Pomp and Circumstance

We had a family trip to the Morley Proms Concert on Saturday night. In some ways it was a bit amateurish as some of the musicians were still arriving five minutes before the show was due and the dignitaries were ushered in after the orchestra had started, very unprofessional in my book as they were sitting in the front row.

The flags were certainly out in the hall but St. George ones mostly with only a smattering of Union Flags. The Legion people had St. George flags on sale and we also brought a Union Flag from home.

Downstairs was somewhat empty, although the balcony was busy. Even the great and the good in the posh seats were a bit thin on the ground, lots of Councillors being absent.

There were 56 musicians listed in the programme, however, I worked out that there were about fourty squashed onto the platform, more a Chamber Orchestra size. It was the West Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra (WYSO) and I was bemused to see the strapline in the programme promoting equality and diversity in classical music. (Chasing PC grant aid, perhaps?)

One thing that the programme did NOT say was that this an amateur orchestra– this totally changed my perception of the event on reading this afterwards on Sunday. This is because I thought they were very good for amateurs but rather ordinary for professionals. Some music they played very well, others they didn’t quite carry off quite so well because they weren’t big enough or some of the musicians weren’t quite polished enough. The strings were generally fine (often a weak point in lesser orchestras, although I felt that the #1 violinist solo was lacking in timbre) but the brass wasn’t always smooth enough and they didn’t have enough percussion on occasions. The orchestra was well conducted (by two conductors, one in each half) although it sometimes felt that the orchestra weren’t always following him and his baton work was sometimes more controlled and subtle than the musical output.

(I didn’t realise that I was quite so perceptive about the quality of orchestras but all of those “Classical Spectaculars” must have rubbed off, along with the TV series of Maestro!)

The first half featured several pieces from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro along with his Symphony No. 40 first movement, Vaughan Williams’ English Folk song suite (Seventeen come Sunday), Puccini’s O Mia Babino Caro and Souza’s Stars & Stripes forever, finishing off with an extract from the 1812 Overture. When I saw this on the programme I suspected that they would not be able to do it justice and I was right, they struggled a little and it wasn’t a rich enough sound. It was also distinctly lacking in explosions…

The interval was muddled somewhat by some non-existent refreshments being announced. It also became apparent that many of the audience were friends and family of the musicians so the Morleian turnout was even lower than I initially thought. I was hoping that the dignitaries would make a late entrance again but they were in their seats early this time- shame really, as there would have been an irony in their entrance, the first piece being Sousa’s Liberty Bell, better known as the Monty Python theme tune!

Most of the pieces in the second half were standard last night of the Proms stuff, although the two soloists were able to excel with Delibes’ Flower Duet, the so-called British Airways advert tune.

When it came to the patriotic stuff the enforced jollity was a little contrived and there weren’t exactly a sea of flags waving in the air. It was still good fun though. Here is a shot of the orchestra in action and a brief footage of Rule Britannia. (Apologies for the focus & colour temperature, the Kodak makes a very mediocre Camcorder).

Christmas Concert
 13th December at 7.00 in Morley Town hall. The music includes Swan Lake and 1812 Overture as well as Christmas Carols featuring the choirs of local schools. Inkeeping with the music there will be an soldiers and faries fancy dress competition for young audience members.

We’ll be there. Karen suggested I offer to do the bangs but 16 hydrogen filled balloons along the front of the stage would be asking for trouble…

2 Replies to “Pomp and Circumstance”

  1. Never mind you enjoyed it anyway. Most impressed by the musical criticism here. I on the other hand went to see Pinchas Zukerman on Saturday with the National Centre of the Arts Orchestra. Very professional and I would not dare to critique the performance which was great.

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