After the wettest April for 100 years and the coldest for over 20, it seemed optimistic to have a spring concert, let alone a summer one, on Wednesday 2nd May. But perhaps that was known when rehearsals began for the wintry music of Sibelius that ended the programme and the dark tragedy of Beethoven’s ‘Coriolan’ Overture that opened it. This ‘Finlandia’ was a showcase for what Cranleigh Music has achieved on a large scale; for even in years where there were far fewer Cranleighans learning instruments and performing at symphony orchestra level, there were always a few stars. This year’s concert, however, showed how the gap between the Merriman Concert Orchestra (mostly teachers and local professionals but with now several pupils also) and the Symphony Orchestra (nearly all pupils and with teachers just filling in the odd gap, such as Bob Wilson on tuba, or adding to the numbers of the string section on the back desks) is now scarcely noticeable. Yet, there was still a star on the timpani: Tom Hollister, who also played (on marimba) ‘Zimba Zamba’ by the late Goff Richards with the Wind Band in an astonishing blend of virtuosity and sensitivity and received a deservedly tumultuous ovation from a large Speech Hall audience.

Director of Cranleigh Music, Marcus Pashley, gave special thanks to all the many talented musicians in the UVIth who are leaving: a vintage year group. With ChloĆ« Allison having played the Mozart clarinet concerto in the Lent term, on this occasion the spotlight fell on Tom and on Peter Westcott, who played two movements from Mozart’s E flat horn concerto with assured aplomb, balancing the original hunting sounds with the sophistication possible on a modern instrument. Peter’s high notes were tested later in Piazzola’s ‘Libertango’ in which he, Tom and ChloĆ« were joined by Emma Wallis, Hattie Allison and Harry McCagherty

The dissonances of this composition were balanced by a spoonful of Disney sugar from the Wind Band under Ruth Miller, though Tchaikovsky’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ waltz made a surprise appearance among the familiar box of musical sweets. The Concert Band also gave us film music and an apt one for 2012: ‘Chariots of Fire.’ Under Bob Wilson, they added a popular Lloyd Webber number. But not even moving the Big Band to the end of the first, rather than the second half, of the concert could prevent Bob’s band stealing the show in terms of sheer entertainment. Two dozen crack musicians gave us an uplifting ‘I’ll Be There’; an adorable ‘Nightingale Sang’ (with a great trombone solo from Millie Crane); and a really hot number, ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’, written by a 26-year-old Louis Prima for Bing Crosby (no prize for guessing its original title). John Sandford’s sax solo added a further touch of class to a rip-roaring rendering of a raucous ripper of a piece. Bob deserves to inherit Prima’s title ‘King of Swing.’

As often one might have hoped to see a few more pupils in the audience but it is exam season for three year groups and prep is prep, I suppose. And of course, there are so many pupils playing in the concert that there are few music-lovers in the pupil body who are not actually performing. I just hoped that there might have been some young listener like me who at 14 discovered the eight little symphonies of William Boyce and saved his paper-round money for the LP. Today they could download them for free, I expect. Forty years later it was, thanks to Kevin Weaver and the String Orchestra, led by Ben Rudolf, that I first heard the second of these live in concert.

A slightly extended review will be published in ‘The Cranleighan’.

PJL