Centenary concert

Saturday 27 June 2015
Lynda Robertson

“Todmorden Orchestra is in excellent health under the baton and expert guidance of Nicholas Concannon Hodges… Here’s to the next 100 years!”

The Todmorden Orchestra Centenary Concert opened with an arrangement of the National Anthem by Lawrence Killian, with extended introductory and closing fanfares for brass and percussion. Then followed the vibrant Festive Overture by Shostakovich, composed in 1954 for the anniversary of the October Revolution of 1917 and often used for special occasions ever since. The overture begins and ends with a brass fanfare and there are fast-moving passages for the wind (all very neatly played), and a sweeping theme, elegantly played by the orchestra’s cellos, then taken up by the entire orchestra as the excitement builds towards the finale. The gentle Pavane pour une Infante Défunte by Ravel provided a calm contrast, with solos for individual players, including principal horn, oboe and flute – all beautifully played and gracefully accompanied by strings and harp.

The orchestra were delighted to welcome back Martyn Jackson to perform the Bruch Violin Concerto. Martyn grew up locally and played in Todmorden Orchestra as a teenager. After leaving school he studied violin at the Royal College of Music in London and then at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin. Martyn now performs internationally and in 2013 became lead violinist of the Cavaleri Quartet. From the opening of the concerto, where the orchestra gently set the scene for the violin’s cadenza-like opening statements, it was clear that this would be a performance to remember. The orchestra accompanied Martyn’s extremely fine playing with the sensitivity required in the quiet sections, whilst supporting his beautiful tone in the powerful fortissimo passages, filling the hall with sound. The appreciative audience was rewarded with an encore: the Sarabande from J.S. Bach’s Violin Partita in D minor.

After the interval, during which special ‘Todmorden Orchestra’ cupcakes were served, the orchestra’s Chairman, John Moorhouse, thanked the many people who had made this event possible, including Martyn Jackson, Lawrence Killian and Nicholas Concannon Hodges. Orchestra members Ann Davies and Heather Hudson were presented with an engraved glass plaque to mark 50 years’ membership.

The second half opened with A Celebration for Orchestra by longstanding orchestra member Lawrence Killian, who plays principal trumpet and was conductor of Todmorden Orchestra from 1987-1991. Lawrence has composed and arranged many pieces for the orchestra. This work was commissioned for the centenary concert and has three movements. ‘Birthday Treat’ was lively and upbeat, opening with sparkling woodwind and a catchy percussion ostinato. The main theme was taken up by the entire orchestra and there were shouts of ‘Happy Birthday!’ as party poppers were set off. ‘Anniversary’ was more reflective, in a relaxed jazz style and the finale, ‘Jubilee’, was full of energy

Four Scottish Dances by Malcolm Arnold and By the Banks of Green Willow by George Butterworth are popular choices for summer concerts. The orchestra coped well with the technical demands of the Scottish Dances. Among those things that stood out were a ‘drunken’ bassoon solo, played with great character by principal bassoon and a ‘whooshy’ piccolo duet that was very effective. By the Banks of Green Willow opened with a gentle clarinet solo, beautifully played.

The penultimate piece – Royal Visit (Bacup 1913) – was another world premiere and also of local interest. Browsing in Todmorden Market, local composer Arthur Glover discovered the original manuscript of a March for Brass Band, written for the royal visit to Bacup of George V and Queen Mary in 1913. He arranged this for Todmorden Orchestra and I am certain that the original composer of this upbeat march would have approved of his splendid orchestration.

This wonderful evening of music was brought to a close with a rousing performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture, complete with tubular bells and electronic cannon shots. It seemed very fitting to both begin and end this centenary concert with an overture. Todmorden Orchestra is in excellent health under the baton and expert guidance of Nicholas Concannon Hodges, who has been their conductor since 2006. Here’s to the next 100 years!