On Friday March 6th, at St John’s church in Chipping Sodbury SCYO presented two fantastic concert performances of Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals.
The first concert, a ‘bring your bear’ concert was aimed at younger children. By 5:30 the church was full of bears and children alike with over 130 tickets reserved. As the orchestra tuned, children, bears, elephants (At least one of each of the animals from Saint-Saens work was spotted somewhere in the church) settled in for the concert.
Both concerts opened with Victor Herbert’s March of the Toys from the musical ‘Babes in Toyland’. Whilst not as well known as recent hits like ‘Into the Woods’, the musical mixes fairytales and nursery rhymes as characters and stories collide, and has received a Disney film version too. The March begins with a triumphant fanfare, which returns to herald each new section of music. The cellos set a marching tempo with their pizzicato (albeit in a worrying minor key) and then the violins and later the woodwind take us off on a triumphant march. The articulation was perfect, and there were some excellent ‘cheesey’ slides in the strings (the conductor had asked for ‘that 1920’s string sound where it sounds like they’re only playing with one finger’). It had pace, and the tempo changes were handled brilliantly by the orchestra.
It was then on to the main attraction – Saint-Saens’ magnificent Carnival of the Animals. The composer wrote the work for friends whilst on retreat in Austria, and forbid his Parisian publishers permission to print the work until after his death, fearing he would not be taking seriously. Since then it has become one of his most performed works. It had a special note for some of the orchestra – Saint-Saens was once organist of the Eglise de Madeliene in Paris, where the Music Centre performed on tour in 2014.
There was magnificent playing throughout. The work opened with the roar of the lions, with great bowing from the strings. Our clarinettist James and leader Esmae took on some piano duties in Kangaroos and the tongue-in-cheek Pianists movements respectively. Katie and James did a marvelous job as offstage cuckoos, and special mentions go to cellist Jack and bass clarinettist Alice for their solos in The Elephant and The Swan.
The orchestra truly prove themselves to be amongst the finest musicians in South Gloucestershire, with great changes in pace and dynamics. Particular highlights for the audience were the Fossils (including excellent xylophone playing from percussionist James) and the tranquil Aquarium.
But the concert didn’t end there… 2014-15 has seen TAYM take on the role of a Ten Pieces Champion. The BBC Ten Pieces is an initiative across UK primary schools to get more young children involved in classical music. By the end of the year TAYM will have performed most of the Ten Pieces as well as taking part in workshops.
Tonight’s piece was John Adams’ A Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Inspired by the composer’s experiences being taken for a drive by his brother in a Lamborghini, it is a roller-coaster of a work for both the orchestra and the audience. As conductor Dury said, ‘it really is a case of starting the engine and then the conductor is just along for the ride’. It was played with great enthusiasm, and had become a hit with the orchestra. There was a great deal of detail with clear articulation and good dynamic range.
To put on not one but two concerts just hours apart really is a testament to the hard-work and enthusiasm of the players involved. The orchestra presented itself well, and gained yet more of a following from some inspired young musicians. It really was an event for all to be involved in to be proud of and marks the continuation of a great year for the group which has involved both the Music for Youth National Festival and last term’s Peter and the Wolf concerts.
As one audience member summed it up, “Brilliant! Great soloists and a fab programme. Very well done”
You can hear some highlights of the concert on the player below.