Review: Youth triumphs again at Petersfield Musical Festival

It is always a thrill to attend the Youth Concerts during the Petersfield Musical Festival and to
enjoy the immense wealth of musical talent that exists in local schools.

This year was no exception and the capacity audiences were royally entertained by over 300 singers and instrumentalists.

The concert opened with a group of songs collectively called Thank You for the Music. The first number, ‘Viva La Musica’, was sung a cappella and demonstrated the particularly good diction and harmony. ‘Hey Mr Miller’ had the choir acting out the various instruments, which they were clearly enjoying , and in the final number, one of ABBA’s best known, the full force of the 200 voices really came across. All in all, a strong opening sequence to the concert.

The Festival encourages student compositions through its biennial Festival of Young Composers, which took place earlier this year at TPS Studio. Two prize-winners from that day brought their compositions to Monday’s concert.

William Sharps held the audience with an assured solo performance of his Variations for violin, showing a variety of moods and violin techniques in the different sections of the piece. Laurence Horwood played the cello in his composition, Song of an Age, an ambitious work for violin, flute, clarinet and cello. Combining elements of folk-song, jig and waltz, and requiring nimble, well-coordinated playing, it was very effectively performed by a quartet of students.

On Wednesday the Petersfield Area Schools String Orchestra presented a varied programme which included the Pizzicato Polka and finishing with a sequence of songs, Celtic Mist, which was very evocative of the Scottish Isles, including a lively Highland Fling.

The Combined Schools Wind Band are always a popular feature of these concerts and this time was no exception. Given the 85 players, numbers were used to good effect in the rousing Radetsky March, which also allowed individual players to come to the fore. The West Side Story medley provided a nice contrast and demonstrated a good musical balance across the band.

It is always refreshing when we get to hear a new work at the Festival. Exploring Petersfield, with words and music by Susan Riggs, was written specially for the occasion and covered everyday events in and around the town. The five sections of this work were well performed by the choir. Some felt more satisfactory than others as there occasionally seemed a forced match between words and music.

Another festival favourite, the Combined Schools Jazz Band, gave us The Chicken and Tank, both powerful arrangements with good opportunities for soloists.

The final section gave us a glimpse of what to expect from Oliver!, the summer musical being put on at Chichester Festival Theatre later this year, as the choir, supported by an instrumental ensemble and vocal soloists, sang a selection of the best known melodies from the show. It showed off their good diction and, particularly in the case of Consider Yourself, strong attack. All the vocal soloists in this section acquitted themselves well. If the final number Who Will Buy? was an invitation to get a ticket for next year’s concert then this reviewer will be at the front of the queue.

Congratulations to all the performers for a splendid evening’s entertainment as well as teachers, conductors, organisers and parents involved.

Sarah Hard

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