A Fun Evening

MIKE WHEELER listens to a pre-Christmas programme from Derby Concert Orchestra


Derby Concert Orchestra was back in Derby Cathedral – Derby, UK, 4 December 2021 – with conductors Jonathan Trout and Ed Temple, for the first time in over eighteen months for their pre-Christmas knees-up.

'Montagues and Capulets', from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, had plenty of swagger, with dark undercurrents. In the finale to Saint-Saëns' Symphony No 3, the opening blast from the organ, played by Tim Cape, was less powerful than I was expecting. That apart, the performance went full-tilt, but I'm not sure that it worked as a stand-alone piece, with nothing building up to it. The Intermezzo from Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana showed the DCO strings at their gleaming best.

Derby Concert Orchestra with conductor Jonathan Trout
Derby Concert Orchestra with conductor Jonathan Trout

The first audience participation of the evening came with 'Mr Blue Sky' by Jeff Lynne of the Electric Light Orchestra, orchestrated by Kevin Riley. The (awful) words were in the programme, with an invitation to join in, but I didn't hear anyone in the audience taking it up. But they were up for Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody, now a popular favourite on these occasions, with a quartet of singers to boost confidence. (Some words were missing from the programme.) Ian Marshall's virtuoso electric guitar solo in the Cathedral pulpit also deserves a mention.

Jonathan Trout handed over to assistant conductor Ed Temple for the sequence of film and TV music that began Part 2, starting with more Prokofiev: a bright, lively account of the Troika from Lieutenant Kijé. In the so-called 'symphonic suite' which Jerry Brubaker put together from John Williams' music for the Harry Potter series, conductor and orchestra were alert to the tongue-in-cheek elements, with some cod-Prokofiev along the way, leading to the final romp.

John Lunn's music for the TV version of Downton Abbey, gets similar treatment from arranger Douglas E Wagner. As one of the few people who have never seen the series I was intrigued to discover what a melancholy, elegiac note it sounds. Finally in this sequence came John Moss's arrangement of James Horner's score for Titanic. This is big, epic stuff, and it got a performance to match, but what really caught my attention was Louise Hargreaves' plaintive, Irish-sounding flute solo, no doubt a nod to the ship's origins (no, I've not seen Titanic, either).

Jonathan Trout returned for the rest of the programme. Leroy Anderson's A Christmas Festival is another DCO Christmas regular, given a sprightly performance. Anderson skilfully splices his material together, though this doesn't disguise the fact that there's rather too much of it. Irving Berlin's 'White Christmas' showed once again just what a classy orchestrator Robert Russell Bennet was.

Two more old favourites acted as encores. The Can-can from Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld had some people dancing in the aisles (literally), following a little encouragement. To round things off, Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, which DCO probably wouldn't be allowed to drop even if it wanted to.

A fun evening, and all the better for being not over-long.

Copyright © 22 December 2021 Mike Wheeler,
Derby UK







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