On a balmy late spring day, Morecambe’s Promenade Concert Orchestra ended its latest successful season in style adding the forces of a fine local choir and vocal soloists to its own considerable talents.
As conductor Howard Rogerson commented at the outset, mounting this concert posed a few logistical challenges for the Platform venue, which is rarely faced with accommodating such a combination of performers, but in the event every musician, together with the sizeable audience, appeared to fit in quite nicely.
Although the Sunday afternoon performance concluded in the traditional ‘Last Night’ fashion with Parry’s Jerusalem and Elgar’s first Pomp and Circumstance March, the rest of the concert contained a number of welcome innovative features and celebrated the worlds both of opera and of light music from the UK.
The music making started with Weber’s well-constructed and tuneful Euryanthe overture – the only purely orchestral piece in the first half - whilst Verdi’s rousing and impressive Triumphal Scene from Aida suitably rounded off proceedings before the interval.
In between were a broad selection of attractive arias and choruses from seven well-known works by Donizetti, Gounod, Mascagni, Johann Strauss and Verdi. The second half contained two orchestral works - the sparkling Celebration Overture by living British composer, Philip Lane, and the skilfully crafted and folk song based Cumberland Square by Lancashire composer, Ernest Tomlinson. These sandwiched a further operatic gem – the Fly Duet from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld – before the Fantasia on British Songs and Dances by orchestral member Julian Davies led on to the final celebratory pieces.Rowena Thornton was the soprano soloist, singing alone in four arias, as well as with the chorus in further pieces, and in the duet. The challenging arias from Rigoletto, Faust, and Die Fledermaus and the soloist contributions in the Easter Hymn and the Fantasia were performed with skill, sensitivity and panache and gave many opportunities for this versatile singer to display her fine, pleasant and wide ranging voice. The experienced bass soloist Brian Lancaster featured entertainingly with Rowena Thornton in a very amusing and accomplished rendering of the Fly Duet which the audience enjoyed greatly. Howard Rogerson had the far from easy role in this ambitious concert of keeping everybody together and achieving the right balance in terms of sound between singers and orchestra. This he achieved well and the audience responded warmly to the rare feast of music on offer.
Review by David Alder