The Promenade Concert Orchestra of Morecambe brought a glamorous touch of Vienna to The Platform with its first Viennese New Year concert for two years. With singing, dancing and waltzes a-plenty, this was the perfect way to cheer up a grey and blustery day, a sentiment obviously shared by the large audience.

Opening with Franz von Suppe’s entertaining Das Modell overture, the ever-reliable PCO danced its way through a packed programme of waltzes, polkas and marches under the assured baton of top-hatted conductor Howard Rogerson. The Viennese style with its dramatic pauses, frequent key changes and constantly varying tempi requires a high level of concentration and ability, ably demonstrated by the players throughout the concert. 

Such a varied programme allowed for every section of the orchestra to shine, from the rich, full sound of the strings in Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s charming Valse de la Reine to the delightful woodwind flourishes in Johann Strauss II’s Voices of Spring waltz. The jaunty polka Bahn Frei by Eduard Strauss was the perfect piece for the percussion section to come to the fore, with the conductor joining in enthusiastically with a train whistle (having swapped his top hat for a guard’s hat!)

The individual skills of the players were also on show, with leader Julian Cann giving a stunning virtuoso performance of the first violin solo in the operetta Paganini by Franz Lehar. Due to the difficulty in obtaining Lehar’s music, conductor Howard Rogerson orchestrated this piece himself following extensive research and study of his wife Valerie’s vocal score. The result was a resounding success! 

Virtuoisic skills were also in evidence in the opening piece of the second half, Toujours ou Jamais by Waldteufal, with some excellent playing by clarinettist Janet Barlow. 

A consistent characteristic of PCO concerts over the years has been the high quality of soloists and talented soprano Natasha Page was no exception. With a glorious rich tone, soaring high notes and engaging manner, she held the audience in thrall from her first note. Natasha covered a wide range of styles with her songs, all of which were made to look effortless by a singer evidently at the top of her game. A lively, humorous performance of The Laughing Song from Die Fledermaus contrasted with an impassioned rendition of Rusalka’s Song to the Moon and the Spanish-flavoured The Girl from Cadiz, Natasha’s expressive face and engagement with the audience bringing the words to life.

It was also a delight to see the Turning Point Theatre Arts Dancers returning for their regular New Year concert appearance with the PCO, performing beautiful routines of grace and energy to four of the pieces, including Lincke’s joyous Folies-Bergere March and the first of the traditional Viennese encores, On the Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz

As Storm Corrie whipped in across the bay the second encore, Johann Strauss I’s Radetzky March with its rousing brass and hand-clapping audience participation, ensured that the appreciative audience went out into the wind and rain with warm hands and smiles on their faces! 




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