The IW Symphony Orchestra with conductor Jonathan Butcher. Picture by Ashley Vaughan.
MUSICTHE IW Symphony Orchestra celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in style last Saturday with a feast of outstanding British music.
The audience knew as soon as they entered the auditorium at the Medina Theatre this was going to be something special.
The orchestral stage, conductor’s podium, music stands and even instruments were bedecked with flags and bunting — the line of double basses with Union Flags in their scrolls was an extraordinary spectacle.
Elgar’s popular Cockaigne Overture, well-paced and full of orchestral colour, set the patriotic theme from the start, followed by Britten’s delightful Courtly Dances from Gloriana. The five dances, sandwiched by a jaunty march, were sensitively played with fine contrasts of timbres and textures, matched with appropriate dynamic contrasts, which brought out the quirky character of each movement.
The FantasiaonGreensleeves by Vaughan Williams was beautifully played by flutes, harp and strings.
Concluding the first half, The Three Elizabeths Suite by Eric Coates, described by conductor Jonathan Butcher as 'a cracking piece’, proved to be exactly that — a tuneful and enjoyable example of mid-20th century light orchestral repertoire, which showcased the versatility of the ensemble.
The theme of patriotic celebration continued with Orb and Sceptre (Walton), a jazzy march written for Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953. A welcome period of reflective calm (before the storm) came with an operatic interlude from Delius, The Walk to the Paradise Garden, which provided a contrast of mood and tone as the orchestra explored a range of colours with particularly effective muted strings.
Then the fun and games began with Wood’s Fantasiaon British Sea Songs, the highlight of every Last Night of the Proms. Though great fun, it is a challenge for any orchestra with some nerve-racking exposed solos, all of which were superbly executed (special mention must be given to the clarinet and cello).
The large and enthusiastic audience failed to keep up with the impossible prestissimo of the Sailor’s Hornpipe but excelled in the flag-waving extravaganza of the next piece — Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No 1. Suitably instructed by Jonathan, a member of NAFW (the National Association of Flag Wavers), the audience excelled in 'frantic flapping’ and 'buoyant bouncing’, sang lustily as tradition dictates, demanding (and getting) an even noisier encore.
The concert was a musical equivalent of an English tea — overindulgent with a selection of tasty titbits, something for everyone and all thoroughly uplifting. Well done, IWSO.