Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Mahler - Oh Boy! Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra play Mahler's Eighth Symphony, with choirs, Exeter University Great Hall Sunday 16 September 2012

Marion Wood
and the Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra
4pm: rehearsal in progress

Anyone wondering what all these photographs are about, will not be surprised to hear that something very special, and wonderful, has been happening here in Exeter recently.

On 25th May this year, rehearsals started for a unique performance of Mahler's Eighth Symphony - never staged in the South West before. The Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra packed into the Gymnasium at St Peter's School in Exeter to rehearse Part 1, 'Veni Creator Spiritus' with full choir. The choir worked all weekend, and were joined by the orchestra again on Sunday afternoon. Conducting - Marion Wood! (see details)

On 6th July the process was repeated for Part 2, 'Closing Scene from Goethe's Faust'.

On 7th September things really started to get serious. Marion convened the orchestra, full choir, and Devon County Junior Choir for a weekend of rehearsals of the whole work. Some of the soloists came to hear, and a great tubular bell was brought for 'Veni Creator Spiritus'.

A week later the countdown began. A full dress rehearsal started on Friday evening, and by Sunday afternoon everyone was 'match-prepared'. The whole orchestra and choir had a super-serious run-through in the Exeter University Great Hall at 3pm.

The incredibly energetic and resourceful Marion Wood worked tirelessly on last minute adjustments. A plan to have choirs in the gallery boxes had to be changed - the acoustics for the audience below just didn't work. Instead a troupe of trumpeters took up position in the gallery. Everyone would be able to hear them.

There was time for a leisurely cream tea (for the audience, if not the performers) before the Symphony started for real at 5pm. Eight soloists added their powerful voices to the already remarkable 'Symphony of a Thousand' and the show began.

The prayer 'Veni Creator Spiritus' with 'bell' and seven solo voices was impressive, grand, and serene. Surprisingly short, it was over in 30 minutes - but not before the trumpeters had regaled us all with their vigorous fanfare. The real drama started after the break. Faust, acted out in eight voices, with an overwhelming choir sound - plus the show-stopping Junior Choir, and incredible orchestral effects, was an absolute masterpiece.

Marion Wood controlled the entire army of musicians with calm skill, bringing out the very best sound. This was Faust as it has never been seen or heard before (in the south west of England anyway!) The audience loved every moment and let the musicians know it with their riotous applause at the end.

Equally important, the musicians had the time of their life. All agreed that the whole process from first rehearsal to performance had been a special and unique experience - the orchestra a family, the work a joy.

Will we have anything to match Mahler in the foreseeable future? With Marion Wood in charge, the prospects look good!

now read on . . .


Ruth Molins' piccolo solo
Basses wait in the wings - Bjoern Fabritus
Enter stage right - bass soloist Julian Rippon
Marion Wood sings all parts
The sopranos pay close attention - Tina Guthrie
So do the 'cellists - Yvonne Ashby
violist and administrator - Rachel Wieck
clarinettist & chairman
John Welton
The rehearsal ends on a high note for
soprano Tina Guthrie,
violist Rebecca Springall
(Devon Strings Workshop),
first violin Jackie Baldwin,
and orchestra leader Clare Smith
EMG photographer Nigel Cheffers-Heard
confers with musical director Marion Wood
and Caroline Koegler
A little catching up for 'cellist Carol Galton
pianist Rebecca Willson
continues practicing with great enthusiasm
quietly confident - principal French horn Trevor Ives
and ?Sally Maya
a popular percussionist - Ali Board
principal bassoon Prue Tasman
runs over Paul Jones' contrabassoon part
principal trumpet Brian Moore
against Nigel Cheffers-Heard's video projection
Exeter poet 'Roverti' (tenor Trevor Germon)
with choir coordinator & soprano
Lucina Swain
Heading for the organ loft
keyboard player
(and new MD of 'Devon Baroque')
Jonathan Watts
strikes a baroque pose
to the amusement of 'cellist Carol Galton
Here to play the heavenly Dartington celeste,
Janet Williams
Time for cream-teas in the Terrace Restaurant
 -an enthusiastic audience member
Kate McVie
(Association of Open University Graduates)


Video running,
Nigel Cheffers-Heard

and Zoita Mandila
prepare their equipment
As show-time approaches
first violins Jackie Baldwin and Ray Fane
make their way briskly back to the stage
Following close behind,
flautists Ruth Molins and Sophie Brewer
Taking her time,
orchestra leader Clare Smith
A special performer,
mandolin soloist Jonathan Springall
(Devon Strings Workshop)


leader Clare Smith oversees the orchestra
- minus keyboard players and vocal soloists
The soloists arrive for Veni Creator Spiritus,
bass Simon Trist, baritone Julian Rippon, tenor Graham Neal
altos Juliet Curnow & Alison Kettlewell
sopranos Iris Korfker & Catherine Hamilton

(percussionist Steve Bentley
takes over John McAvoy's 10' tubular bell)
The prayer ends with a trumpet fanfare from the gallery
centre - Jonathan Schrantz


Performers mingle in the interval
- soprano Maria Yiting Liu
flautist, Sophie Brewer
(South West Music School)
Exeter School alumni
soprano Lucy Bray
(in the audience after a week touring
with Scola Cantorum of Oxford)
tenor - and trumpeter - Jonathan Schrantz
In the audience.
tenor and MD of the Starling Octet
- Ben Pennington


Back on stage, leader Clare Smith resumes control
and hands over to the conductor - Marion Wood
Marion gently reanimates the orchestra
- for Goethe's Faust
A beautiful oboe solo - David Lotinga
supported by bassoonist Gail Hicks
harmonium - Robert Mitchell
double bass Vivian Rivers
(St David's Hillbillies, Phonic FM)
Ben Hamilton, James RintoulDavid Gill
principal double bass Lisa Thorne 
principal harp Fionnuala Somerville
celeste Janet Williams
piano Rebecca Willson
A big moment for percussionist Sarah Hodson
Looking on, John McAvoy, Steve Bentley
Trevor Ives leads nine French horns - more than advertised!
Susanna Stephenson far right
Leading from behind
Rachel Smith and the Devon County Junior Choir
Tympanist Ali Board waits for her moment
an eighth soloist
- Héloïse West is Mater Gloriosa
principal cor anglais: Kate Osbourne

tenor Graham Neal is Doctor Marianus
bass Simon Trist - Pater Profundus
baritone Julian Rippon - Pater Ecstaticus
Flutes: Ruth Molins, Sophie Brewer,
Robert Stephenson, Susan Mitchell
Principal Flute: Catherine Clements
Oboes: David Lotinga,
Jane Carrington Porter, Rhiannon Morgan
Clarinets: Charlie Sheppard-Vine (Eь clarinet), Ros Fish,
John Welton, John Walthew (principal clarinet),

Linda Jordan (bass clarinet)
Bassoon: Peter Dawson
Sarah Hodson - tam-tam, John McAvoy - glockenspiel,
Steve Bentley - bass drum
A capacity audience, following in their scores
principal cor anglais Kate Osbourne
3rd soprano Héloïse West - Mater Gloriosa
2nd soprano Iris  Korfker - Una Poenitentium
1st soprano Catherine Hamilton - Magna Peccatrix
1st alto Alison Kettlewell - Mulier Samaritana
(out of sight) 2nd alto Juliet Curnow - Maria Aegyptiaca
Sounding brass:
trombones: Raddon Stephenson, Jacqui Burden,
EMG Treasurer Charles Dowell, Paul Rycroft
trumpets: principal trumpet Brian Moore,
Tony Hindley, James Bowden, Paul Vodden
The final drum roll - tympanist Ali Board
The last word goes to John McAvoy
To thunderous applause,
conductor Marion Wood & leader Clare Smith embrace
Marion Wood thanks Junior Choir MD Rachel Smith
 bass Simon Trist, baritone Julian Rippon
- and tenor Graham Neal
- the orchestra
- and the audience!


Time to pack up
- double bassist Vivian Rivers
(that case is for carrying a double bass
- not men!)
principal clarinet John Walthew
Devon County Junior Choir musical director
Rachel Smith
bass Andrew Odber
(also pianist and regular at 'Classical Night'
second Thursday of each month
Bicton Inn, Exmouth)
A familiar pose
- flautist Ruth Molins
with C-flute and piccolo
'cello leader Yvonne Ashby
modestly accepts the admiration of
- Natasha Iuchanka

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