Monday, February 26, 2018

Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert

26 February 2018

In the 18 years I have been playing with the Northampton Symphony Orchestra I can’t remember us ever selling out a concert nearly a week in advance, but that’s what happened with last Saturday’s performance. Admittedly it was an appealing programme of film music timed to celebrate 40 years of ‘Star Wars’ and, although it is a grand building, Christchurch in Northampton doesn’t have the largest audience capacity. Nevertheless it was exciting to be playing to a full house. We opened the concert with John Williams’ suite from ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ – a substantial piece of music that shows Williams’ growing maturity as a composer, subtly referencing themes from the earlier ‘Star Wars’ films and playing with various musical forms (as in the ‘Scherzo for X-Wings’). This was the latest concert in our season of music inspired by the visual arts and featured Bernard Herrman’s chillingly familiar music for strings from Alfred Hitchcock’s film ‘Psycho’ which was inspired by Edward Hopper’s painting ‘House by the Railroad’. Apart from another work by John Williams, ‘Adventures on Earth’ from ‘ET’, the rest of the programme celebrated British composers writing for a golden age of British film in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s – including two Northampton-born composers. Malcolm Arnold’s music for ‘The Inn of the Sixth Happiness’ blends a typically bold Arnoldian theme with the children’s song ‘This Old Man’ which is sung in the film by 100 Chinese children as they walk through the mountains to escape the Japanese invasion of China. The other Northampton native was William Alwyn whose funeral march accompanies James Mason’s doomed battle through the Belfast snow in Carol Reed’s 1947 film noir ‘Odd Man Out’. It was fascinating to play Richard Rodney Bennett’s ‘Waltz from Murder on the Orient Express’ with NSO leader Stephen Hague – who played on the original soundtrack of Sidney Lumet’s 1974 film. We finished the concert with William Walton’s ‘Battle of Britain Suite’ – the inclusion of which in Guy Hamilton’s 1969 film was apparently due to the insistence of Laurence Olivier. It’s a brilliant piece of music which creates a series of effects in which different instruments mimic the engine noises of the planes, before ending with one of those glorious slow Walton marches. Saturday’s programme was a test of stamina for the orchestra which showcased each section of the NSO but felt like a particular triumph for the brass and percussion. It was an exhilarating concert of serious film music chosen by NSO Music Director John Gibbons to remind us of those many accomplished composers who wrote huge amounts of wonderful music for films that are now largely forgotten. It was great to discover some of this music for the first time and to give it a live performance to a packed audience.

Labels: ,


At 4:19 pm, Blogger Frank Jordan said...

Horns up at the end of ET gave me chills- and Robin- your "force theme" solo was spot on -great job in the horn section


Post a Comment

<< Home