City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Review: The Edinburgh Light Orchestra 30th Anniversary Concert

By Barnaby Miln - Posted on 23 December 2007

Show Details
Queen's Hall
The Edinburgh Light Orchestra
The Edinburgh Light Orchestra 30th Anniversary Concert
James Beyer, Calvin Custer, Elizabeth McKeon
Running time: 

The Edinburgh Light Orchestra has been bringing joy to a loyal audience of light music enthusiasts for thirty years now. This was the celebration concert, held on 10 November 2007, was a happy night.

A full house of over 800 enjoyed a programme of favourites from those thirty years interspersed with lively introductions and fascinating anecdotes pulled from the Orchestra’s archives by James Beyer, the conductor, who has been at the helm all along.

The Orchestra’s signature tune, Robert Farnon’s Journey Into Melody, with its powerful movie like opening allowed us to settle in our seats. The fifty four members of the orchestra continued with a light and fast In Town Tonight by Eric Coates who died fifty years ago. Memories came back of evenings listening to the wireless before the days of television.

At this point James Beyer welcomed us. Whether we had been at every previous concert or were first timers the evening was for all of us. A trip down memory lane to the swing era of Duke Ellington with Calvin Custer’s arrangement of A Salute to the Big Bands was followed by Arthur Blake’s Moonlight in Martinique. For over forty years until his death in 1994, Arthur Blake was one of Scotland’s foremost composers, arrangers and broadcasters of light music and the orchestra has always done him proud.

Another arrangement by Calvin Custer was A Tribute to Henry Mancini. This was a medley featuring Baby Elephant Walk, Charade, The Pink Panther, Days of Wine and Roses and Peter Gunn. During the thirty-year period from the 1960s to the late 80s, Mancini composed the music for three to four films each year and we were treated to a contrasting selection.

The soprano soloist for the Orchestra’s very first concert in 1977 cried off at the last moment and a talented student stepped in with little time to rehearse. Elizabeth McKeon was back with us and in full voice and a delightful smile all those years later to give us some of The Sound of Music by Richard Rogers, I Heard You Singing by Eric Coates and then Les Filles de Cadix by Léo Delibes which was arranged whilst still at school by David Lyle, a member of the orchestra. She finished with Czardas by Monti.

Traditionally the Leader of the Orchestra is the only professional and chooses a solo piece. Since 1999 the Leader has been Lawrence Dunn, celebrating this year the fortieth anniversary of his flowing beard, the Conductor so informed us. His choice was the perennial favourite, Czardas by Monti. The fine performance ended with a race to the finish between the violin and the conductor’s baton. A dead heat, and we were delighted.
The musical stage took its turn with a selection from Frederick Loewe’s My Fair Lady and in next to no time we were at the interval. Looking around I suspect more tubs of ice cream were sold than glasses of wine.

Johann Strauss II’s overture from The Gypsy Baron was followed by Eric Coates’ By The Sleepy Lagoon which is better known as the signature tune for the long running radio programme ‘Desert Island Discs’.

James Beyer told us that three of the programme sheets in our hands were different from all the others and going to win their owners Book Tokens. Sure enough three lucky winners were waving their hands in excitement. Furthermore the Orchestra was able to hand over one thousand pounds to the Musician’s Benevolent Fund which currently looks after over eighty musicians in Scotland.
We all joined in for a ‘sing-along’ Medley of Waltzes from the Music Hall - the familiar words of Daisy Bell, She Was One Of The Early Birds, Two Lovely Black Eyes, Comrades, Little Annie Rooney, Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland, In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree and After The Bell.

Every instrument of the orchestra was in fine fettle for a medley from John Kander’s musical Chicago arranged by Ted Ricketts, before Elizabeth McKeon joined us again to sing Spread A Little Happiness by Vivian Ellis and arranged by Mike Hardy a trumpeter in the orchestra, a piece from Puccini’s La Rondine and Stephen Adams very well known The Holy City.

The programme ended with a medley of Scottish airs arranged by Robert Farnon entitled From The Highlands. We were treated to Strauss’ Radetzki March as an encore. All in all a wonderfully performed concert by very talented and clearly enthusiastic musicians.