TWO visiting artists graced the stage for the Westmorland Orchestra’s recent concert in Kendal Leisure Centre, writes CLIVE WALKLEY. Bob Chasey, a former principal second violinist with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, was making his debut as guest conductor with the orchestra. Also appearing as guest soloist was the young violinist, Sophie Rosa. Her performance of Vaughan William’s lovely Romance The Lark Ascending was one of the highlights of the evening. Her sound flowed seemingly effortlessly as she soared higher and higher into the upper register holding the audience spellbound.

The rest of the programme consisted of short items of well-known classics. Sibelius rousing, ever-popular Finlandia opened the concert. Urged on by their enthusiastic conductor, the brass players clearly relished the prominence given to them while the string section produced a good solid tone in the big patriotic tune that is at the core of this very popular piece. Selections from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite completed the first half of the programme. Sadly, there were some disappointing moments in this performance: tempi were often on the sluggish side and there were some lapses of balance and intonation in the wind department.

The second half of the concert opened with great panache with the most famous of Sousa’s 136 marches, the one known as Liberty Bell, so called because it does feature a ship’s bell, gloriously out of tune with the rest of the orchestra! Then came two movements from Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite and Bizet's Farandole from his L'Arlésienne Suite. Again there were some disappointments in the performance of the Grieg, but the whole orchestra came alive in the Bizet.

Next it was the turn of the string section to show what they could do in Mascagni's famous Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana. The tone was rich, expressive and powerful as they delivered Mascagni's hit tune.

The concert concluded with Johann Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz and Elgar's stirring Pomp and Circumstance March No 1. This, of course, is the piece that by tradition ends the BBC Proms concert season every year; the patriotic tune Land of Hope and Glory - words commissioned by King Edward VII - forms a climax. Perhaps inspired by a royal occasion, the orchestra produced some of the best playing of the evening.

Finally, this concert marked the last appearance of one of the orchestra’s long-standing members. It was announced that principal clarinettist, Ian Ronald, was retiring from the orchestra after 50 years service. This is a remarkable achievement and Ian's fine sensitive playing will live long in our memories.