July 2014

Like a champagne cork popping, the exuberance and sheer energy of the playing by the Pelly Concert Orchestra in their Summer concert, the Pelly Proms, fizzed and crackled under the baton of its conductor and Musical Director, Chris Braime on Saturday 19th July at the Church on the Heath in Elvetham Heath, Fleet. It was the last concert for the orchestra that Chris was conducting after seven and a half years and his charisma, passion and vivacity were palpable throughout the entire evening. His choice of programme was ’Christopher’s indulgence,’ his own personal favourites and highlights from his tenure as Musical Director.

The music started with The Overture to Orpheus and The Underworld, by Offenbach which was magnificently played by the orchestra and has immediate audience appeal as the famous ‘Can-Can’ melody got foots tapping.

There then followed The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams, with the violin solo part being played by Amanda Lake. Amanda has, in the past, led the orchestra and is currently playing for the highly prestigious City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Her return as soloist was warmly appreciated and her serenely poised playing soared above the sensitive accompaniment of the orchestra, which beautifully captured the fulsome crescendos, in a mesmerising rendition of this haunting and quintessentially English, pastoral work.

A medley of songs from The Sound of Music was next followed by another highlight of the evening: the first public performance in the UK of the Piano Concerto in C by the American composer, Leroy Anderson (1908-1975). Anderson wrote light music and is most famous for The Sleigh Ride and The Typewriter, but here the Piano Concerto is of a more serious nature. The piano part was played by Simon Ballard and the Concerto, composed in 1953, is full of references from other composers’ works, such as Rachmaninoff, Gershwin and Saint-Saëns. It is very accessible to listen to; has an instant appeal with long lyrical lines; is full of stylistic charm; and completely pertinent to the era from which it came.

After the interval the Pelly Proms began. The conductor re-appeared resplendent in a Union Jack dress-coat and the audience donned hats, waved flags and blew hooters- which of course had to be tuned!

Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 got the second half underway, followed by A Grand, Grand Festival Overture by the English composer, Malcolm Arnold. Arnold had included two vacuum cleaners and a floor-polisher in his score and in true Pelly Prom spirit they took centre-stage and stole the show! Another perennial Prom item is the Fantasia on British Sea Songs by Henry Wood and the orchestra, led by David Wallace, who toyed with the audience in the accelerandos in the Hornpipe.

As the audience was now fully warmed-up, Rule Britannia beckoned. However, the national grid failed GU51 and the remainder of the concert was played in the subdued hue of the emergency lighting in the Church. But… the show must go on and with great energy Mike Thomson played the Russ Conway-style piano part to Rule Britannia and the concert ended with a full-bodied version of Parry’s Jerusalem.

The Chairman, Barbara Sykes, gave a heartfelt speech thanking Chris for all his work and Chris was presented with several scores of Beethoven Symphonies.

Chris Braime has done a wonderful job as MD over the past seven and a half years and in his final address he re-iterated that the Pelly Concert Orchestra are, ‘special musicians who care about every note they play.’

The Pelly Concert Orchestra can be more than proud of the concert on Saturday night, it was of a very high musical standard. The concert had sold over 250 tickets prior to the event and when audiences turn up to a concert every year without having any connections with the members of the orchestra, it is a testament to the quality of playing and sheer enjoyment and energy the orchestra puts into their concerts.

Virginia Pearson