The Summer Concert remains a Summer Term concert, even if examination schedules led to a date of May 2nd. There was certainly an invigoratingly spring-like, if not summery, opening in the evergreen ‘English Folk-Song Suite’ by Vaughan Williams, a central pole of the English wind band repertoire. Ruth Miller’s tempi gave it the right rustic sturdiness and there were excellent solos, not least from the first oboe and trumpet and a notably fine horn section.
The Symphony Orchestra also highlighted the current talent in the horn section through conductor Kevin Weaver’s choice of Ravel’s sublime ‘Pavane pour une infante defunte’ and his tempo reflected Ravel’s famous comment that “it is the infante (princess) who is dead, not the pavane”. The middle section began with a haunting flute solo and in the reprise Ellen Dixon led the violins in sweet-toned lamentation. The tempo for the opening movement of Mozart’s Symphony no. 29 had to be steady for the young players’ security but the attack was incisive and the high horns again showed immense class. Even finer was a stirring performance of Walton’s ‘Crown Imperial’ (composed for the 1937 Coronation) in which the syncopations sounded superbly natural and the big tune was not vulgar but truly ‘noblimente’. It was a pleasure to hear (OC) Tom Hollister’s strong timpani work as well as Marcus Pashley clashing the cymbals.
The Concert Band (under Bob Wilson) gave us a very pleasantly contrasted pair of folksongs, the first being ‘Down by the salley gardens,’ and a number from ‘The Lion King’ and these were followed by the Wind Quintet in a witty shanty by Malcolm Arnold. There was less of a valedictory feeling to this year’s concert than is sometimes the case, but it is right to name flautist Cathy Hobbs and bassoonist Hattie Allison from this famous five and thank them in their final term for all the music-making we audiences have enjoyed from them.
The String Orchestra played with a soulful beauty of tone in Elgar’s ‘Sospiri’, but it is a shame the budget could not stretch to a harpist, as this is such a key part of the texture. The synthesised egg-slicer sound slightly dampened the effect of what was a genuinely lovely performance. The choice of the ‘Prelude’ from the suite Bernard Herrmann made from his music to Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ was inspired. This tough Stravinskyesque score really suited the young players and under Kevin Weaver’s incisive direction the drama of the film was brought alive. There is, of course, a local interest story here as Hitchcock had a house in Stroud Lane on the edge of Shamley Green, just a few miles from the School and, according to ‘The Complete Films of Alfred Hitchcock’, “his fondness for Shamley Green was one reason why he did not accept the American offers he constantly received.”
We all know that these concerts don’t mean a thing if they ain’t got that swing provided by Bob Wilson’s Big Band. Wise men stayed and only fools rushed home before hearing them, as Cranleigh audiences can’t help falling in love with this repertoire when given with such style. With Alex Tracey and Zak de la Bedoyere leaving this year, the East House rhythm section will need to re-form next year. As their farewell the last of the three numbers was, appropriately, ‘Gonna Fly Now’ (1977) by Bill Conti, better known as the theme from ‘Rocky’. It was knock-out way to end an uplifting concert.