There was something different about the atmosphere in the Westmorland Hall prior to the Lakeland Sinfonia’s recent concert. The customary calm, sedate anticipation of an enjoyable evening was replaced by an excited buzz of expectancy; the hall was full, young people and children were there; we elderly, august punters rejoiced.
Why was that? The Sinfonia’s programme was, apart from one item, similar in general content to the usual content – a Rossini overture (La Cenerentola), Arensky’s Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky, a Haydn symphony (The Clock) and familiar music by Walton (Façade Suite No.2). The item missing from this list was Dave Heath’s Concerto for Soprano Sax and Strings, ‘The Celtic’. The soloist was Jess Gillam from Ulverston, who recently made history by being the first ever saxophonist to reach the final of the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year competition. Is that the answer?
Throughout the evening Wyn Davies, directed efficiently-rehearsed, dedicated and musicianly readings of both the familiar and unfamiliar. Moving from the overture’s clean-cut textures, melodic charm, rhythmic energy and the famed Rossini crescendi, the programme flowed attractively on to Arensky’s Variations during which the warm, richly-toned strings section charmed everyone with the quality of performance.
Then – glitz and glamour! Wyn Davies’s pink-rimmed glasses met their match in Jess’s black and silver glitter and silver shoes. The concerto suited her completely. To it she brought technical command, resonant tonal beauty, a consummate understanding of the work’s Celtic foundations and, not least, youthful zest.
Haydn’s symphony provided further stylistic contrast – and challenges. There was sparkling energy in the quick movements (where the strings, working in overdrive, were not always as accurate as they would have liked), technical competence and shapely phrasing in the moderately-paced movements and always a quest for true classicism.
Walton’s Suite was a showcase for the woodwinds and percussion; they, ably partnered by their colleagues, rose valiantly to the occasion. This was a wonderful finale-carnivale!