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Concert: Opera Gala
Oldham Chronicle Review Local diva Nicola Mills’ main aim in life is to bring opera to the people. And, on Sunday night at St Paul’s Church in Royton, she certainly brought it to the people of Oldham. Oldham Symphony Orchestra’s Opera Gala concert, featuring Nicola and the Oldham Choir, cheered the hearts of the audience who had braved the Siberian climate to listen to what must be one of the best performances in their 50-plus years of performing to the Oldham public. The programme had been previewed as an all-Italian crowd-pleaser, sung in Italian (with the words in English thoughtfully supplied in the programmes). Conductor Marco Bellasi, himself Italian and a trained opera conductor, was at home with this music and brought out the best in the orchestra and choir. The Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana was a most spiritual ending to the first half of the concert, with Nicola’s soprano voice soaring above the chorus up to the roof of the church. One Fine Day and the Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly brought tears of emotion to some eyes. The Triumphal Scene and Grand March from Aida were a triumph for the choir, supported by some wonderful playing from the orchestra, especially the brass. For an encore, the audience were treated to the famous Brindisi drinking song from La Traviata. In this, Nicola was joined by one of the choir’s tenors for the solo parts. Tony was saluted for for braving to sing with a professional. The orchestra were missing a couple of 'parts' due to players being snowed up in their hill-top homes, but on the night, it really didn’t matter. Link
Concert: Bit late for New Year's Day concert
Graham Marshall's review: OLDHAM SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT January 21st 7.30pm in St. Paul’s Church, Royton A Review by Graham Marshall Fine horn and clarinet solos were a feature of the stirring performance of Rossini’s Overture to “The Barber of Seville” with which the Oldham Symphony Orchestra began its New Year Concert in St. Paul’s Church, Royton on January 21st. Led by Andrew Marshall and conducted with suitable panache by Marco Bellasi the orchestra went on to give equally satisfying accounts of Rossini’s Overture to “The Italian Girl in Algiers” , which opened the second half of the concert. Two New Year concert favourites by Johann Strauss, the Thunder and Lightning Polka and The Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz (which ended the concert) were also given the enthusiastic and sparkling treatment which endears them to audiences far away from Vienna. Adding vibrant vocal tone and dramatic depth to the occasion were two members of Opera Viva, Heather Heighway (Soprano) and David Palmer (Baritone). They contributed a selection of arias and a duet from Verdi’s “Rigoletto” to the first half of the proceedings, demonstrating their ready command of this challenging music with the orchestra giving them well-disciplined and colourful encouragement. In the second half of the concert there were two Mozart duets, the seductive Là ci darem la mano from “Don Giovanni” and the love duet Papageno - Papagena from “The Magic Flute” - the contrast with Verdi and Rossini adding its magic to the musical atmosphere. Heather Heighway found herself repeating what had been a show-stopping-like performance of the aria, Meine Lippen sie küssen so Heiß from Léhar’s “Guiditta” as an appropriate encore at the end of the concert sending the large and appreciative audience away looking forward to the orchestra’s next concert in the spring. Link
Concert: November 2016
Review written by Graham Marshall: I cannot imagine that any member of the audience for the Oldham Symphony Orchestra’s concert given in St. Paul’s Church, Royton, on Sunday, November 20th would have left without feeling that they had been privileged to be present on an occasion when great music had been performed with the passion, insight and skill it deserved. Under the direction of its newly appointed Conductor, MARCO BELLASI, the orchestra rose magnificently to the challenges presented by accompanying the soloist in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto and showcasing itself in Brahms’ first Symphony. The concert began with vigorous and sure-footed performances of the Waltz and Polonaise from Tchaikovsky’s opera, Eugene Onegin, members of every department contributing with technical aplomb to the richly coloured musical tapestry. Then the violinist, ADI BRETT brought her considerable artistic insights, technical mastery and experience to bear in what was truly a wonderful account of the Tchaikovsky concerto. You would have to wait a long time, and perhaps be prepared to travel a long way from the Borough of Oldham, to find as satisfying a performance as this was. Adi Brett drew a breath-taking range of sonorities from her instrument and had everything perfectly in place, from teasing tunefulness to bold melodic assertiveness. Many passages call for extreme virtuosity. These she carried out with consummate ease. The balance between soloist and accompanying orchestral forces was ideally executed, showing just how focused and disciplined the present players are. These attributes were well on display, too, in the account the orchestra gave of Brahms’ first Symphony which filled the second half of the programme. This is a work which can easily lose its impact if it is not carefully controlled across the whole span of its four movements. The composer took a long time to put it together in its finished form (some twenty or so years), and this tells in its intensity and expansiveness. From the very first paragraph, signalling aspiration and challenge, to the last triumphant chords, shouting out success, it is charged with the explosive power of a genius musical intelligence constrained only by its sense of responsibility towards the listener. Brahms was to go one to write a further three symphonies, and the last of these is arguably the greatest of the four; but none was to match the detail and inventiveness of this first adventure into large-scale symphonic writing in the Beethovenian tradition Brahms so spectacularly admired. Even in the comparatively relaxed moments of the third movement the complex musical argument, as begun in the opening section of the first movement, continues to unfold, step by step, until the conclusion is reached in the last bars of the fourth movement. It is like climbing the highest of mountains and at last finding yourself in a position to marvel at the view from the summit. All this was to be heard in the Orchestra’s splendid account of the score under the direction of a conductor obviously as much attuned to the serious and studious Brahms mentality as to the no less serious but more spontaneously driven musical imagination of Tchaikovsky. Marco Bellasi drew great technical accomplishment from every section of the orchestra, the soaring strings leading the way. He is able to get his players to go with him to where there are real musical joys to be experienced and shared. Link
Concert: March 2015 VE Day Concert
Stirring stuff in a perfect setting OLDHAM Symphony Orchestra tried out a new venue for its VE Day concert - and it proved a winner. Oldham Parish Church was the perfect setting for a programme of well-known music associated with the war era. The concert started off with Neville Chamberlain’s speech announcing the onset of war with Germany and the wail of an air-raid siren, under which was heard the opening bars of Holst’s Planets’ “Mars, Bringer of War” - followed by the calmness of “Venus, Bringer of Peace”. Following these was the world premiere of “To Battle”, by young local composer Andrew Wood. The orchestra pulled it off marvellously and the audience was ready to fight! The first half ended with three of Elgar’s Enigma variations. The second half brought a feast of marches, TV and radio themes from the era and a specially-arranged medley of Vera Lynn songs. These all gave ample opportunity to showcase the brass, woodwind and percussion, though these sometimes overpowered the strings. Guest conductor Lawrence Killian, more often seen leading the trumpet section, demonstrated a high level of enthusiasm, which proved infectious among orchestra and audience alike. The VE Day feelgood factor was at a high. RWJ Link
Concert: November 2015
Violinist Laura rises to the challenge Date published: 25 November 2014 OLDHAM SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA Oldham Hulme Grammar School HAMPSHIRE-born young violinist Laura Rickard joined members of Oldham Symphony Orchestra in a telling performance of Elgar’s Violin Concerto at the orchestra’s autumn concert. Playing under conductor Richard Waldock, soloist and orchestra provided just the right ebb and flow of richly orchestrated sounds, displaying both technical mastery and interpretative insight. Laura established her credentials from the start and despite a few passages that stretched her technique to the limit, held centre stage throughout. The second half of the concert featured Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. This unashamedly bucolic music presents many challenges - not least the need to be absolutely in time and in tune with each other. This was mostly but not always the case on this occasion — regrettable because it was so very uncharacteristic of the performance’s general flow. But Waldock drove the orchestra to a satisfying final, celebratory conclusion. GM Link
Concert: Summer 2014
Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" : The Great Hall of the Oldham Hulme Grammar Schools By Graham Marshall July 6th 2014 7.30pm Former pupil of Manchester’s Chetham’s School of Music and graduate of London’s Royal College of Music, 27-year old pianist Harry Nowakowski-Fox brings an already experienced mind to his concert performances at home and abroad. In the splendid setting of the Great Hall of Oldham’s Hulme Grammar Schools on Saturday, July 6th, he gave an imperious performance of Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto (commonly known as ‘the Emperor’), securely accompanied by the members of the Oldham Symphony Orchestra led by Andrew Marshall and conducted by Richard Waldock. This may no longer be thought of as one of the most technically demanding of keyboard concertos, but it remains one of the most challenging artistically. The pianist must establish in the first few bars an authority over the orchestra which will remain in place throughout. Not only in the player’s exposed bravura passages but also in those quieter, more reflective moments, when it is more a question of caressing the notes than proclaiming them with any forcefulness, the need is to show who’s boss - discretely, of course. Harry’s understanding of this was clear, as was his technical accomplishment across the range of pianistic demands made upon him by a composer whose every note has something to contribute that has to be made known. The orchestra, too, responded immediately to the soloist’s demands that this should not be an unequal contest, but that they should understand the role of accompanist in a musical journey to be enjoyed by all concerned. The audience was carried away and along with great pleasure. A memorable occasion of music-making, made all the more so by Harry’s encore playing of Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. 27. Link
Concert: Oldham Golden Anniversary Concert
The hills are alive with the sound of Mahler: 50 years of Oldham Symphony Orchestra Link
Concert: Summer Concert 2013
Concert in memory of popular Ann Date published: 16 July 2013 Oldham Symphony Orchestra Hulme Grammar Schools MEMBERS of the Oldham Symphony Orchestra dedicated their concert in the Great Hall of the Hulme Grammar Schools to the memory of their former leader, Ann Heeks, who died on June 4 following a brave battle with cancer. Ann led the orchestra for 40 years, during which time she had contributed greatly of her boundless artistic energy and musical skill to the building-up of the orchestra’s repertoire and the enhancement of its reputation as a local amateur orchestra worthy of the title “Symphony”. It was fitting that the concert should begin, as it did, with an extra item: the noble “Nimrod” variation from Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” which was played with intense feeling and to poignant effect under the baton of Richard Waldock. The new leader, Andrew Marshall, occupied the desk so long associated with the name of Ann Heeks. The wonderfully tuneful and rhythmically striking music of Tchaikovsky was to dominate the concert, beginning with his emotionally charged “Fantasy Overture”, “Romeo and Juliet”, in which the orchestra, with some incisive brass and percussion playing and some sumptuous string sounds, succeeded splendidly in bringing to life the portrayal of conflict which lies at the heart of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Woodwind, brass and the (initially wayward) celesta in turn then added their characteristic, evocative sounds to a relaxed and satisfying performance of the “Nutcracker Suite” bringing the first half of the concert to a rousing conclusion with the full orchestral bouquet of sonorities blossoming in the incomparable “Waltz of the Flowers”. In the second half the audience were treated to music by Stravinsky based on some of Tchaikovsky’s early piano music and other pieces. This was a suite taken from the ballet “The Fairy’s Kiss”. GM Link
Concert: Summer Concert 2012
A Review in the Oldham Evening Chronicle Link
Concert: London 2012 Concert
Rousing Olympic tribute Date published: 14 March 2012 Oldham Symphony Orchestra A varied and colourful programme of music from all over the world designed to celebrate the 2012 Olympic Games, delighted the ears of those old and young alike who made up the audience which filled the Salvation Army hall in Failsworth. Led by former OSO conductor, James Morrison, in the absence of the orchestra’s regular leader, Ann Heeks, and with the items being introduced by compere Dennis Bourne, the Olympic scene was set by the Czech composer, Julius Fuik’s well-known Entrance of the Gladiators. Guest conductor, Alpesh Chauhan, ensured that the message of striving for excellence and brilliance came across in every note, as indeed he was to do throughout the concert. Music from a different kind of gladiatorial contest followed in the form of Richard Wagner’s Prelude to his opera Die Meistersingers, which is all about competition between singers. It was unfortunate that the shape and structure of the auditorium on this occasion prevented the rich polyphony of this music from being heard as clearly as it might. Such a disadvantage did not prevent the two works by the eccentric Australian, Percy Grainger, Australian Country Tune and Molly on the Shore from making an immediate impact by the melodic and rhythmic vitality well displayed by the orchestra ’s woodwind and string sections respectively. And the first of Edward Elgar’s melancholic Dream Children miniatures, fully orchestral, was splendidly shaped and polished. The first half of the concert ended with a performance of the first movement of the Violin Concerto written by the Soviet composer Dmitri Kabalevsky. The soloist was 19-year old former Oldham Music Centre student and up-and-coming violin and “beatboxing” star, Farhan Shah, who deftly and assuredly made his instrument sing and dance to everyone ’s delight. The second half of the concert began with the orchestra’s brass section excelling itself in the Hymn and Triumphal March from Giuseppi Verdi ’s opera Aida. The work which followed, Georges Bizet’s Suite No. 1 from Carmen, gave prominence to oboist, trumpeter and bassoonist — all of whom responded splendidly to their exposure. What came next proved to be, for this reviewer at least, the highlight of the concert. Covent Garden (Tarantelle) and Knightsbridge (March) from the Englishman, Eric Coates’s orchestral suite London Every Day, were played with exemplary rhythmic precision and tonal balance, and sounded a very clearly English call to musical arms as this Olympic year continues towards the Games themselves. What could follow such an outpouring of Englishness? Well, the concert was brought to a quite rousing conclusion with a performance of a work by the Chinese composer, Li Huanzhi, his Spring Festival Overture, a delightful outpouring of optimistic sounds celebrating what for us in the West is known as the Chinese New Year. GM Link
Concert: Summer Concert 2011
Slava works his magic Reporter: GM Date online: 05 July 2011 Oldham Symphony Orchestra, Hulme Grammar School. WEBER’S Overture to his opera Der Freischutz provided a suitably early period opener for the Orchestra’s concert of music from the Romantic era. With the players brought to heel by their watchful conductor, Richard Waldock, it spoke of the magic and love with a devilish and deadly touch which is the opera’s substance, and gave the orchestra opportunity to display its ability to shine and shrink in colourful,dramatic ways. It also foreshadowed the drama that was to unfold in the main item of the first half of the programme: the Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor by Tschaikovsky – a work with some difficult pianism for the soloist to contend with, interwoven with the delicate or powerful melodies to be encountered in the course of its three movements. In this instance the soloist proved more than equal to the demands made upon him. Still very much at the beginning of a career that will surely blossom into something big and of international proportions, the Ukrainian pianist Slava Sidorenko worked his magic at the keyboard. With enviable technique he controlled both tone and dynamic with a real sense of musical purpose, bringing a new lease of life to what can easily be experienced as an overworked warhorse of a piece. The great hall seemed happy to resound to the combination of spark-lingly clear and luxuriously rich sounds he conjured up from the comparatively small instrument. The orchestra provided just what was needed to encourage or restrain this soloist, who has emerged with a glowing reputation from his studies at Manchester’s Royal Northern College Of Music. The second half of the concert consisted of the Symphony No.6 in D by Dvorák. This was the first of his symphonies to be widely performed and, although nowhere near as popular as his later symphonies have become, it remains a work to be enjoyed by both players and audience alike for its exuberance and charm which were amply demonstrated in this admirably shaped and vibrant performance. Link
Concert: Winter Concert 2010
OSO is oh so good Date published: 23 November 2010 OLDHAM SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, Hulme Grammar School A spirited and polished performance of Haydn’s “Symphony No. 104” constituted the first half of Oldham Symphony Orchestra’s autumn concert. This symphony was Haydn’s last, and probably greatest, contribution to the genre. Composed at the peak of his artistic career during a residence in London, it was first performed there in 1795. Haydn was a man of great musical vision and good humour, whose delight in exploring the sounds that can be made by the modest orchestral resources at his disposal was clearly shared by conductor Richard Waldock as he secured a memorable account of this delightful music by the members of the OSO, led by Ann Heeks. That Richard’s association with these players continues to bring out the best in them was indisputably demonstrated by their fine performance of Brahms’ “First Symphony” filling the second half of this memorable concert. From its long, bold, searching opening to its final, commanding flourishes, Brahms the romantic artist in music, strives here for classical (formal) perfection. Like Haydn before him, Brahms paid his debt to the past by taking what he had inherited and valued into fresh areas of artistic vision and to new levels of technical demands without leaving his listeners out of sight of aim or range of feeling. So his strings soar melodiously beyond the heights of Beethoven, but never go over the top into sentimentality. His three-only trombones, which have been kept waiting in the wings until this moment, are summoned on to the stage in the finale to herald a bright, tonal future which stretches out beyond the potentially confusing massed ranks of tubas and other brass instruments called for by Wagner (and some of his more flamboyant contemporaries whose music is now largely forgotten). Performed with remarkable concentration and intensity by the OSO, this flagship work came to a breathtaking conclusion, and was rightly applauded vigorously by the appreciative audience. Link
Concert: Summer Classics 2010
OSO’s winning score.. Reporter: GM Date online: 29 June 2010 Oldham Symphony Orchestra, Hulme Grammar School The Oldham Symphony Orchestra (leader Ann Heeks) gets better and better under the baton of its regular conductor, Richard Waldock. Ensemble work is securely balanced. Individual instruments display with confidence in exposed moments. In the first half of this concert concert, accomplished violinist Adi Brett gave an enchanting and powerful account of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. Richard Waldock brought out the very best in his players to match the artistry of the soloist. In the second half we were given a rare chance to experience the youthful Mendelssohn’s symphonic take on the Lutheranism in which he had been raised. The OSO showed why the piece deserves more airings, with its uncompromising commitment to the music’s inventiveness and celebratory atmosphere. The next OSO concert will be held in the Oldham Hulme Grammar Schools on Sunday, November 21, and include symphonies by Haydn and Brahms. Link
Concert: Family Concert - Story Time
Magical arrangement is simply irresistable Date published: 16 March 2010 Oldham Symphony Orchestra, Salvation Army Community Hall, Failsworth THE Oldham Symphony Orchestra transformed the Salvation Army Community Hall on Manchester Road, Failsworth, into a feature-packed musical gallery of vivid portraits, exotic landscapes and compelling visions with “programme” music for all the family. It filled the air for fully two hours with that irresistible magical expression that only music can convey. Beginning almost wistfully with the filigree imagery of Hercules in subjugation to Omphale so finely spun by Saint-Saens’s Omphale’s “Spinning Wheel”, the orchestra led the audience boldy through the grotesque visions of the opium-filled mind of the artist brazenly summoned up by the Berlioz in the last movements of his “Fantastic Symphony” to where the spice-laden atmosphere of “The Young Prince and the Young Princes”, which is the central tableau in Rimksy-Korsakov’s spectacular “Sheherazade”, seemed to demand that we linger a while to savour it. Before we had time to pause, however, we were whisked away into the charged atmosphere of a group of orchestral instruments, where scorn is poured by the others on one of the members — the tuba — simply because it does not normally contribute more than “oompahs” to the orchestra’s sound. Of course, the tuba’s greatest wish — to be able to sing like everyone else — comes true, thanks to the intervention of a not-at-all-tone-deaf frog. The rags to riches story of Tripp and Kleisinger’s “Tubby the Tuba”, made famous in the 1940s by being narrated and sung by Danny Kaye, can still retain its freshness and impact today, especially when the modern narrator is as dynamic and sympathetic as was Amanda Owen in this performance and the tuba so expertly and sensitively played by Derhim Bahakam. After the interval, we found ourselves with the orchestra in full flow following the river Vltava as it pursues its course through Prague to its meeting with the Elbe as depicted in Semtana’s celebratory tone poem. Then with magic in the air once more, and our imaginations fired by its intensity of expression, we experienced something of the warm romance and passion in the fairy story that lies behind the adventures of Odette, and Prince Siegfried in Tschaikovsky’s ballet “Swan Lake”. The concert was brought to a tumultuous conclusion by intensely felt and graphically focussed accounts of the last two pictures portrayed in Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition”. Even in these days of high definition, it would be difficult to imagine a more striking image of the Great gate of Kiev than that presented in musical terms by the OSO, led by Ann Heeks, under the baton of Richard Waldock. Link