Thursday, 7 April 2016

Sidmouth Orchestra Glenorchy Church Exmouth Wednesday 7 April 2016

Alan Williams
Conductor, Sidmouth Orchestra

Yesterday David Lee's Lunchtime Concert Series at the United Reformed Church in Exeter Road Exmouth hosted it's largest ensemble, by quite a margin. The Sidmouth Orchestra has no percussion section, nor any tubas or trombones, but there is a sizeable brass and woodwind section - and a full-scale string section. The Leader is Audrey Williams (who runs her own Summer Lunchtime Concert Series at the nearby Church of St John at Withycombe Raleigh). Principal 'Cello is Ruth Lass, familiar to fans of the Beacon Piano Trio, and Ruth's husband Laylor Lass is also there playing his Double Bass.

Alan Williams
introduces . . .
Their concert opened with a piece over 100 years old - "Plymouth Hoe - A Nautical Adventure" by John Ansell. With instrumentalists packed into every part of the stage, and the surrounding area, the conductor Alan Williams took us on a rollicking sea voyage with a delightful hornpipe theme.

Skipping back another century, Alan introduced Beethoven's First Symphony, reminding us how novel his approach to opening a piece was, even in this first work. (It is not actually the first symphony he wrote - the numbering system came later.)

Moving to Paris, the orchestra played "Pavane" by Gabriel Fauré - written twelve years before Maurice Ravel's homage to Paris music patron Winnaretta Singer - "Pavane pour une Infante Défunte", a very beautiful and influental piece.

Then the string players very gingerly edged off the stage to allow Alan to conduct the wind and brass section in a very early piece by Richard Strauss, "Serenade for Wind Opus 7", with lots of opportunities to hear the soloists in action. In the oboe section, it was very pleasing to see and hear that great Topsham all-rounder, and Glenorchy veteran, Philip Henry.

With the string section re-installed, the concert finished with an arrangement of one of Geoffrey Hartley's twentieth century bassoon quartets. His Fantasias cover many English themes, including the Vicar of Bray, and Widdicombe Fair. For this week's concert Alan had chosen "Fantasia on a British Tea Song" which opens with the children's nursery rhyme "Polly puts the kettle on" - delicately picked out on piccolo - before wending its way through several familiar melodies, including Johannes Brahms' "Hungarian Dance No 5".

Alan became increasingly animated at the piece progressed, and the audience were swept along in the very agreeable resulting tumult. Rousing applause greeted the closing chords. What a wonderful selection of music - and played with such enthusiasm and gusto. Great work by all concerned.

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