There were serious concerns before the Meon Valley Orchestra’s solo, debut performance at the United Reformed Church, Fareham on Saturday 10 March. The event had been broadcast by Classic FM’s Anne-Marie Minhall the day before and advance ticket sales had already gone extremely well. People had been strongly advised book their places beforehand. But the MVO has a number of staunch supporters who simply pole up on the night expecting to pay at the door. The danger was that an overcrowded venue would contravene the fire regulations and invalidate the public liability insurance cover. Luckily, exactly the right number of music-lovers filled the seats. It was a full house.
Lorraine Masson, the MVO’s musical director, took up the baton. With best foot forward, two marches, Dambusters and Radetzki, kicked off the proceedings with rousing, martial tunes. Then, in complete contrast, came Ponchielli’s ballet music. The orchestra played the Dance of the Hours with a dainty, light touch; just as it should be. Yet another change of mood followed. This was the music from the Peter Sellers film, the Pink Panther. It was finger-clicking stuff which gave the saxophonists a chance to shine.
Several musicians admitted privately that the next item had presented a bit of a challenge. Gustav Holst’s Jupiter from the Planet Suite is no pushover even for seasoned performers. But time spent on the music in rehearsal and firm concentration on the night itself paid off handsomely.
The MVO cleared their first major hurdle with ease. Flautist Kathy Tuck played a lovely solo in the Fantasia on Greensleeves by Vaughan Williams and the harmonies from the string sections were a delight to the ear.
Frantic, fortissimo fiddling and the wide-open spaces theme of The Big Country rounded off the first half of the performance to enthusiastic applause.
Because the concert was in aid of the UK Gout Society, Doctor Kelsey Jordan, a gout and rheumatoid arthritis specialist from Brighton, cleared up some widespread misconceptions about this painful condition. Gout is no laughing matter. But sufferers are given sound, basic advice on diets and medication by this worthy charity which was formed in 2002.
The audience was in safe hands too. By chance, there were several medics present both on stage and in the audience. There were two professors of medicine, a naval surgeon of flag rank, five doctors, a dentist and a retired London Ambulance Service paramedic. A donation to the charity had already been received by a chiropodist from Croydon. There was also a doctor of information technology on hand. She would be invaluable if anyone’s iPhone began playing up.
During the interval, cakes and savouries, which were included in the cost of admission, were eagerly consumed by the concertgoers. Raffle tickets had been sold before the performance began by volunteers Julie Day and Jade Parry from Barclays Bank, Fareham. Lucky winners collected their booty in the break. In a marvellous charitable and public-spirited gesture, Barclays had offered to match the amount raised by the concert pound for pound. This unexpected move delighted the UK Gout Society representatives present.
The arrogant swagger of the Toreador’s Song opened the second half. Clarinettist Tricia Brotherston and cornet player Ann Roe took turns to strut their stuff in Bizet’s well-known opera piece. Music from Skyfall, arguably the best James Bond film ever, gave film buffs in the audience a thrill. This was followed by Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave.
Written for the Red Cross during the Turkish-Serb war, this opens with a funereal, down-trodden air signifying the Turkish oppression of the Serbs. This is eclipsed by a bombastic goose-stepping section as the Russians come to the aid of their Slavic brothers. The MVO certainly captured the gist of what lay behind the notes.
The tranquil rippling waters of Sailing By calmed things down nicely, just in time for Vaughan Williams’ English Folk Song Suite. This was followed by Frederick Delius’ On Hearing the First Cuckoo of Spring. Lorraine Masson, the Musical Director dedicated this number to the Meon Group of the Ramblers Association. Many of these loyal followers of MVO were in the audience.
A powerful interpretation of Crown Imperial by William Walton ended the carefully chosen programme. Like a young bird, that fledgling ensemble, the Meon Valley Orchestra, had flexed its wings and soared into the heavens.