REVIEW: Promenade Concert Orchestra, The Platform, Morecambe, November 2018

THE new season of Morecambe’s Promenade Concert Orchestra got under way on a dry, chilly late November day to the familiar strains of Eric Coates’ fine march of 1940 Calling All Workers, writes David Alder.

For more than a quarter of a century this was the signature tune to BBC Radio’s popular twice or thrice daily programmes Music While You Work. The concert sought to recreate what was originally a wartime concept of providing regular live, uninterrupted and tuneful music programmes over the airwaves to workers in factories and elsewhere.

The large and receptive audience was therefore regaled with a very varied selection of two-dozen light music pieces written between the late 19th century and the early 1960s – nothing too lethargic or distracting of course – expertly put together by conductor Howard Rogerson from his valuable collection of discarded orchestral sheet music.

Many accomplished light music composers and arrangers were featured in the three programmes played, although only two women, which reflects their struggle for recognition in artistic as well as political and other fields.

There were marches including Martial Moments, an impressively ‘no slacking’ medley put together by Aubrey Winter; humorous and novelty pieces, such as Laughing Violin by Kai Mortensen; and ensemble showpieces like Fiddle-Faddle by Leroy Anderson.

Lyrical music was represented by such beautiful pieces as Berceuse Arabe by Cecile Chaminade; the extremely familiar Sobra las Olas by Juvenito Rosas; and popular singing by RS Stodden’s Community Land Songs selection.

The concert’s nature themes included the attractive Dance of the Icicles by Kenneth Russell and, very topically, on a day of spring tides on Morecambe Bay, Seashore by Robert Farnon.

The Platform venue has an historic affinity with travel and Golden Arrow by Jack Beaver – a less familiar cousin to Coronation Scot – was therefore also a very appropriate work to feature.

Val Baulard’s rich and attractive voice featured in four standard showpiece solos accompanied by the orchestra and concluding with You’re Driving Me Crazy which led to some good-natured banter with her conductor husband.

The orchestra was led by its accomplished regular leader, Julian Cann, one of 17 players who have been with the orchestra since its foundation in 2007. This continuity and commitment is one of the orchestra’s strengths and produces excellent ensemble playing. The fine orchestral arrangements in the programme, such as Lark in the Clear Air, also gave opportunities in turn to every section of the orchestra, which included harp and saxophones, to shine.

There was, as is usual at these concerts, a warm rapport between the conductor, the orchestra and the audience; and when the time came for the signature tune to be reprised, there appeared to be a tinge of regret that another musical feast was over.