Dance and story enhance great music

The matinee proved a popular "extra" from the orchestra
The matinee proved a popular "extra" from the orchestra

The idea that Todmorden Orchestra should perform two concerts on the same day in the Town Hall, with one especially for children, may have seemed risky when it was proposed, but it turned out to be inspirational.

Whatever the criteria are for a successful day, last Saturday’s events ticked all the boxes.

Did the audience come to see Ann Widdecombe, now established as a “personality”, out of curiosity, did they know that Todmorden now has a high class orchestra who guarantee quality or were they aware of the popular music on offer?

It doesn’t matter because they filled the Town Hall for both performances, and in the afternoon the sight of so many young children, well behaved and responding to the conductors questioning, would have gladdened many a heart.

All the musical items on offer seemed to stay within the children’s attention span. The evening audience were sufficiently knowledgeable to avoid the pitfall of inappropriate applause.

Both performances had more or less the same programme, opening with Roger Quilter’s Children Overture with its interweaving of nursery rhyme favourites, followed by the main attraction - Tubby the Tuba.

Described as a story told in music it requires a narrator and of course a tuba, plus the backing of a variety of instruments. Ann Widdecombe told the story and her task required precision timing to co-ordinate with the orchestra.

Although her frog impressions were not totally convincing, close attention to the conductor’s left hand direction produced an excellent and confident performance. Andrew Griffiths’s Tubby took us through the emotions of sadness, pity, hope and then joyful acceptance as the whole orchestra played his tune. Andrew Sheldon added his singing voice to part of the story.

The orchestra, larger than usual and with many young faces, were then able to demonstrate why they have acquired such a fine reputation.

Starting with Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite all the sections were given the chance to impress but in the second and third movements the strings took their opportunity with great aplomb. They then had to put down their bows and pluck away merrily and confidently in the pizzicato part of the Sylvia Suite by Delibes but the other sections were not to be outdone.

The chosen programme meant that there was some individual playing, some sectional emphasis and then rip-roaring ensemble. We also heard the welcome sound of the harpist. Perhaps, but only marginally, the woodwind section just came out on top but it was high marks all round.

The Overture: Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach completed the programme and it gave the ever-reliable leader of the orchestra, Andrew Rostron, a chance to delight us with a lovely interpretation of the beautiful melody that precedes the famous Can-Can finale.

Nicholas Concannon Hodges maintained his unruffled calm throughout the day and his clear direction enabled all the performers to produce music of the highest quality.

A clear space in front of the orchestra, a hint to be ready for some fun and some well-spread rumours meant that the appearance of young lady Can-Can dances did not come as a surprise and they rounded off the evening in splendid athletic fashion. Most of the audience were relieved that Miss Widdecombe did not join in!