Review: Charity Symphony Orchestra concert in Putney

There are some good-hearted musicians on the South Coast who deserve respect and admiration.

Three cheers for all those players who travelled to St Mary’s Church, Putney on Saturday 26 May to swell the ranks of the Charity Symphony Orchestra. These heroic musicians included David Basson (oboe) from Portsmouth Light Orchestra, Wendy Carpenter (oboe) from the Chichester Symphony Orchestra, Melanie Espin (oboe) from the Petersfield Orchestra, Alan Fitch (violin) from Northwood String Orchestra, Mary Hyde (violin) from the Charity Symphony Orchestra, Sally Keigthly (‘cello) from the Winchester Chamber Orchestra, Brian Terry (trombone) from the Havant Symphony Orchestra, Mary Toms (bass) from the Meon Valley Orchestra and Vince Iyengar (viola) from the Havant Symphony Orchestra. Other musicians from London and further afield joined the ensemble.

The CSO can be described as a pop-up orchestra. There are no practices before the day of the concert and the players simply turn up and knuckle down to some serious sight reading and intensive rehearsing. Jessica Lawless had been billed to lead the CSO but was taken ill, so violinist Robert-Jan Koopmans kindly stepped in at short notice to take her place. Robert-Jan is from the Netherlands but lives in Vienna. He flew to England especially for the concert.

On this occasion the CSO was hosting members of the inspirational Orchestra Allegro Moderato from Milan. The OAM is a special orchestra which helps young adults with mental or physical disabilities or social needs through music. The CSO had twice played in Italy with the OAM but this was the Italian orchestra’s first visit to the UK.

The two orchestras rehearsed in the morning and early afternoon. This was followed by a joint rehearsal. Later in the afternoon there was a children’s mini-matinee. An attractive lady narrator helped to showcase the individual instruments and the young audience loved the show. More rehearsals followed till 6 pm.

In the break the Italians were treated to that most British of repasts – fish and chips from a paper box. This al fresco surprise went down a treat with the visitors and Brits alike.

The concert performance was in the evening. Marco Volpi, who wrote the arrangements, conducted the OAM, which played works by Verdi, Rossini and Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance. Marco conducts with an emphatic, encouraging style, which brings out the best in the young players.

Craig Lawton conducted the CSO, which played Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Ballet Suite and dance episodes from Copland’s Rodeo. An experienced, well-trained conductor with a clear style, Craig skilfully guided the CSO through some tricky passages in the Copland.

The concert’s finale was a joint effort with the combined orchestras playing Beethoven’s rousing Ode to Joy from his Ninth Symphony.

Without doubt the music was good. It was almost as if the two orchestras had rehearsed for months.

Harriet Carey and her husband, Mark, richly deserve a word of thanks for their hard work, publicising and organising the event. Together with CSO’s musical director Craig, they pulled off a great event which raised £300 for the Italian orchestra.

A post-concert party followed with wine and fruit juices. The language barrier was no obstacle to the genuine, mutual friendship between the two orchestras.

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