This was followed by Respighi’s 1928 suite ‘The Birds’. First we heard the prelude, made famous by the old TV programme ‘Going for a Song’. Then came the Dove, with a beautiful slow oboe melody over a fluttering accompaniment. This was followed by the most amusing part, the Hen, in which one could hear her pecking and strutting about, and clucking and squawking at the end when she definitely laid an egg – whereas the orchestra had a triumph! After this came the Nightingale, with the lower strings describing the dark trees swaying in the night breeze, the flute and French horn had the birdsong – sometimes clearly above the trees and sometimes within. A beautiful picture in music. In the final piece every single instrument in the orchestra had a turn at going ‘cuckoo’!
The third item on the programme was Gershwin’s ‘Walking the Dog’ (originally written for the 1937 film ‘Shall We Dance’ with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers walking a dog on the deck of a liner). This famous piece was brilliantly orchestrated
by the conductor’s wife Helen – the clarinet started off with the tune we all knew, accompanied by plucked strings and drums, but every instrument had something worthwhile to play, our toes were kept tapping and the insouciant mood of the original was well captured.
This was a hard act to follow but the evening’s soloist, the young euphonium player Jordan Tweedie, succeeded; he played the reflective ‘Summer Isles’ by Philip Sparke with beautiful tone and expression. He then played variations on the famous tune ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’, with a lot of bravura playing which left most of the audience astonished that a seemingly cumbersome instrument could be so quick and agile in the hands of the right player. Both pieces were sensitively accompanied by the orchestra, whose music had again been imaginatively arranged by Helen Keating from the brass band originals.
After the interval the evening was crowned by an electric performance of Beethoven’s Symphony no. 2. It was composed just after he found himself becoming deaf, but he managed to rise above his personal tragedy to produce this joyful music. As one would expect, the music was full of demonic, offbeat accents and contrasts, and easy to follow, with the clear-cut vigorous melody lines of the first movement, and melodious conversations between the instruments in the slow movement; the well-known scherzo was played with great élan by the orchestra, and the bustling fourth movement filled everyone with enthusiasm for life, with its joyous ending.
The hall was full to bursting, and well over a thousand pounds was raised.
MW March 2016