On a pleasant late spring day, founder conductor Howard Rogerson oversaw the final light music concert of the Morecambe Promenade Concert Orchestra’s tenth season in a suitably celebratory vein.
A large and enthusiastic audience were there to bear witness to what, by any standards, marked a remarkable achievement – the tenth anniversary of the return of regular live orchestral music making to the resort.
Orchestral concerts are always expensive to mount and inevitably also present a variety of challenges to the organisers and participants.
In a short but heartfelt interval speech paying tribute to Howard Rogerson’s achievement in setting up and nurturing the PCO, long serving first violinist, Wendy Cann, underlined the fact that for a new local orchestra to be formed and to succeed over the long term required ‘vision, leadership, knowledge, determination and enthusiasm’.
These words accompanied the presentation of a gift from members and Friends of the PCO to the conductor in appreciation of all his efforts over the past ten years – which have seen the staging of 47 concerts, 40 of them in Morecambe.
For his part Howard Rogerson expressed his gratitude to his wife, to the players – 13 orchestra members on the platform that day had played in the first concert – to the regular concert goers, to those who provided funding, to the helpers with fund raising and organisation and to all others who gave support.
As is normal with PCO concerts, the programme for the afternoon was varied and generous – 20 numbers in all - and always accessible as well as full of quality.
The pieces to be played had been requested in advance by members of the audience, orchestral players or the conductor. Some had featured in previous concerts, some were new to the series and one was a world premiere – young composer Bethan Morgan-Williams had been commissioned to write ‘The Promenaders – a Suite for Orchestra’.
The work comprised three contrasting and attractive movements, in which some Celtic influences were discernible, and was well received by the audience. Its presence in the programme was in line with one of the orchestra’s aims – to encourage young musicians and the playing of new compositions.
This aim sits happily with others such as giving unjustly neglected works an airing and performing familiar old favourites.
Howard Rogerson’s wife, the contralto singer Val Baulard, eschewed her usual supportive organisational and chivvying roles at these concerts, to give enjoyable renditions of five fine songs from the jazz/musical repertoire, which she clearly loves and in which she now specialises.
Val also managed to inspire some audience participation in Rodger and Hart’s There’s a Song in My Heart and Arlan’s Somewhere Over the Rainbow.
Additionally there was some inevitable light banter with the conductor and guest leader on the somewhat congested concert platform!
Other highlights included the overture to Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld, which with its exquisite scoring, beautiful melodies and famous Can Can set the scene for the afternoon; excerpts from Mackerass’ sumptuous arrangement of Sullivan’s unforgettable music for the ballet Pineapple Poll; and a selection from Novello’s popular and tuneful The Dancing Years.
Percussionist Irene Wynne-George also reprised her memorable secretarial role in Anderson’s The Typewriter, while Eric Coates, the doyen of light classical music, was represented by two of his famous marches – one of which The Dambusters serving both as an encore and as a commemoration of the RAF’s centenary.
The 46 members of the orchestra, led enthusiastically by guest leader Jill Jackson, played with their usual passion and commitment throughout, with every section having their chance to shine and with some excellent solo work.
The always appreciative audience went home happy and as orchestra chair and double bass player Brian Walker said: “Hurrah for Howard and the PCO, we sing.
“Long may live music continue to enrich us – we should be poorer without it.”
By David Alder.