REVIEW by Marilyn Hurdwell, Assembly Hall, Worthing
On a bright sunny February morning, coachloads of excited school children and their teachers converged in Worthing’s spectacular Assembly Hall to witness a real live professional orchestra playing a stunning variety of music. Before the concert our vocal cords were warmed up by West Sussex Music’s Rosie Secker, culminating in a grand combination of “The Alphabet Song” and “Over the Rainbow”, each half of the audience taking turns in singing part of each song simultaneously.
Charismatic WSO Musical Director John Gibbons warmly welcomed the children and their teachers after whizzing through Tchaikovsky’s lively Russian Dance “Trepak” from his Nutcracker Suite. John asked how many people sang and played instruments, and a good many hands went up. He then went on to demonstrate some of the more unusual orchestral instruments, such as the oboe, cor anglais and the viola, and the children also loved hearing the tuba and trombones. (Remember Tubby the Tuba?) These instruments took leading parts in his subsequent pieces – e.g the cor anglais in Dvorak’s New World Symphony, and the tuba in Haydn’s Surprise Symphony – a popular choice! The children were encouraged to try out some of these later at West Sussex Music who both supply and teach the instruments – a golden opportunity! They were amused when John said he was 21 – explaining that he had been conducting Worthing Symphony Orchestra for 21 years.
Organised by West Sussex Music, these annual free concerts are partly funded by the William Alwyn Foundation, and his Four Scottish Dances proved highly entertaining, as did part of Doreen Carwithen’s Suffolk Suite. John made the very important point that it is relatively unusual to hear music written by female composers, which in these days of equality will hopefully be addressed. Another fine British composer, Sir Edward Elgar, featured in three of his wonderful Enigma Variations, and music by contemporary composer Paul Lewis drew gasps of admiration when SpongeBob SquarePants was mentioned, in a piece called Abject Terror!
The audience was invited to join in with Strauss’s famous Radetsky March, clapping in time to the music when directed by John, whether loud, soft or in silence! The concert ended with a thrilling performance of the finale of Tchaikovsky’s majestic 5th Symphony, demonstrating the power and glory of unforgettable music in a grand climax!
Schools taking part in this very special concert were Broadwater, St Mary’s, Jolesfield, Downsbrook, Chesswood, Heron’s Dale, Heene, Upper Beeding, English Martyrs, Thomas A Becket – as well as some Home Educated pupils. Lucky people!