Sunday, 17 June 2018

Wilmslow Symphony Orchestra: Last Night Of The Proms - The Leisure Centre, Wilmslow.

Formed over seventy years ago the Wilmslow Symphony Orchestra has collaborated with an impressive array of guest conductors and soloists. Given both its longevity and strong musical credentials the WSO can justifiably claim to be one of the North West’s leading amateur orchestras. The Last Night Of The Proms concert featuring well known light classics was a delight from beginning to end and my eleven year old daughter attending a classical concert for the first time enjoyed it as much as I did.

Consisting of well known works by leading American and English composers the programme allowed every section of the orchestra to show off their skills and talents to the fore as well as join in with all the fun of a Last Night Of The Proms concert including the traditional flag waving and community singing.

The first half of the concert featured two of the most iconic and popular compositions in American 20th Century music, the 'Candide Overture' by Leonard Bernstein and 'Appalachian Spring' by Aaron Copland. Written for his operetta Candide, first performed in 1956 the overture is one of Bernstein’s most entertaining scores and has gone on to enjoy an independent concert life of its own. This sparkling and witty piece of music was given a rousing performance by the orchestra who clearly revelled in its swagger and gorgeous melodies.

Subtitled, 'A Ballet for Martha', Appalachian Spring was written as collaboration between Copland and the legendary dancer and choreographer Martha Graham. Guest conductor for the evening Tom Newall pointed out in his introduction to the piece that the only thing missing from the WSO’s performance were the dancers! Containing some exquisite melodies including the evergreen Shaker melody, 'The Gift To Be Simple', better known as 'Lord Of The Dance', this was a superb interpretation of what must surely be one of the finest pieces of music to have been composed in the 20th century. Detailed and nuanced playing from all sections but especially brass and woodwind brought Copland’s depiction of a close-knit Appalachian community, complete with hoe downs and whip cracks, magnificently to life. I have heard this piece played live on numerous occasions but have rarely enjoyed it as much as I did in this concert. Bravo WSO for a stunning performance.

After the interval conductor Newall and the orchestra provided the perfect musical party for a summer’s evening with lots of opportunities for audience participation. A revelation was the performance of Henry Wood’s 'Fantasia On British Sea Songs', which was played in its original format including the startling introductory bugle calls, (often cut from most concert performances) and was given a touch of theatricality by orchestra members playing from different corners of the auditorium. The rest of the programme featured well known items from the Last Night Of The Proms including 'Jerusalem' and Elgar’s 'Pomp and Circumstance', giving the audience ample opportunities to wave their Union flags and heartily sing 'Land of Hope and Glory'. A lovely touch to finish the concert was the performance of an original piece by orchestra member Geoff Thomason of his 'Fanfarette For The Uncommon Woman', (written in a time of gender equality to provide balance to Copland’s 'Fanfare for the Common Man'), which acted as a perfect segue into a stirring rendition of the National Anthem.

Ahead of England’s entry into the World Cup and amidst ongoing uncertainty about Brexit this hugely enjoyable concert by the WSO was a timely and wonderful reminder of all things quintessentially British. It was also for my daughter a wonderful introduction to live classical music and both she and I look forward to attending further concerts by this brilliant orchestra in the future.

Reviewer - Richard Hall
on - 16/6/18

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