Ever wondered what goes into making a successful gala concert? Then just ask anyone who attended this sumptuous event by three outstanding local choirs and a top-notch military band and they’ll be happy to tell you.
First of all you need plenty of performers. If you added together the members of the Central Band of the RAF, the Peterborough Male Voice Choir, Peterborough Voices, and the Peterborough Youth Choir you’d reach a total of around 150. And a group of this size creates a buzz of its own.
But it’s not just a matter of how many performers there are. The varied pastel colours of the ladies’ tops, the smart suits worn by the men, and the natty military uniforms of the band made for a glorious visual spectacle. Enhanced by glistening brass and gleaming woodwind.
The next item on the list of ingredients is a large and happy audience, and it’s good to report that the 800-seat Cresset theatre (on June 9) was bursting at the seams. Again sheer numbers brought an atmosphere of enjoyment that you could have cut with a knife. With instant outbursts of applause at the end of stirring numbers like Eric Coates’ Dambusters March. And wistful sighs after emotive songs like Claude-Michel Schoenberg’s Bring Him Home. Only untold hours of preparation and practice can ensure that a gala concert of this kind runs smoothly, but the production side was beyond reproach too. From the youngest seven-year-old in the Youth Choir to the most experienced virtuoso trombonist in the band, everybody taking part knew exactly what their role was. How to use their individual skills for the greater good, and where to be, and when to be there.
Last but not least came the music itself. Essentially this was a programme of 20th century British and American pieces, many of them keeping alive the old-school genre of light music. In this category were band items like Sir William Walton’s Spitfire Prelude and his thrilling Battle of Britain score. Plus Leonard Bernstein’s exciting Slava! with its second subject in seven time, and Joseph Jenkins’ American Overture.
Among many superb choir items was a fabulous male voice choir arrangement of Danny Boy by Matthew Jones which included a sweet-toned oboe solo. And two bright and unusual numbers sung by Peterborough Voices, settings of Laudate Dominum and Perfect Propriety. Among the Youth Choir songs You’ve Got a Friend in Me went down particularly well.
Finally no praise is too great for diligent conductors William Prideaux and Chris l’Anson whose dynamic approach and snappy speeds held this splendid show together.
Review: Joe Conway