Founded 25 years ago, the Halesowen Orchestra is a happy orchestra.
The players obviously enjoy each other’s company, like and respect their conductor Martin Leigh, and communicate their enthusiasm to the audience, as they did last Saturday in the town’s multi-purpose but accommodating Cornbow Hall.
And they play with the confidence thorough rehearsal brings, marshalled in performance through Leigh’s to-the-point, no-frills conducting.
Inevitably there will be a few accidents along the way from an amateur group coming from a spectrum of musical experience, but on Saturday they were surely surmounted, and the pluses outweighed the minuses spectacularly.
The most difficult work on the programme, Beethoven’s Leonore Overture no.3, opened proceedings impressively, the slow introduction well-sustained, the ensuing allegro well sprung, the strings fearless in the rushing scales, and an eventual fff discord climax of immense power.
Georgian pianist Ina Charuashvili was soloist in Liszt’s Piano Concerto no.2, drawing full, rich, well-weighted tone from the Cornbow’s magnificent Steinway, newly acquired from Himley Hall, attacking it with thunderous descending double-handed chords, and all the time bringing a positive sense of character to the piece.
Her attention to the orchestra was assiduous, rewarded by some wonderful playing from the woodwind section – certainly one of the orchestra’s strengths; coarse heavy brass sounds occasionally were not so treasurable.
Dvorak’s New World Symphony proved an obvious crowd-pleaser, its famous melodies warmly communicated. Another triumph for the woodwind here, with marvellous flute, cor anglais and clarinet solos.
Strings coped bravely with the hushed exposure of the slow movement, and the finale revealed what a fine timpanist the orchestra has secured.
A few words of advice, just as I gave to another amateur orchestra a week ago, do please all take the stage together; coming on in dribs and drabs implies a slack attitude (which this wasn’t).
Dress code: it seems odd to see the conductor in a lounge suit and necktie, when the orchestra is in black tie.
And audience members should be discouraged from raising their cameras in order to take piccies mid-performance.