THE Westmorland Orchestra’s latest concert got off to a fine start as the whole orchestra launched into Schubert’s tuneful sixth symphony, writes CLIVE WALKLEY.

What better way to start a concert than with everyone joining in the two loud chords which open this work - a great confidence booster. The confident opening was a sign of things to come. So much of this symphony is dominated by Schubert’s lovely woodwind writing and here the Westmorland’s woodwind section excelled. The flutes in particular have an important role and their playing sparkled throughout the work; they were ably backed up by the their colleagues. Conductor, Richard Howarth, paced the work at a safe speed which resulted in a very satisfying and enjoyable performance. Although not one of Schubert’s most difficult symphonies, the work is not without its challenges but is not beyond the capabilities of a good amateur orchestra like the Westmorland.

Following the Schubert, Lily Whitehurst was the violin soloist in Max Bruch’s Romance in A, Op 42. Lily is in her final year as an advanced student at the Royal Northern College of Music where she has won many awards. She is no stranger on the professional orchestral scene and has recently been appointed to a place in the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra. Her playing is beautifully lyrical. Occasionally she was overwhelmed by the orchestra but overall this did not diminish the quality of the performance. After the Bruch she showed another side to her artistic personality as she romped effortlessly through Manuel de Falla’s rhythmically exciting Spanish Dance. The clicking of the castanets brought the necessary Spanish quality to the performance, bringing the first half of the concert to a very satisfying close.

After the interval, we heard Brahms lengthy first Serenade for orchestra, written when he was still a relatively unknown composer. The work is in six movements and contains many hallmarks of his later, mature style. But it is thickly scored in places and there were times when the strings were overwhelmed by the wind department. This is not necessarily a criticism of the string section; the players produced a good firm sound, but Brahms’ orchestral music demands weight in this section. Again the wind players excelled themselves, particularly in the fifth movement when they came into prominence. I’m sure the orchestra would welcome the addition of more string players to swell the ranks!

Sadly, there were many empty seats in the Westmorland Hall and the enthusiasm and skill of the players, many of whom travel long distances to be part of the orchestra, deserve much better support.