Diamond jubilee concert

Saturday 23 June 2012
Trevor Driver

“Nicholas Concannon Hodges conducted the large orchestra with his usual elegant composure and gave each section their chance to shine.”

Riding on the crest of the wave created by the recent Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, Todmorden Orchestra produced the fun, party atmosphere and good music they promised to the near capacity audience at the concert they performed last Saturday in Todmorden Town Hall. Playing to their usual high standard they surely satisfied the “play ussumaht we know” brigade and premiered a piece by a local composer which did not seem out of place in the overall theme.

The Crown Imperial March by Oldham’s very own William Walton was a rousing opening. Elgar’s Nursery Suite was composed in 1931 specifically for the Royal princesses. Gently played by the orchestra with some impressive solo contributions the seven themes were identified with great clarity.

The sound of a crystal clear trumpet resonating round the Town Hall usually has the spine tingling effect on most people. It certainly did for me in Purcell’s Trumpet Tune. Well over 300 years old, the music justifies its position as a favourite for royal celebrations. Lawrence Killian was responsible for the virtuoso trumpet solo. Absolutely splendid. The first half ended with more Walton. Some difficult syncopation posed no problems for the players.

Before the eagerly awaited singing and flag waving, the second half gave us variety of music from various composers, three of whom were present. Christopher Irvin was hearing his Summer Serenade played publicly for the first time. He confessed to me afterwards that the orchestra had successfully portrayed the musical pictures he had painted around a simple tune, a delightful piece bringing us the essence of summer.

Alan Hawkshaw has been responsible for much film and TV music and Best Endeavours was recognised as the tune for Channel 4 news. It was more modern than the other pieces but demonstrated why he has been so universally popular. The third movement of Lawrence Killian¿s Ted Hughes Suite added a further dimension to the concert.

Eric Coates composed The Three Elizabeths Suite in the 1940s and we heard the last movement, which was dedicated to the then Princess Elizabeth. Like the whole concert this was ‘brand Britain’. After several more pieces, it was out with the flags. Even Jerusalem had most of the audience jumping to their feet and stretching the vocal chords. The section of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance which heralds the start of Land of Hope and Glory is usually a case of “wait for it – wait for it!” and then it is played at a pitch too high or too low for most voices. But who cared? Double forte was the order of the day and double forte it was when the moment arrived. The evening ended with both verses of the National Anthem and was a fitting conclusion.

Nicholas Concannon Hodges conducted the large orchestra with his usual elegant composure and gave each section their chance to shine. Soloists all had their moment of glory. Andrew Rostron, the excellent leader, demonstrated why his fellow players hold him in such high regard. This was a concert to celebrate local and national talent and was unashamedly British.