Though the choristers were queuing up for Robert Plant’s autograph during the interval (he’d been spotted in the audience), the true star of the evening was Sir Edward Elgar, whose links with Wolverhampton and the Wanderers were celebrated in Saturday’s delightful concert in the city’s Parish Church, stamping-ground of “Dorabella” Penny, his favourite Enigma Variation.
There was a footballing novelty as the highlight of the evening, Elgar’s setting of a sentence from a newspaper report on a hard-fought local derby between Wolves and Stoke in 1898.
“He banged the leather for goal” described a scoring feat by Elgar’s great hero, Billy Malpass (I think he was taken by the inappropriate pun in his name), and the composer’s declamatory phrase recreates the drama.
Saturday was probably its premiere, orchestrated by St Peter’s director of music, Peter Morris, and performed by the various Collegiate Choirs and the Wolverhampton Symphony Orchestra – and by us, in the audience. We picked up the seven notes remarkably quickly, and with incisive rhythm.
The rest of the programme, sparkily compered by Wolves’ vice-president Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, was a charming showcase for the well-populated, nourishingly-toned choirs; for the excellent WSO; for world-renowned soprano Rita Cullis, singing here in memory of her uncle Stan, one of Wolves’ great managers; for the assured violin soloist Charlotte Moseley, her father Alastair the most sensitive of accompanists; for Wolves’ historian and respected musicologist, the late Percy Young, whose performing editions made a contribution; and for the genial and efficient Morris, conducting throughout the concert.
We ended with the obligatory “Land of Hope and Glory”. Encouragingly, not all in the audience sang (there were some true Elgarians among our numbers).
But when it was encored with the footballing words instead (with “We love” all those teams, no mention of hating them), I could picture Elgar all churned up. He would have hated it.