Promenade Concert Orchestra April 9, 2019

On an almost nearly-blown-off-your-feet, breezy Morecambe Sunday afternoon, what better way to spend the time than immersed in wonderful music played with assurance by the Promenade Concert Orchestra at The Platform. Howard Rogerson, the orchestra’s founder and musical director, presented a repertoire of ‘Palm Court’ pieces with an expanded ensemble, which is expert in delivering this tuneful and uplifting repertoire.

The programmes are always so carefully assembled with contrasting pieces to hold the audience’s attention. The gentle opening of Gounod’s Mirella overture started proceedings, with expressive strings, and running woodwind. Cecile Chaminade’s stylish valse followed (Serenade D’Automne), with flowing flute passagework. We were next presented with some racy Hungarian-inspired music with charismatic leader Julian Cann transporting us with Gipsy Carnival.

From sensual, we moved to lighthearted, with Suzanne de Lozey performing Fairy Revels on piccolo. A mellow, sweet sound was a remarkable aspect of this accomplished performance.

Each piece added to the programme’s versatility. Plumb in the middle of the first half was an absolutely gorgeous gem with A Prayer at Eventide  (King, arr.  Haydn Wood) : a beautiful cantabile melody to touch the soul. Then, before the interval, we enjoyed Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s set of concert pieces Three Dream Dances. They are such exquisite, tuneful miniatures, beautifully orchestrated, lilting and romantic in style. What a treasured first half!

The MD always manages to uncover and bring to life rarities accessed from the Light Music Society library, or from his own ever-developing collection. The quaintly-titled An Elephant’s Birthday added rhythmic diversity to march us into part two. Raff’s well-known Cavatina followed (a personal favourite with me), accompanied delightfully on the harp by Maxine Molin, creating a restful interlude.

A highlight of the concert was an off-the-wall presentation of Lucy Long played by bassoonist Johanne Wood despite farcical interruptions. (Under duress, parts of her instrument had to be ‘sold’ piecemeal to cover a HMRC tax liability!!). In the end the only remnant of the instrument was the double-reed which still, kazoo-like, produced a comical musical sound! Needless to say, all ended happily, with a re-assembled bassoon.

After this light-hearted diversion the strings plucked their way delicately through Eilenberg’s delightful Serenade des Mandolines where a dynamic of ppp was achieved, only to be rudely interrupted by an unrehearsed, uninvited, screeching, solitary attention-seeking seagull overhead! Two romantic pieces came next : the sentimental melody Mon Coeur est Pour Toi with a fine trumpet solo played by James Bulger : then Love is like a Violin (a favourite of Max Jaffa – and Ken Dodd! – which was arranged specially for this occasion by the MD). A rousing selection from Lehar’s The Count of Luxembourg completed an afternoon of memorable listening.

The orchestral sound is always refined, and flexible. Long may Morecambe have the benefit of hosting these popular and hugely-enjoyable events.

Christopher Browne

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