Spring Concert 2017
Sunday 19 March 2017 at 3:45 pm
St. Edburg's Church, Bicester
Conductor: Sam Laughton
Sullivan: Iolanthe - Overture
Mendelssohn: Overture and Incidental Music to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
Vaughan Williams: Symphony No. 5
In a letter of 1943, Ralph Vaughan Williams recalls being taken, as “an insufferable young prig” to a performance of Carmen. He went, he says, “prepared to scoff, but remained to pray.” The composer was quoting from Oliver Goldsmith’s poem The Village Preacher, which describes a simple country clergyman whose sermons, unaffected and straightforward, left even the most worldly and cynical on their knees at the end of the service.
I must hasten to make it clear that I did not come to the Trinity Camerata’s performance of Vaughan Williams’ Fifth Symphony “prepared to scoff”! However, I did feel some trepidation when I saw it on the programme. It is a very difficult work, making huge demands on all sections of the orchestra. How would the lush string passages sound with such a small group? How would the woodwind fare with the many exposed solos? How would the players negotiate the dramatic cross-rhythms of the scherzo? Would they be able to generate the energy called for by the great triumphal climaxes of the last movement?
These questions were answered by the awed hush in the church at the conclusion of the symphony, after that wonderful passage when, in the words of Sir Adrian Boult, “The sky gradually fills with angels.” For a long time after the sound faded, nobody in the audience moved. The word “spiritual” is much misused these days, but I can think of no better description of the atmosphere which had been generated by the music. Much of the material in Vaughan Williams’ Fifth Symphony is related to his Bunyan opera The Pilgrim’s Progress, and there was a real sense of Pilgrim’s journey in the performance, starting with his religious awakening in the first movement, moving through worldly temptations in the scherzo, and arriving at a recognition of the suffering Christ in the slow movement (“He hath given me rest by his sorrow and life by his death”). In the last movement Pilgrim sees the Holy City in the distance beyond the cold river of death, and determines to cross over. With glorious Easter alleluias resounding he finally reaches his journey’s end (“And the trumpets sounded out for him upon the other side”) as the music swells to a huge climax and then resolves in a heavenly, angelic peace.
So congratulations to the Trinity Camerata for bringing out the full emotional impact of this challenging piece. It was a truly moving performance and at the end, hardened cynic that I am, I confess that a tear came to my eye; and yes, although my arthritic knees prevented my kneeling, I did remain to pray- even if those Easter alleluias were a bit premature in Lent!- Nigel Timms
Violin 1: Nancy Taylor (leader), Emma Callery, Jen Truslove, Eleanor Collins, Rachel Sansome
Violin 2: Zoe Hudson, John Alexander, Alison Knowles, Ian Smith, Jo Sandy-Goodey, Jeremy Dickson
Viola: Judy Hunter, Philip Maund, Helen Timms, Jill Elliott
Cello: Miranda Richardson, Ellie Swithinbank, Simon Kingsley, Denise Lewin
Double bass: Chris Seddon, Jane Martin
Flute: Tina Gandy, Claire Humphries
Oboe: Joanna Rhind-Tutt, Bridget Riley (Cor Anglais)
Clarinet: Mark Etherton, Ian Adlington
Bassoon: Glyn Williams, Guy Thomas
Horn: Bob Powell, Dan Blakey
Trumpet: Edward Paine, Laurence May
Trombone: Sue Bogle, Stephen Paine, Paul Coveney
Timpani: Justin Rhodes