I have been on tours where musical organisations engage dedicated travel companies to secure concert venues for them and publicise the performances, and in my experience it has worked spectacularly well.
So what went wrong with the company charged with organising the visit of the highly accomplished young musicians from California’s Orange County High School of the Arts? Certainly they secured two prestigious performing venues, here at Birmingham Town Hall and, a few days later at Westminster Central Hall, enlisting the collaboration of esteemed young local groups.
In Birmingham’s case it was with the Junior Conservatoire, with its chamber orchestra and choir. I cannot believe that those forces alone could not drum up an audience to fill out more than the one hundred-odd listeners who scattered the Town Hall on Monday. And where was the publicity?
There has been a listing in the Town Hall Symphony Hall prospectus for two months now, but nothing else so far as I know. Word should have got around that we were in for the UK public premiere of the 27th Symphony by the very much “in” nowadays Havergal Brian, but if it did, it fell on stony ground.
In the event, despite a committed performance from the OCHSA Symphony Orchestra under Christopher Russell (fabulous solo flute-playing), the work revealed yet again why the composer should have kept most of his outpourings in a suitcase under his bed. Nielsen wrote this particular music so much more effectively.
Earlier the Americans had given a much finer piece from their own Samuel Barber, his First Essay for Orchestra, positively, responsively advocated despite its resonances of the composer’s contemporaneous ‘Adagio for Strings’ and so much of Prokofiev’s music around the 1930s.
OCHSA gave us interesting notes within a chaotically-organised programme-book. Nothing from the Junior Conservatoire about its own offering, Gerald Finzi’s ‘Romance for String Orchestra’.
A conductor was advertised, but in the event it was directed from the leader’s desk, tone well-nourished and possibly eked out by some recruits seemingly well beyond the BJC’s age-range.
The organisations came together for Bernstein’s vibrant ‘Chichester Psalms’ and Dvorak’s earthily passionate ‘Te Deum’.