle of Culloden, but this piece is a description of the battle of Prestonpans in 1745, while the Jacobites were still on the up-and-up. It was in three distinct parts, but played continuously. The first was a depiction of the battle, with plenty of bangs and crashes, including most of the band either banging on a variety of tins or clapping or stamping feet. This certainly gave the impression of a battle going on. Then came a lament, a slow sad tune played on a solo clarinet with a nice soft accompaniment from the rest of the band. The third section was a reel, during which the tune "Hey Johnny Cope are ye waukin' yet?" appeared.

Overall this was an enthusiastic and workmanlike performance, ably led by Graeme Hodge, but I just felt that there was a sparkle missing that would have lifted the whole performance. Perhaps there are just too many players in the band?

Edinburgh Schools Wind Ensemble
This was a smaller group, only 42 strong, the largest groups being again clarinets and brass but still a big enough group to make a big noise. They were a bit more controllable, and thus did not sound quite as uncontrolled as its big brother (or sister?).

The Ensemble started its programme with Holst's Second suite in F, his second suite for military bands and consisted of four movements: March; Song Without Words; Song of the Blacksmith; Fantasia on the Dragason. He uses seven Hampshire songs during the piece. The March is based on "Swansea Town" and the second on "I Love my Love". The quality of the composition and the scoring stood out. The third movement introduce us to his use of open fourths and fifths, which he came to use in his later compositions. The fourth movement was also used a second time in his St Paul's suite for strings which we heard at an earlier concert here. It is based primarily on a lively jig tune into which he incorporated Greensleeves. This was an excellent rendition.

A work by Frank Ticheli followed, based on Loch Lomond, going back to the origins of the song and reflecting the sorrow felt by two Scottish Jacobite soldiers imprisoned in England after Culloden, one due to be executed and the other to be freed, so the condemned soldier's soul would travel the "low road" back to Scotland. The sadness of the situation was reflected in the music, with the tune being played by various instruments before leading to a short fugal section and then being combined with the Irish tune Danny Boy. A very effective combination, just like the Holst. This was followed by an arrangement of Ennio Morriconne's film music. There were some interesting moments, especially the ladies in the Ensemble acting as a background choir.

The concert finished with Cry of the Celt, Ronan Hardiman's music for Lord of the Dance. The music's blend of traditional Irish tunes with folk and rock styles, and the arrangement of various solo instrumentals during the work's five movements gave the whole band a chance to shine, which they did. It was a fitting climax to a very successful concert. The smaller numbers in the Ensemble certainly made a difference. Congratulations to Stephen Callaghan on leading such a fine group of young musicians in such a clear manner.

© Charlie Napier, 25 August 2004. published on www.edinburghguide.com

Series continues Aug 26, 30, 31, Sep 1, 2, 4 at 12.30 and Aug 26, 28, 30, Sep 1, 2, 4, at 19.30 in this venue



   

Staffordshire Youth Renaissance Band and Recorder Ensemble (Page 116)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
full glass full glass
Music Medieval and Renaissance music for various period instruments; some music for our time
Performers Staffordshire Youth Renaissance Band and Recorder Ensemble, James Scarrott (Conductor).
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

Staffordshire Youth Recorder and Renaissance Ensemble

The Staffordshire Youth Recorder and Renaissance Ensemble is made up of young people from Staffordshire between the ages of 11 and 18. The recorder ensemble plays the whole family of recorders: the Garklein, the Sopranino, The Descant, the Treble, the Tenor, the F Bass, the Contra Bass and the Great Bass. The Garklein recorder, the smallest at about 15 cms long, plays an octave higher than the Descant. The Tenor plays one octave below the Descant and the Great Bass, the largest at over 2 metres long, plays one octave below the tenor. The Renaissance Flute is also played. This is just a tube of wood with holes in it. These produce a nice clear sound.

The Renaissance Ensemble plays all sorts of Renaissance and medieval instruments: reed instruments like the Ruaschpfeife, the Cornamuse, The Crumhorn, the Shawm, the Curtal, the Racket and the bagpipes (with only one drone); plucked string instruments like the Lute, the Mandolin and the Harp; bowed string instruments like the Viola da Gamba family (Treble Viol, Tenor Viol, Division Bass Viol and Consort Bass Viol) and the Rebec family (Soprano, Alto and Tenor) plus the Hurdy-Gurdy. A variety of percussion instruments are also played. All of these instruments were used during this concert. The Ensemble has been fortunate enough to obtain a Lottery Award from the Arts Council of England to buy modern copies of these instruments.

During the first half of the concert, the band members were in period costume, which made a very colourful sight. As well as playing a large number of Renaissance pieces (too numerous to list here), they also performed some Renaissances dances and sang a few songs. Very few of the tunes were familiar to the audience, but that did not stop them enjoying both the sound and the sight. However, I am sure that the audience would have recognised Pachelbel's Canon. This certainly made a change from the usual musical sounds that we hear in this hall, and very pleasant it was too. Various members of the Ensemble performed solos or small group pieces. This all added to the variety.

Staffordshire Youth Recorder and Renaissance Ensemble
© Charlie Napier

After the interval, the ensemble returned in modern clothes and more-or-less continued where they left off. However, towards the end they gave us renditions of modern tunes, such as the signature tune for the TV programme, The South Bank Show, which was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber. The also played Memory from the hid musical Cats. They played their versions of the Theme from the TV show Blackadder, the Skye Boat Song, and to complete the concert, The Lord of the Dance.

These were different sounds from the ones we are used to hearing, but it made a very pleasant change. This was a most enjoyable concert and I was impressed by the versatility of the players, who were playing more than one instrument (but not at the same time!) and the skill with which they played them. It was a pity that Terry Carter, their Director, took ill a few weeks ago and was unable to travel with the Ensemble on this tour. They were ably directed by James Scarrott, who is the Assistant Director of the Ensemble.

If you would like to learn a bit more about the instruments, and indeed the Ensemble, then look at the website http://fp.tcarter.f9.co.uk . There are sound examples as well as pictures.

© Charlie Napier, 26 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com

Series continues Aug 30, 31, Sep 1, 2, 4 at 12.30 and Aug 28, 30, Sep 1, 2, 4, at 19.30 in this venue


   

National Youth Choir of Scotland Training Choir (page 116)
NAYO Festival Of Youth Choirs (page 100)
Drams 0
Music See the review below
Musicians Douglas McIlwraith (Accompanist); National Youth Choir of Scotland Training Choir, Stephen Williams (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall (Venue 100)
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier


The National Youth Choir of Scotland Training Choir is one of five choirs organised by the National Youth Choir of Scotland (NYCOS) organisation. The main choir (NYCOS) is a mixed choir of young people between the ages of 16 and 24. The choir travels all over the world and this year travelled to Chicago to take part in a festival there.

The Training Choir (NYCOSTC) is also a mixed choir normally made up of young people between the ages of 14 and 18, but because of the increased number of applications, no new members were recruited in 2004 and the age range for 2004 was changed to 15-19. The choir has one summer school week in July and meets on some weekends throughout the year. Applicants for the Training Choir have to have some musical knowledge because they have to audition for membership where they are expected to sing a prepared song (preferably with piano accompaniment), do some ear and range tests, and attempt a bit of sight reading.

Considering the small amount of time that they have to practice as a group, this level of musical knowledge required is understandable. It certainly showed this afternoon.

The choir came on stage looking very smart, the ladies in white blouses and black trousers and the gentlemen in dinner suits and black bow ties. They started with a very challenging work , the De profundis (Out of the depths I cry to Thee) by the Hungarian composer Josef Karai. This work had originally been written in 1981 for a choir of teachers and incorporated humming and various vocal effects, including speaking and shouting. Apart from the usual part-singing, the singers were also asked to produce vocal glissandi. This was an excellent performance of a very difficult work and boded well for what lay ahead.

They continued with a traditional Irish folk song, The Flower of Maherally. A solo part was taken by one of the sopranos, Deborah Bull, and what a beautiful voice she had. The choir sang the accompaniment an octave lower that the soloist, and quietly, so the effect was outstanding. They then sang two traditional Scottish songs, Westering home and Air Falalalo. Both had originally been arranged by Sir Hugh Roberton for his Glasgow Orpheus Choir many years ago, but the arrangements sung today had been made by Ken Johnston. The singing certainly brought back memories of the Glasgow Orpheus Choir, it was so beautiful. They followed this with a composition by a New Zealand composer, David Hamilton, Caliban's Song, the words being taken from Shakespeare's Tempest. It was excellent and made use of some very "breathy" singing from the tenors and basses.

The tenors and basses were on their own for the next three items. The first was Two Little Boys (Madden/Morse arr. Richards), made popular by Rolf Harris, which was sung with such pathos that it almost brought tears to my eyes. The second was an old Matt Monroe number, Softly as I leave you, which again was sung very expressively. They finished their set with a barbershop quartet setting of Kiss me Honey Baby, by Andrew Carter. And very humorous it was too.

It was the ladies turn next. They sang two religious songs by Gabriel Fauré, composed for his choir when he was organist at the Church of La Madeleine in Paris. They were Tantum ergo and Ave verum, both hymns to the Virgin Mary. They were very French, very Fauré, very lyrical and very beautiful.

The concert finished with The Making of the Drum, a work by Bob Chilcott based on Ugandan poems. The choir sang four of the five movements, each movement describing one aspect of the drum-making process: The Skin (the killing of the goat and the stretching of the skin); The Barrel of the Drum (the choosing of the tree to make the barrel of the drum); Gourds and Rattles (calabashes); The Gong-Gong (Whatever this was it was very effective).

This was an outstandingly good concert. The singing was excellent, with excellent intonation, expression and diction (you could actually make out the words!). Their was obviously a very good rapport between the choir and the conductor, Stephen Williams, a very experienced choral conductor, who led the choir with very clear directions.

Throughout the concert, Douglas McIlwraith, whose playing was sensitive and supportive and never at any time tried to dominate the singing, had accompanied the choir on the piano.

If this is what the Training Choir can do, I would very much like to hear the full National Youth Choir of Scotland. For further information see www.nycos.co.uk

© Charlie Napier, 28 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com

National Youth Choir of Scotland Training Choir 2003



 



   

West of Scotland Schools Symphony Orchestra (Page 119)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
full glass
Music Wagner: Die Meistersingers von Nürnberg-Overture; Dvorak: Serenade for strings in E major Op.22-1st movement - Moderato; Serenade for Winds Op.44-Finale - Allegro molto; Rachmaninoff: Symphony No.2 in E minor Op.27
Performers West of Scotland Schools Symphony Orchestra, James Lowe (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

The aim of the the organisers of the West of Scotland Schools Symphony Orchestra (WSSSO) and the West of Scotland Schools Concert Band (WSSCB) is to offer the highest possible standards of large-scale music making for school pupils from all over the West of Scotland.

Since 1996, the University of Strathclyde has provided facilities and management for the WSSSO and WSSCB on behalf of the 12 local authorities of the former Strathclyde Region. Pupils apply to join either of the bands; they are invited to audition and if accepted, join the orchestra or band. A week-long Summer School is usually held in June plus other events.

The programme opened with Wagner's rousing Overture to Mastersingers, a very cheerful piece which set the scene for a performance that I hoped would be as good as last year's concert. Then, I commented on how good the balance was between strings and brass, and I was delighted to hear that it sounded as if things had not changed. I could still hear the strings when the brass were playing. The strings produced a lovely sound during Walther's song and the brass were particularly good in the later sections. However, the brass became just a little bit overpowering right at the end, but I think that is excusable. This was an excellent performance, the orchestra responding very well to the direction of their new conductor, James Lowe.

Only string section was needed to play the first movement of Dvorak's Serenade for Strings. One thing that I like about this FBYO is that the conductors, music advisors and tutors are not afraid to challenge these young musicians by asking them to play difficult works. And this was no exception. Any work for strings alone tends to leave the individual sections very exposed, so any weakness in the sections can be very noticeable. Ensemble playing has to be spot on, as has intonation. I'm afraid that the intonation was not as good as it might have been right at the very beginning. However, it did improve. Despite this criticism, overall it was a very expressive and enjoyable performance.

The strings cleared the stage to be replaced by a small wind group consisting of 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons and 4 French horns, supported by 2 cellos and 2 double basses. The clarinettists played two instruments each. Changing instrument did not really make any noticeable difference, as far as I could hear. They played the last movement from Dvorak's Serenade for winds. They made a good, decisive start with excellent ensemble playing. The intonation was good, but then it tends to be easier for wind instruments to play in tune. Near the beginning there was a delightful dialogue between the oboe and the clarinet. Again, a very good expressive performance.

The full orchestra returned after the interval, to play Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony. This is in the standard four-movement format, but the movements differ from those of the classical symphonies of the 19th century.

The 1st movement starts off with a slow introduction with the cellos and basses stating one of the main themes of the work, the "motto" theme. This theme is developed in a quicker section, which completes the movement. This was a good opening , with well balanced playing and expression. The orchestra managed to get that special "Rachmaninoff" feeling, I think.

The 2nd movement is a lively Scherzo, basically in ABA form, with a theme being developed in the first section, leading into a central section containing a beautiful languorous melody, before returning to the lively section. The expressive playing of the central melody was really beautiful.

The 3rd movement is very melodic, starting with a short introduction leading into a lovely melody played on a solo clarinet, which is further developed, using lush orchestration. The clarinet solo was excellent and although there was no great problem, the strings were a little bit hesitant in the entries later in the movement.

The 4th movement was very lively and brought together all the themes previously used and, like the second movement, the middle section contained the most beautiful of slow melodies. The themes were further developed and included a remarkable piece of orchestration that gives the impression of bells, before reaching a brilliant climax. The conductor thought that it was necessary to get the orchestra to retune before starting this movement, which spoil the overall effect, but was probably for the good. Any slight faults in intonation or "togetherness" did not detract from the enjoyment of the movement.

Taking into account that these players are only teenagers, are not professional musicians, and probably don't have all that much time to rehearse together, I think they did themselves, the conductor and their tutors, proud. Well done and thank you for an enjoyable evening.

For futher information see http://homepages.strath.ac.uk/~bas03104/

© Charlie Napier, 30 August 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com

Series continues Aug 31, Sep 1, 2, 4 at 12.30 and Sep 1, 2, 4, at 19.30 in this venue



   

Perth Youth Orchestra - 1 Ensembles (Page 112)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
full glass
Music PYO Brass Ensemble D Barker & P Stone: Salamanca; M Hamlisch (arr. E Stewart): The way we were; S Wyld: Stick It PYO Strings: Tartini: Sonata in D major; Robert Wagner: A quiet music; Robert Frost: Sanseneon; Klaus Badelt: Pirates of the Caribbean PYO Jazz Band: Howard Arlen (arr. Nowak): That old black magic; Daniel Fogelberg (arr. Nowak): Longer; Juan Tizol (arr. Lowden): Perdido PYO Wind Band: Gershwin (arr. Warren Barber); The Magic of Andrew Lloyd Webber (arr. Warren Barber); Queen in Concert (arr. Jay Bocock)
Performers PYO Brass Ensemble, Elaine Stewart (Director); PYO Strings, Allan R Young (Conductor); PYO Jazz Band, Eileen Waterston (Director) and PYO Wind Band Conductor
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

Perth Youth Orchestra award

This lunchtime event was a group of four mini-concerts, each given by an ensemble made up of players from the Perth Youth Orchestra (PYO). The PYO has the distinction of having attended every one of the 25 Youth Orchestra festival organised by the National Association of Youth Orchestras. It was a pleasure to hear them again.

The first group was the Brass Ensemble, apparently conductorless, but I think Elaine Stewart was giving discreet signals from within the trumpet section. Not that it mattered. They opened with Salamanca, which got the afternoon off to a fine bright start and followed that with a Martin Hamlisch number, The way we were, which was quite good, but spoilt slightly by a few cracked notes on the trumpets and a bit of an untidy ending. They finished with Stick It by S Wyld, a new composer to me but that didn't stop me enjoying this great swinging number. The afternoon was off to a fine start.

The second group was the PYO Strings, a large ensemble, but that was not a drawback. The ensemble started with the three-movement Sonata in D major. Tartini was an 18th century Italian virtuoso violinist and a prolific composer, so this work was very typical of that time. The second piece was A quiet music by Robert Wagner (no, not the film star) an American composer who also writes for wind bands. This was a very lyrical, romantic style piece, with a good tune, that was played very expressively.

But there were serious mishaps to report. The third piece was Sanseneon. I don't know what the title meant but it started with the upper strings buzzing like insects while the lower strings played a very nice melody. It then went into a chorale section with all sections playing chords together, which led into a set of variations, mainly employing rhythmical variation. This was very good playing here. The final item was a strange piece. Again it was by a composer I had never heard of, but who turns out to be German composer now living in California and writing mainly film music. Pirates of the Caribbean comes from the film of the same name. It did not, in my opinion, suggest anything remotely resembling pirates or the sea. It sounded almost like Irish folk music, and, although played very well, it was a rather disappointing ending to this part of the afternoon.

The third ensemble was the PYO Jazz Band. This was a real swinging group directed with verve and gusto by Eileen Waterston who played a really toe-tapping section of the programme, fairly brightening up the afternoon. They started and finished with two jazz standards, in excellent arrangements, That old black magic and Perdido, and in the middle, played a piece unknown to me called Longer. In Perdido we had an opportunity to hear very good solo riffs from the rhythm guitar, a trombone and the electric bass. What can I say about this performance except that it was great? Why don't jazz bands, even youth ones, ever seem to play out of tune?

The fourth and final ensemble was the PYO Wind Band, made up of all the wind sections from the PYO. This group was directed in a lively fashion again by Aileen Waterston.. The band played three medleys of music by George Gershwin, Andrew Lloyd Webber and the rock band Queen. Each medley contained about five numbers and were beautifully arrange in a seamless manner. It was an excellent performance from the ensemble which coped with the changes of tempo and expression extremely well. An excellent end to a very fine concert.

© Charlie Napier, 01 September 2004. Published om www.edinburghguide.com See also www.perth-youth-orchestra.org.uk

Series continues Sep 2, 4 at 12.30 and Sep 2, 4, at 19.30 in this venue




   

Perth Youth Orchestra - 2 Full Orchestra (Page 112)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
full glass full glass
Music Rossini: Italian Girl in Algiers-Overture; Mozart: Concerto for flute and orchestra No.1 in G minor K313-First movement; Weber: Andante and Rondo Ungarese for bassoon and orchestra Op.35; Kenneth Platts: Tapestries: a symphonic portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots; Borodin: Symphony No.2 in B minor, (Movements i, iii, and iv only); Ted Rickets: Satchmo - a tribute to Louis Armstrong
Performers Stephen O'Donnell (flute); Lawrence O'Donnell (bassoon): Perth Youth Orchestra, Allan R Young (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

Allan Young and
Perth Youth Orchestra 2004

Before the start of this evening's concert, Susan White, the General Manager of NAYO, made a presentation to Mrs Fiona O'Donnell, Honorary President of the Perth Youth Orchestra (PYO), to commemorate the achievement of the PYO in attending every Festival of British Youth Orchestras since its inception 25 years ago. Incidentally, Mrs O'Donnell is the mother of tonight's two soloists.

The concert got off to a good start with the Rossini overture. The oboe solo at the beginning and a little later on was very good and the overall performance was generally good, but there were a few little problems with the strings intonation. Never mind, there is nothing better for getting the spirits up than a couple of good Rossini crescendos.

This was followed by our first soloist of the evening. Stephen O'Donnell played the first movement of Mozart's Flute Concerto No.1 in G minor K.313. The orchestra was reduced in numbers, as is usual for Mozart. The soloist gave a fine performance, which was ably supported by the orchestra, but the first violins were suspect in the descending scale passages, they just did not seem able to get it all together. This did not, however, detract from the overall performance, which was generally very good. Stephen is not going on to study music but plans to continue playing the flute while he studies English Literature at Glasgow University.

The Weber piece for bassoon and orchestra followed, with the solo part being played by Stephen's twin brother, Lawrence O'Donnell. This is not a work that is heard very frequently, so it was good to have an opportunity to hear it. In the opening Andante, Lawrence showed excellent breath control which resulted in beautiful phrasing. The Rondo was a lively movement and used a folk-song type theme that incorporated dance rhythms associated with Hungarian dances (think of Liszt's Hungarian Dances), which allowed Lawrence to show off his agility on the instrument. Lawrence is going on to study music at the Guildhall School in London.

The first half finished with a performance of a work commissioned by the PYO in 1988 from Kenneth Platts called Tapestries: A Symphonic Portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots, which is in four movements. Unfortunately, there was no information about the composer or the work in the programme. However, a leaflet about the PYO tour of Estonia earlier this year carries the composer's own description of his piece.

This was an interesting work, full of unusual harmonic textures, and it is worth quoting it here:
"In the long years of imprisonment, Mary, Queen of Scots, was passionately devoted to embroidery. The tapestries she created were often personal and autobiographical, reflecting the inward looking attitude of a prisoner. In writing this work I have developed this idea and woven a tapestry of orchestral sounds to evoke scenes from Mary's life that she herself could have embroidered.

Prelude - The Port of Leith Mary's return to Scotland, a stranger, a widow and still only 17. The scene is covered by swirling mists, Mary's mind full of apprehension.
Highland Reel - The Great Hall of Inverness - Mary loved the Highlands, she also loved dancing. Here an imaginary scene is depicted reflecting Mary's high spirits.
Romanza - The Castle of Holyrood - Mary had a rare beauty, praised by poets all over Europe. In 1565, she herself falls passionately in love, and marries Henry, Lord Darnley.
Memories and Envoi -Fotheringay Castle - On the eve of her execution, the tempestuous events of Mary's brief reign pass before her in a series of flashbacks.

I have further developed the idea of tapestries by 'weaving' a series of chords which echo throughout the various section of this movement. The very last section depicts Mary's final journey, culminating in the fatal blow."

The orchestra played this piece extremely well, and produced the effects the composer wanted: the shimmering strings giving the impression of mist in the first movement; the rhythms of the reel and joy of the dance in the second movement; the passion and feeling in the third movement; the pathos and fatality in the last movement. Throughout this work, there was a feeling of darkness and foreboding that the conductor, Allan Young, himself a former player with the orchestra, drew out of these young players with great skill.

In the second half the orchestra played three movements from Borodin's Symphony No.2 in B minor. I suspect the second movement was left out because it was too difficult, because it is only just under six minutes long. That is not to say that the other movements are easy. They are not. However, the orchestra did a very good job. Again, Allan Young managed to get these young musicians to play with heart and feeling, which is not easy to do. The harp, clarinet and horn at the beginning of the Andante, were particularly beautiful, and the brass certainly made a bold statement in the final movement. They managed to get a feeling of Russia into the work.

The final item on the programme was about as far a way from Russia as you could get: Satchmo: a tribute to Louis Armstrong. This was a medley of songs particularly associated with Louis: What a wonderful World; When the Saints go marching in; St Louis Blues; and Hello Dolly. The arrangement by Ted Ricketts was especially effective and very much a "toe-tapper". This orchestra seems to enjoy playing this type of music and really let their hair down tonight. It was great ending to the concert.

Except it was not quite the end. Allan Young was about to announce an encore when Mrs O'Donnell got up and made an impromptu speech thanking everybody for coming, especially their special guests, Provost Bob Scott of Perth and his wife. She paid a particular tribute to the conductor, Allan Young, and the Leader of the orchestra Ben Norris. Eventually, the orchestra played a selection of music from the musical Chicago to bring the evening to a close.

© Charlie Napier, 01 September 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com See also www.perth-youth-orchestra.org.uk

Series continues Sep 2, 4 at 12.30 and Sep 2, 4, at 19.30 in this venue

Perth Youth Orchestra on tour in Estonia 2004

   

Fife Youth Orchestra - 1 String Orchestra and Percussion Ensemble (Page 100)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
full glass
Music Fife Strings Cavalli: Canzona ŕ 4; Mandel/Webster (arr. Custer): The shadow of your smile; Eoin Hamilton: The 'reel' thing; Harald Genzmer: Sinfonietta; James Oswald: Airs for the Season (Summer)-The Pink; Arr. John Wasson: Latin Gold Fife Percussion Fraser: Tertia from Exordia; Menken (arr. Rapp): Under the sea; Bizet (arr. Peters) L'Arlesienne-Farandole; Faini: Afro-Ameron; Tárrega: Recuerdos de la Alhambra; Mael: This town ain't big enough.
Performers Fife Youth String Orchestra, Kenneth Clarke (Conductor ); Fife Youth Percussion Ensemble, Rebecca Matheson (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

One of the drawbacks about these lunchtime concerts in the FBYO series is the lack of information in the programme, if there is a programme. I can understand the problems in producing information for programme notes but this information is important to both audiences and reviewers. So it was a pleasure to have one today. Unfortunately, the fact that the music was not played in the programme order and that there was no explanation from the conductors of either group created a difficulty, especially as the music was largely unknown. This reviewer knew only one piece out of twelve. Instead of concentrating on the music, it all became a guessing game. As it so happened, today I guessed wrong and I had to ask the NAYO Administrator, who happened to be sitting near me, where we were in the programme. I hope that something can be done about it in the future.

The String Orchestra was first up, and played the Cavalli Canzona, a typical 17th century set of very short pieces. They followed this with The shadow of your smile, with piano accompaniment and finished their first set with The 'reel' thing. The playing in this session was not too bad but it was spoilt for me by the sometimes-poor intonation, especially from the first violins. In a string orchestra they are very exposed so any mistakes can become quite obvious. I was surprised that this String Orchestra did not tune when they took the stage for its first set or at the beginning of its second set. I wonder if this was part of the problem? There was a moment in The 'reel' thing, a medley of Scottish dance tunes, when the players actually got it together and they sounded great.

The Percussion Ensemble was then up for its first set. This was an excellent group who played a wide variety of percussion instruments, mainly the tuned variety such as marimba, xylophone, vibraphone and glockenspiel. It is difficult to say anything about the music if one is hearing it for the first time, but I can say that listening to this group was most enjoyable. The musicians played with confidence, with delicacy and with force, as required, and at whatever speed that was required by Rebecca Matheson, the conductor, whose beat was very clear and easy to follow. I thought that she started the Bizet a little bit slowly, but when she got into the quick section of the Farandole, she took it along at a cracking pace.

The String Orchestra, which had remained on stage during the Percussion performance, then played its second set. Genzmer is a 20th century German composer and this Sinfonietta certainly sounded 20th century, with a certain amount of dissonance, but at the same time quite tuneful. The James Oswald piece carried a pretty tune in the first of its three movements, which was quite nicely played. A very short slow section led into a lively minuet, which the Orchestra performed quite well. The strings finished their programme with a medley of three well-known Latin-American tunes, Tequila; Oye Como Va; and La Bamba. They had support from the piano and some percussion during this. They certainly played with enthusiasm and spirit, and I am sure that with more practice and rehearsal they'll overcome this intonation problem.

The Percussion ensemble then returned for its second set. The Afro-Amero piece was quite exciting, with very evocative sounds and rhythms played mainly on drums. The highlight of the afternoon was the Recuerdos de la Alhambra, (Memories of the Alhambra), which was beautifully played, mainly on the tuned instruments. It was soft and peaceful and a joy to sit and listen to. One could easily imagine sitting in the Alhambra gardens in Granada. The Ensemble ended with This town ain't big enough, a new composition to me. It was a good, lively performance with plenty of rhythm and drive. A slightly disappointing performance from the Strings, but a most enjoyable performance from the Percussion..

© Charlie Napier. 2 September 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com

Series continues Sep 4 at 12.30 and Sep 4, at 19.30 in this venue




   

Fife Youth Orchestra - 2 Full Orchestra (Page 100)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
full glass full glassfull glass
Music Wagner: The Mastersingers of Nuremberg-Overture; Eric Coates: Saxo-rhapsody for alto saxophone and orchestra; Beatles (arr. Manny Mendelson): Beatles Medley; Ella Wilson (devised and directed): The Orchestra Sings; Brahms: Symphony No.2 in D, Op.73
Performers Kirstie Campbell (alto saxophone); Fife Youth Orchestra, Graeme Wilson (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

Unlike some youth orchestras where the main orchestra's various sections are used to form separate section ensembles, the Fife Youth Orchestra uses different personnel, so we heard different young people tonight from those wqho played at lunchtime. This certainly gives a lot more young people an opportunity to play in an orchestra. The programme tonight was played as printed and I am glad to say that there were adequate notes about the music and the soloist.

The concert started with the Wagner overture. The start was a little bit hesitant but it soon got under way. The ensemble playing was good, but the brass section did not sound quite right. The tuba and trombones were quite dominant and the balance was not quite right. The brass did improve towards the end, when they had their opportunity to play the "tune" and there were no obvious problems with the strings. A good overall performance but it lacked something.

Kirstie Campbell, the soloist in tonight's performance of Eric Coates' Saxo-Rhapsody was once a member of the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra and has been a pupil at St Mary's Music School. She is about to go to The Royal Northern School of Music in Manchester to continue her music studies. It was only when she was attending St Mary's that she was able to take up the saxophone. This work is not heard very often so it was good to get the opportunity to hear it. The work is made up of seven sections, joined together. It is in the style of a theme and variations. After a short introduction, the main theme is played by the soloist and then in a variety of forms by other sections of the orchestra. The soloist did get opportunities to play with the tune throughout the rest of the work. The work finishes, unusually, by getting quieter. This was a very competent performance by Kirstie and I am sure that she will do well in the future. The orchestra played a very good supporting role, being neither too loud nor too soft, thanks to Graeme Wilson's excellent direction.

The orchestra seemed to be a bit more at home with the Beatles Medley, an excellent arrangement of some well known Beatles songs by Manny Mendelson.. The collection included Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday and When I'm 64. They all seemed to enjoy themselves and it showed in their playing. When this was finished, there was a mass exodus of the orchestra. Some people thought it was the interval and Graeme Wilson had to turn round and tell the audience just to sit still. It turned out that this was just the preparation for the next item, The orchestra sings.

The orchestra returned, without instruments, and became a choir. Ella Wilson, Graeme's wife, had devised a medley of songs, which the orchestra/choir sang, and very well they sang too. There were three items: One (from Marvin Hamlisch's A Chorus Line); The Battle of Jericho, a traditional spiritual arranged by P Hunt; and Variations on a chord progression, arranged by M Hoffman. The part-singing was excellent. The third item turned out to be a medley of three well-known tunes: Blue moon; Can't help loving that man; and Stormy weather. Not only were the songs, or at least part of them, sung individually, but they were also very cleverly combined. I must see if these three songs use the same sequence of chords, as suggested by the title. This was a most enjoyable interlude.

After the interval, the orchestra played Brahms' Second Symphony, in the traditional four movements. This was a competent performance. There were good moments and there were not-so-good moments, in all departments. I am sure the tutors and the players put a lot of work into learning this work, but I am sorry to say that at the end of the day, there was something missing, it just didn't come to life. Still, I am sure that it was an experience and they learned something about music making from it.

Overall, this was a disappointing concert. It promised well but somehow or other it just did not happen. With continued hard work and a considered choice of programme, I am sure that next year's performance here at the FBYO will be very much better.

© Charlie Napier. 2 September 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com

Series continues Sep 4 at 12.30 and Sep 4, at 19.30 in this venue





   

Fair City Singers (page 99)
NAYO Festival Of Youth Choirs (page 100)
Drams 0
Music Around the world in song: 25 mainly choir pieces plus dancers some and vocal and instrumental soloists
Performers Fair City Singers, Perth; Marion Neilson (Musical Director and Accompanist).
Venue Central Hall (Venue 100)
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

I have to admit that the thought of sitting for almost two hours listening to a group of 11-17 year olds singing did not immediately appeal. However, never having heard the Fair City Singers before, I had to find out what they were like. I am glad I went. This was one of the most enjoyable evenings I have had at the Festival of Youth Orchestras and Choirs this year. It was a great pity that the audience was not bigger, however I am sure that this group will have a very much bigger audience when they give their show in Perth on Saturday evening (04 September).

The Fair City Singers hail from the Fair City (Perth, just in case this name is unfamiliar to you), where else? The group was started by music teacher Marion Neilson exactly 15 years ago this month to provide an opportunity for Perthshire school children to participate in singing a very wide range of music. If you would like to find out more about the achievements of this group, then have a look at its website at www.faircitysingers.org.uk.

Marion is assisted by her talented music teacher husband, Martin, who was the accompanist for tonight's performance. There were 51 girls and three boys in the group tonight. As Marion explained, the musical Oliver is being performed in Perth at the moment, and most of her boys had been "pinched" for the event!

What made the evening was that it was not just singing, although even if it had been, the quality of the singing was so high, that it would probably have been just as enjoyable. Just to show that the members of the group were not just talented singers, but also instrumentalists and dancers, we had a viola solo, a piano solo, and a highland dance, plus a guest oboe player. It was the variety of both the songs that were sung and the "acts" that were presented. We even had a song for the hard of hearing!

There were 25 separate items on the programme (plus one encore), so it would be impossible to describe every item in detail and then say: "This was an excellent/outstanding/remarkable/ first-rate/superior/special/top-notch (select whichever you prefer) performance" after it, because that is what I would have to do. So, I will just say that you can pick any of the foregoing adjectives and apply it as you like, because each item could be so described.

This was a wonderful show, performed completely from memory, with no mistakes, which is some feat. The direction of Marion Neilson was exemplary and she lived the music. The accompaniment was excellent and really added to the whole performance.

The final thing I would like to say is that it was a joy to see the singers actually smiling as they were singing. They must have enjoyed the singing, playing and dancing as much as the audience enjoyed listening to them, as well as watching them. I should add that they were beautifully turned out, the girls in long black skirts, gold blouses and red tartan waistcoats and the boys in black trousers and shirts with gold bow ties and the same red tartan waistcoats. They did look very smart. I shall list the items and indicate the soloists and any pertinent details. All the items were performed by the whole group unless specifically stated.

When I sing. B Henderson arr. D Elliot.
I am a small part of God. S Albrecht and J Althouse.
Flying free. Don Besig. (Flute obbligato - Colleen Nicoll).
Feel good. L Tyson & L Scott arr. Baker & Elliot
Care selve. G F Handel. Soprano Solo - Colleen Nicoll.
Album leaves No.1. Hans Sitt. Viola Solo - Catriona Steele.
See the gypsies. Z Kodaly.
Nebe (Heaven). Trad. Czech.
Vlinky (Ripples). Trad. Czech.
Give way Jordan. Trad. Spiritual arr. M Goetze.
Little Polly Flinders. J M Diack. Vocal Ensemble - Briony Blair, Victoria McIntyre, Catriona Steele and Rosanna Young,
I love a piano. I Berlin arr Besig & Price.
Can you hear me? B Chilcott. Performed with sign language. Specially composed for those with hearing difficulties.
Great day. V Youmans arr. R Ringwald. Piano duettist - Rosanna Young.
Puttin on the Ritz. I Berlin arr. K Shaw.
INTERVAL
Highland Cathedral. M Korb & U Roeyer.
Flowers of Edinburgh. Trad. Arr. K Finlay. Dancers - Kathryn Mutch and Jennifer Murray.
Will ye go lassie, go. Trad. Arr. M Neaum. Soloists - Colleen Nicoll and Catriona Steele.
The Duke of Perth. Trad. Arr. T Cunningham. Scottish Country Dance with group singing syllables, not words.
Carnival nights. J Strauss ass Geehl. Vocal Ensemble - Rachel Bernard, Briony Blair, Bethany Compson-Bradford, Hayley Gould, Victoria McIntyre, Ashleigh Rose, Fiona and Jennifer Turnbull.
Automne. Chaminade. Piano solo - Rosanna Young.
Children go where I send thee. P Caldwell & S Ivory.
Song for the Mira. A MacGillivray arr. S Calvert. Duet with group and oboe obbligato - Laura Young (Rosanna's mother!)
Irish blessing. Trad. Arr. B Chilcott.
Rhythm of life. Coleman arr. R C Barnes.
Encore: A brand new day.

End of series

© Charlie Napier, 03 September 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com See also www.faircitysingers.org.uk

Fair City Singers at the 2004 Festival of Youth Choirs
© Charlie Napier

 



   

Royal High School, Edinburgh Choir (page 113)
NAYO Festival Of Youth Choirs (page 100)
Drams full glass
Music Haydn: Missa Sancti Niccolai-Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus Dei; Mozart: Ave verum; Bob Chilcott: Jubilate-Song; Louisa Morley: My love is like a red, red rose; Rutter: All things bright and beautiful, Gaelic blessing; Howard Goodall: The Lord is my shepherd; Tyson & Scott: Feelin' good
Musicians Royal High School Choir, Andrew Morley (Director); Louisa Morley (Accompanist).
Venue Central Hall (Venue 100)
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

The Choir of the Royal High School, Edinburgh is also celebrating its 25th Anniversary, just like the NAYO. It is commonly known in Edinburgh as just "The Royal High" and its origins date back to pre Reformation times. The choir was founded 25 years ago when the Royal High was asked to make a contribution to the celebration of 25 years of twinning with the city of Munich, in Germany. This year marked the 50th anniversary, and the Royal High Choir participated in a concert given in June this year, in Edinburgh University's Reid Concert Hall, in front of the Vice-Mayor of Munich, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and other dignitaries. Some of the items performed in today concert were sung at that concert.

The Choir, consisting of 17 girls and 5 boys, started with the Kyrie Eleison, Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Josef Haydn's Missa Sancti Niccolai. When they first started singing, I was a little apprehensive because of the possibility of some gross imbalance between the parts due to their lack of numbers and their voices, not yet mature, being so thin. As it turned out this was no drawback..

One got used to the timbre of the collective voices and there were no obvious imbalances. In fact, it was quite delightful to listen to this choir. The parts were actually pretty well balanced and they gave a very good rendering of these three movements form the Mass. They continued in the sacred vein by singing Mozart's Ave Verum. This actually suited this ensemble better than the Haydn and was very good. I am glad that they did not take it too fast. They finished this "sacred" section of the programme by singing Song, an extract from Bob Chilcott's setting of the Jubilate from the Anglican Prayer Book. This is actually a setting to music of words by Gerard Manley Hopkins which can be sung on its own. It was delightful and featured a young soprano member of the choir, Jean Hodgson, who sang the solo part very well indeed.

The choir continued with a "world premiere", the first time this new setting of My Love is like a Red, Red Rose by the accompanist for the day, Louisa Morley, has been sang in public. This was a very interesting piece with some interesting harmonic progressions. It was the only item that the choir sang unaccompanied, and I think they gave a creditable performance, considering that they had only had three weeks to prepare for this concert. This lack of preparation did show because there was almost a breakdown in the middle, but they managed to hang together. It was a very creditable performance and will no doubt be better with more practice. Perhaps it might actually be better with an accompaniment, to stop the dropping in pitch as the song went on?

This was followed by a group of three songs, two by John Rutter and one by Howard Goodall. John Rutter is probably quite well known to most people and through his delightful settings of All things bright and beautiful and Gaelic Blessing, an Irish song. In between these two pieces, they sang Howard Goodall's setting of The Lord is my shepherd. Goodall is perhaps not as well known as Rutter but he ought to be. We hear his music quite often without realising that he wrote it because he writes a lot for television, and most people would recognise this setting as the theme tune for the BBC programme The Vicar of Dibley. All three were sung most delightfully.

The choir completed its programme by singing a "clappy, happy" song called Feelin' Good by L Craig Tyson and Leonard Scott. This is a very joyful song, with clapping at judicious points, which summed up both the feelings of the choir and the audience at the end of this most delightful concert.

End of series

© Charlie Napier, 03 September 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com


 



   

Edinburgh Schools Jazz Orchestra (Page 98)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
0
Music Lester Young/Mark Taylor: Lester leaps in; John Coltrane/Mark Taylor: Impressions; Thelonius Monk//Dave Wolpe: 'Round midnight; Bob Mintzer: Easy swing; Jim Forrest/Gordon Goodwin: Night train; Horace Silver: Song for my father; Errol Garner/ Mike Lewis: Misty; Bill Cunliffe: Fatback Blues
Performers Edinburgh Schools Jazz Orchestra, Dan Hallam (Director)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

When the exuberant Dan Hallam and his band of talented young jazz musicians take the stage in the Central Hall, we know we have reached the final day of the Festival of Youth Orchestras.

It is amazing to think that the personnel in the band changes from year to year as players leave school, and yet the standard of playing remains so high. It is great credit to the tutors, and to the players themselves, for all the time and effort spent in achieving this standard. It does not come easy. Thanks are also due to the parents, the schools, and the City of Edinburgh Education Authority for the support they give the band throughout the year. This year, almost the whole saxophone section is leaving, so it will be interesting to see what happens next year.

Throughout the concert, the band played with its usual energy and drive, underpinned by a great rhythm section consisting of: piano (Matthew Hellewell); bass (Christopher Guild); guitar (David Bruce); drums (Jason Irvine, Michael Munro and Christopher McGookin-James - alternately). Some of the individual players were featured in some of the numbers. No one particular piece stood out, they were all excellent, and the soloists were great, and quite modest about acknowledging the applause.

The concert started with Lester leaps in, featuring Patrick Kenny (Trombone), Rachael Cohen (Alto-sax) and Charlie Davis (Trombone). This was followed by Impressions in which Rachael featured again, together with Ewan Bleiman (Trumpet) and Hannah Cohen (Trombone). The Cohen sisters featured in several of the numbers, performing outstandingly every time.

Tthe Latino version of Song for my Father gave a few more of the band a chance to feature, so we heard Matthew Hellewell on piano, Jack Davis and Ewan Bleiman on trumpets and Patrick Kenny on trombone, as well as the Cohen sisters. Then Rachael was featured on a very fine interpretation of the Errol Garner classic Misty with a particularly fine solo trumpet obbligato from Ewan Bleiman. The band then finished the concert with a piece that has become a sort-of band standard, Fatback Blues, featuring Rachael again with Christopher Guild on bass and Jason Irvine at the drums.

The audience persuaded Dan to get the band to play another tune. He said that they hadn't brought another one with them, so he persuaded Rachel to play Misty again. This was just as fine as the first time. It also gave Dan an opportunity to introduce and thank those members of the band who, though they had not featured in the items played, were themselves outstanding players.

So ended another series of lunchtime concerts in the Festival of Youth Orchestras. It must be disappointing for the organisers to see so few people turn out for these concerts. It is not unusual to have more people on the stage than in the audience.

However, I am glad to say that this was not the case in this concert. It is always well attended, and this year was no exception. It must also be disappointing for the young people in the various bands and orchestras that play here, and their directors and conductors, to find so few in the audience. The bright side of this is that whatever audience is here, it is always very appreciative and supportive of these young people. I look forward to next year's festival.

© Charlie Napier. 4 September 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com

Series continues Sep 4 at 19.30 in this venue


   

Edinburgh Secondary Schools Orchestra (Page 98)
Festival of British Youth Orchestras/NAYO Series (page 100)
Drams
full glass full glass
Music Stephen Maniam: Fanfare; Peter I Tchaikowsky: Fantasy Overture Romeo and Juliet; Gustav Mahler: Symphony No.1 in D, 'Titan'
Performers Edinburgh Secondary Schools OrchestraAlasdair Mitchell (Conductor)
Venue Central Hall
Address West Tollcross
Reviewer Charlie Napier

The opening work in this, the closing concert of the 25th Festival of British Youth Orchestras, was Fanfare by Stephen Maniam. Knowing nothing about this composer and not having any programme notes to give any information made it difficult to review the piece.

This work had been commissioned by the Edinburgh Secondary Schools Orchestra to celebrate its 40th season and was premiered in St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh, on 22 March 2004.

Just in case I had been mistaken, I looked up the definition of 'Fanfare' in my dictionary. It said, "(1) a short showy ceremonious sounding of trumpets, bugles etc. (2) an elaborate display; a burst of publicity." To my mind this work was neither, although it could be said to have had an element of both.

The first thing of interest was the placing of some of the brass instruments. Four horns were placed on one side of the gallery, four trombones at the other side and a trumpet was placed at each of the corners of the front of the stage. This is not a new thing and could have been quite interesting. The work opened with an interchange between the brass and percussion. The music was very abstract; nothing that one could remotely say resembled a "tune" and soon it seemed to collapse into a mélange of cacophonous sounds. Whether or not the orchestra played this well, is impossible to say after just one hearing, so I have to assume that they did. The composer was in the hall and acknowledged the applause when the work was finished The first half ended with Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Overture. The work is too well known to need describing.

One of the problems of being ambitious in choosing a programme for a young orchestra is that you can perhaps just stretch the players a little too far, which may have been the case in this programme. Both the Tchaikovsky and the Mahler symphony that followed are not easy pieces to play and do require a lot of learning, practice and rehearsal.

The fact that they are both so well known means that anyone who knows them comes with a certain level of expectation, so when that level is not reached, then one gets disappointed. That is what happened this evening. I was disappointed with the playing of both works.

It is difficult to know if the disappointing end result was because the music was too difficult for the standard of the players, or the players did not know the music well enough, or the orchestra did not have enough rehearsal time. Perhaps it was a combination of all three. A member of the audience whose daughter was playing in the orchestra told me at the interval, before the Mahler, that she had only had four days to learn all the music. I did not find out why, so perhaps that is an isolated case. There were too many wrong notes and I think the tuning could have been better. The intonation of the upper strings when playing quick running passages was very suspect.

The strings were quite unbalanced with only three violas sandwiched between 29 violins and 11 cellos and 3 double basses. This might not have normally been a problem, but tonight the violas were very exposed in places.

One of my constant complaints about orchestral concerts in the Central Hall is that generally the brass overpowers the strings, and that was certainly true tonight. One does not expect it to be the other way round, but I do expect to be able to hear the strings the majority of the time. Even when the strings were playing on their own, or with just the woodwind, they were sometimes difficult to hear. This, I think, is a problem with the acoustics of the hall, but I have heard orchestra playing here where the balance between brass and strings has been very good.

I am sorry that this concert was so disappointing. I know the hard work and dedication that these young players undertake to prepare for these concerts, as do their tutors, and I think that they all should be congratulated. I am sure that the conductor worked just as hard to try to get the orchestra ready for the performance. However, in the Mahler, some of the tempi were a just bit on the slow side, needing an extremely good and well-prepared orchestra to make these work. I don't think the resources were there tonight. Having said all that, I am sure that the players will have gained something from the experience of playing these works and perhaps we will hear them tackle them again some time in the future.

© Charlie Napier, 04 September 2004. Published on www.edinburghguide.com



(N) 22 out of 74
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