Sunday, 30 June 2019

AMATEUR MUSIC REVIEW: Junior RNCM Performance Day - The RNCM, Manchester.



Accompanied by my Assistant Reviewer, age eleven (and a guitarist), we first attended the Junior RNCM Percussion Ensemble’s concert. This octet performed a very varied programme, from the highly experimental “Plato’s Cave” by Casey Cangelosi, to the much more traditional “Bouree In A Minor” by Johann Sebastian Bach, with “Catching Shadows” by Ivan Trevino and “Busy Signal” by Bill Molenhof included. The members themselves had created their own Stomp-style piece called “Deck”, where they sat around a long table with a pack of playing cards and used these props and their own bodies as the percussion instruments. The last piece was a charming arrangement of the CeeLo Green pop song “Forget You”, created and conducted by Junior RNCM member Alex Walton. Otherwise, Andrea Vogler was a low-key presence as the director of this concert.

The Foundation Section concert was a group of instrumental solos by a younger range of Junior RNCM members, aged approximately eight to thirteen. Several of these children were already playing at adult standard. There was a range of classical and modern pieces, beautifully executed, on an assortment of stringed instruments as well as piano, clarinet, and flute. David Jones gave sympathetic accompaniment on the piano.

The Assistant Reviewer needed breaks, so we missed the Vocal Ensemble performing Hubert Parry, William Henry Harris and Leonard Bernstein with full organ accompaniment. We also missed the Brass Band concert of Matthew Hall, Leonard Bernstein, Ottorino Respighi and Louis Prima. And the Wind Ensemble performing Antonin Dvorak and Richard Strauss.

Filled with cake, we were back for the Junior RNCM Symphony Orchestra concert, and this was so worth attending. Ninety young musicians took part. That’s quite a wallop of live orchestral sound. For the first piece, “A Charm of Lullabies” by Benjamin Britten, vocal soloist Angelina Dorlin-Barlow, also a Junior RNCM member, took centre stage and crooned her way through the arrangement with her lusciously rich singing voice. (The Assistant Reviewer was very taken with her gorgeous emerald-green gown.) Once she left the stage, the orchestra re-tuned, and then showed what they could really do, with an incredibly dynamic performance of the “Pictures At An Exhibition” suite by Modest Mussorgsky. All the sound pictures were crystal clear, and this was due to the masterful conducting of Ewa Strusinska. The audience even held off clapping until she had relaxed her fingers completely and was holding them loosely by her sides.

The final concert was the Junior RNCM Jazz Ensemble, who indicated their coolness through dashes of red with their traditional black clothing. This big band of twenty two musicians, and an added four vocalists, was conducted by the chilled-out groovemaster Geth Griffith. The pieces were a varied mixture of modern and more traditional jazz, including “Night Train” by Jimmy Forrest, “Bembe du Beret” by Steve Berry, and “Salt of the Earth” by Andy Scott. Molly Becker sang the lead vocals for the Stevie Wonder song “Don’t You Worry ‘bout A Thing”, in a surprisingly smoky and mature voice. And for “Lingus” by Snarky Puppy, pianists Elizabeth Birch and Lizzy Gur played on electronic keyboards solos that they had transcribed themselves from the original recording.

The Assistant Reviewer was incredibly impressed that musicians only a little older than her could do such things. And that Angelina Dorlin-Barlow could sing so many lyrics from memory: “How does she remember all those words?”

The Royal Northern College of Music does excellent work in engaging and training children and adolescents, both those who perform, and those who will be the music audiences of the future. Today’s seven hours of seven different concerts was the end-of-year showcase for the Junior RNCM members: talented musicians in a range of disciplines, and all of them only eighteen or under years old.

Reviewer - Thalia Terpsichore 
on - 29/6/19

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