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)