Settle Orchestra 50 Years Concert

Richard Whiteley Theatre, Giggleswick

FROM its inception, Settle Orchestra has aimed to ensure it encourages and provides an opportunity for local young musicians to gain experience of playing alongside more mature and confident players.

This was a founding principle 50 years ago and, as the evening amply demonstrated, it is one which still holds true today.

However, it must not be overlooked that in order to do this other members of the orchestra must undertake the vital role of mentoring and encouraging newcomers and it is they who provide continuity as the backbone of the orchestra.

It was therefore very heartening to find that amongst the visionaries who first played 50 years ago there is one who still continues as a regular member and many others who have performed, or served in other capacities, for considerable periods of time.

The evening's performance paid tribute to this by starting the programme with Boieldieu's 'Caliph of Baghdad', the same piece that was played at the first ever concert by the orchestra.

It was conducted by Howard Rogerson, vice president and former conductor, and this rousing piece with plenty of opportunities for lively percussion to inspire members got the programme off to a splendid start.

It was followed by two world premieres of pieces commissioned for the orchestra by former members.

Edward Percival's unconventional and atmospheric piece, 'The Emergence', was based on his recollections of driving to Giggleswick and watching the village emerge through the morning mists.

By contrast, 'A Little Fantasy' by Vahan Salorian was along more traditional lines but had a cinematographic feel to it.

With big tunes, fine detail, playful touches and an emphasis on brass, it was a bold picture painted on a large canvas with huge amounts of confidence.

Confidence was also the trademark of young soloist, Owain Smith, who performed a heart-stopping recital of movements from Elgar's Cello Concerto.

The beauty of the music and dexterity of his work combined with the intensity of his concentration while playing held the audience spellbound throughout.

This was an amazing demonstration of skill and also a clear example of how the orchestra's policy of encouraging young players can lead to such great rewards for all concerned.

The second half of the programme featured work of local composers and was a chance to show the orchestra at its best.

Butterworth's 'Grey Moorland' conjured up the bleakness and majesty of the moors above Embsay while showcasing the talents of brass and percussion sections.

This was followed by three movements from Tomlinson's 2nd Suite of English Dances: the spritely march 'Kettledrum', the stately dance 'Newcastle' and the joyous chase 'Catch me if you can'.

This was followed by a lively performance of Coates' 'London Suite' - a piece selected as a special request by one member but along with an hugely popular encore it proved to be the perfect way to conclude an evening of celebration. Congratulations Settle Orchestra - here's to the next 50 years.

Gill O'Donnell