Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra

Shrewsbury Orchestral Society

Review - Wednesday 30th May 2012 in Theatre Severn

Film Music for a summer’s evening by Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra.

Richard Strauss wrote an opera based on an argument between a poet and a composer each claiming precedence for their own art. The modern equivalent might be to ask whether the film or the music comes first. We have examples of great composers like John Williams, Vaughan Williams, Malcolm Arnold and Richard Rodney Bennet, who pour over a film and tailor their music to fit every movement and every change of mood in the film. But we also have examples of films that take music from Mahler or Beethoven and use them for their sound track.

This week saw a return of the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra to the Severn Theatre. This was their third summer concert in this theatre and again we were treated to a varied programme at the lighter end of their repertoire. All the pieces were film music. But as their conductor, John Moore, pointed out in his entertaining introductions Beethoven had never seen “The King’s Speech” and Dvorak can have had no idea that part of his New World Symphony would be borrowed for a television advert. We also heard some rousing examples of music written specially for films such as Superman, Star Wars and Star Trek.

The acoustic of the Severn Theatre is not kind to orchestral players, the sound tends to get lost in the soft furnishings, but there was some fine playing. The strings in particular are playing better than ever. The programme gave plenty of opportunities for the percussion section to shine, and this they certainly did, particularly in the music for Mission Impossible, which John Moore kindly pointed out was rather unusually written with five beats in a bar. We also had a fine trumpet solo in the Swan Lake music.

Though this theatre is not kind to the musicians, the audiences love it. There was a good attendance, and for those of us who care about music it was particularly good to see so many young people there. Perhaps the word had got round that the younger members of the audience were entitled to a free ice cream during the interval.

I hope that some of those who came and enjoyed the evening will try listening to this orchestra in one of their other concerts at the Alington Hall or in the Abbey; the ice cream may not be so good, but the music should be worth it.

© Charles West (reproduced by kind permission)

Review - Wednesday 30th November 2011 in the Alington Hall, Shrewsbury School

A large audience turned up at the Alington Hall of Shrewsbury School to support the latest concert by Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra continues to impress, not just with its quality but also in its ambitious programming. Works by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius appeared in both halves of the concert. The single-movement 7th symphony of 1924 is a difficult piece for both orchestra and audience, as it lacks traditional formal design and demands great concentration. There were some tentative moments but conductor John Moore achieved fluency in the development of the thematic fragments on which the work is constructed. The Karelia suite was much more assured, with the brass section delivering its fanfare-like passages with relish and allowing the audience to enjoy the familiar melodies of this appealing score.

Local trumpeter Wendy Jones was the soloist in the concerto by the Armenian composer Alexander Arutunian and the work’s contrasting moods were captured sensitively in a polished and absorbing performance.

The concert ended with Schumann’s ‘Spring’ symphony, which produced some of the most confident playing of the evening, notably in the last two movements which were purposeful and stylish. Thoughts of springtime were particularly welcome on this damp November evening. John Moore conducted with his customary musical insight, displaying secure control of the large forces that this programme required.

© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)

Review - Wednesday 15th June 2011 in Theatre Severn

Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra presented a programme of popular British music at Theatre Severn for its summer concert. The orchestra displayed its commendable versatility by entering into the world of light classics and film music – not a symphony or concerto in sight. The tone was set in the opening Pomp and Circumstance March No.4 by Elgar, where the brass section demonstrated crisp articulation and the strings used Elgar’s lush patriotic tune to come to terms with Theatre Severn’s unforgiving acoustic (or, sadly, lack of it - what a shame that the design of this admirable facility gave such little thought to musical resonance.)

However, we were transported around the world of British music by visiting Hamish MacCunn’s ‘Land of the Mountain and Flood’ and ‘Mars’ and ‘Jupiter’ from Gustav Holst’s Planets Suite. The brass players must have been relieved to have a rest in the ‘Palladio’ string piece by Karl Jenkins after suffering lip-rot in sustaining the demanding rhythms of ‘Mars’. The Dam Busters march of Eric Coates ended the first half in fine style before an appreciative and good sized audience.

The second half began with Walton’s ‘Henry V’ suite, with Paul Higgins as the admirable narrator. The string movements of this suite were quite exquisitely played, as was Nigel Hess’s ‘Ladies in Lavender’, with orchestral leader Paul Bramwell relishing the solo part of this beautifully crafted miniature. A selection of music by the late John Barry showed what a wonderful melodist he was, as we were whisked through some James Bond movie music to the haunting strains of ‘Dances with Wolves’ and ‘Born Free’.

Ron Goodwin’s ‘633 Squadron’ concluded the evening - a strenuous piece for any group, especially after such a demanding programme - much credit to the orchestra for both its stamina and skill and to conductor and excellent compere John Moore, without whom the evening would have been much shorter !

© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)

Review - Wednesday 30th March 2011 in Shrewsbury Abbey

Shrewsbury Abbey was the setting for the latest concert given by Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra. For this occasion the orchestra was joined by virtuoso clarinettist David Campbell in the ever-popular concerto by Mozart. This was a treat as the velvet sounds of the clarinet soared through the Abbey and the rapt audience appreciated the flawless technical control of a master craftsman. The orchestra accompanied sensitively to produce a performance of much quality - the sublime slow movement in particular provided a balanced dialogue between soloist and orchestra which was captivating.

The concert began with Haydn’s “Drumroll” Symphony, one of his London symphonies from the late 18th century. After a tentative start, the orchestra gained in confidence, with ensemble and intonation settling down to convey the differing moods of the work. Special praise to leader Paul Bramwell, whose solo violin passage in this piece was most impressive.

The climax to the evening was a performance of Dvorak’s 7th Symphony, a real challenge to any orchestra. But undaunted, this orchestra rose to the occasion with great relish, handling the changes of mood deftly, from the dark opening chords to the Slavonic lyricism of the early movements, from the dance rhythms of the Scherzo to the dramatic power of the Finale.

It is most noticeable in this orchestra that there are some fine section principals, and solo passages by clarinet and horn were a real delight. The concluding bars of this performance were breathtaking as the full force of the orchestra reverberated through the Abbey, bringing a justifiably enthusiastic audience response.

John Moore conducted with his usual flair and energy ; there is no doubt that the orchestra has benefited from his fine musicianship and uncompromising musical demands. Congratulations to all - a splendid evening!

© Bob Wysome (reproduced by kind permission)

Wednesday 28th November 2007 in Shrewsbury Abbey

Over 50-odd years I must have been to upwards of a thousand performances of classical music. On November 28th, in the Abbey, I heard the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra for the first time. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Elgar’s birth the programme consisted of three of his works (“Cockaigne”, the Serenade for Strings and the “Enigma” Variations) and the first Horn Concerto by Richard Strauss, with whom he was friendly. The concerto was played by Stephen Craigen, a very gifted pupil at Shrewsbury School.

The Orchestra is amateur, but it is very far from being amateurish. The members who had solos played them beautifully. I was brought to tears by the strings in the slow movement of the Serenade. I was aware of smiling broadly during the many passages of unbuttoned joy and vigour in Cockaigne and the Enigma Variations. An orchestra does not evoke tears and smiles unless it is playing well.
Not all concerts are enjoyable. One of the many advantages of live performances is that they are a risk. I have been to dull concerts played by some of the greatest orchestras, which were being “professional” and nothing more. In a good concert the performers, without trying, convey a feeling of enthusiasm, of engagement with the music, whether it is happy or tragic. Then, as the expression is, the music “comes across”. On Wednesday the response of the audience proved that it had.

Shrewsbury is lucky to have the Shrewsbury Symphony Orchestra.

© Robin Taylor - The Elgar Society (reproduced by kind permission)