Review of Let Nature Sing, Dumfries Baptist Church March 2019

The first piece was Themes from the Caerlaverock Suite by Sarah Berker, the orchestra’s leader; a beautiful tune inspired by the soundscape of Caerlaverock Nature Reserve. The calls of birds such as greenshanks, and pink-footed geese can clearly be heard woven through the main themes, with the twittering flutes and strong violas creating an atmosphere reminiscent of a warm spring morning. This shortened version of the full suite was well received, and a rousing way to begin the concert. Next was the second movement from Beethoven’s 6th, commonly called the Pastoral, which kept up a good pace, with crisp notes and a very able solo from clarinetist Sue Best. Beethoven holds back the recognisable birdsong until the end, with the nightingale and cuckoo finally emerging through the excellent wind section, striking a perfect balance over the swelling strings. After a quick re-organisation, Nick Riley took centre stage for Vivaldi’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, The Goldfinch, and ably played throughout. The sprightly tempo and the clipped, formal tones from the harpsichord, are reminiscent of the Four Seasons with the trills and spills of the flute suggesting the high-pitched song of the goldfinch. Smooth runs of notes carry the tune through from the Allegro, the Cantabile, and finally the Allegro. The Lark in the Clear Air with its pleasing melody, is a short and sweet interlude, written by Pauline Roe, another violinist in the orchestra. This led onto On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring, a somewhat soporific tune that’s difficult to pull together, due to its slow tempo and Delius’ complex organisation of the string section. But it’s capably performed here. Finally, the evening ended with Haydn’s Symphony no 83, nicknamed ‘The Hen’, a light and chirpy piece, with sprightly, solid scales in the Allegro Spiritoso. The second movement, the Andante, is alive with anticipation, leading on to the dance-like Minuet and Trio, with its lively violins, and a standout oboe. The final movement provides a suitable climax to the concert. Overall the concert offered a good mix of styles and showcased the full skills of the Sinfonia, with members clearly responding well under the confident leadership of guest conductor James Young. Spring has definitely sprung on the Solway!

JT 23 March 2019.