Review: Settle Orchestra at Settle Parish Church, June 22; and at Christ Church, Skipton on June 29.

By Lindy Williams, director of chamber choir, Cantores Salicium


SETTLE Orchestra’s summer programme was beautifully balanced and performed with great zest. Conductor Maria Camilla ‘Maca’ Barbosa, a post-graduate student at the Royal Northern College of Music, has, over her year with the group, developed its playing with exceptional skill.

The evening began with Mozart’s overture, The Impresario, and here the music bubbled with true Mozartian joie de vivre. Maca drew from the orchestra some excellent playing, showing up the contrasts that the genius of Mozart put into such a short work.

Next we heard Richard Strauss’s first horn concerto, written when he was only 18. It is a lively work which shows the variety that can be produced by the horn. The soloist was Will Padfield, a young player from London who made a nice sound with some good phrasing.

Not only does this work require great attention and skill from the player, but also in the accompaniment from the conductor and orchestra. To steer an amateur orchestra thought this difficult work requires sensitivity and very acute listening power, each of which Maca has in great capacity. She remained calm if there were little glitches and the orchestra was always with her in addition to which, the orchestra played some very tricky passages extremely well.

Special mention must go to flautists, Judith Sumnall and Sarah Glossop for excellent playing in a notoriously difficult section in the third movement.

To suggest that the sum is greater than the parts may not be very scientific, but it can certainly be true in the arts. Beethoven’s seventh symphony is never an easy work for an amateur orchestra, specially when it is missing some violins and principal cello due to illness, and that expression can certainly be used here.

Maca guided the players to a most extraordinary standard of playing of which they should all be immensely proud. The work had sparkle, it took on the melancholy sadness in the slow movement, showed vitality in the third and exhilaration in the fourth, with wonderful variation of colour and expression throughout.

Special mention must go to the flutes, oboes, the horns and the timpani, all of whom shone throughout the work. In the slow movement the violas deserve special mention for a wonderfully warm sound, particularly since there were only three of them.

The same goes for the cellos (also only three players) who played with beautiful tone and liveliness throughout. In fact, I don’t know why I don’t mention every section, the playing was of such a high standard.

Much of the credit must go to Anne Heaton, whose musicianship is always to the fore as she leads the orchestra through these delightful programmes which bring to our local area some of the best in classical music, which is so important to us all in a time when global events trouble us.

With Maca at the helm all this wonderful music-making was the result of an exceptional year for Settle Orchestra. Maca not only engages with the music and the orchestra but with the audience, always in a diffident but quietly confident manner as she draws out the very best from a group of players of hugely varying skills. She pays great attention to detail, but never seems to lose sight of the architecture of the music, nor of its depths of expression.

This concert marks the end of Maca’s year with the orchestra, one that has been rewarding at every turn and, while we look forward to the next year of music-making with a new conductor, she will be missed greatly. I wish her all the very best in what must surely be an exciting career ahead.