Press Comment

Winter 2018 Concert Review from What’s on Darlo

t may have been a cold January night, but that didn’t stop audiences from attending Darlington Orchestra’s Winter Concert to have the sound of music warm their hearts.

With a programme ranging from classical to contemporary pieces from across the globe, and the added bonus of Esh Community Gospel choir and Sophia Nikolaiets showcasing their vocal delights, it was going to be a concert which audiences wouldn’t forget.

Conductor David Plews began the concert with a piece by Dvo?ák “Sonatina Symfonicka”. This punchy piece is a showcase for the talents of the lower strings, keeping the pulse of the music pushing along throughout the three movements. With such excitement from the start, audiences couldn’t wait to see where the orchestra would take us next.

“Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” at the end of the first half transported us back to the swinging jazz era of 1920s New York City. The piece by Richard Rogers (arranged by Jack Mason) tested the skills of the orchestra with changing moods and tricky tremolos which other orchestras may have struggled to achieve.

Esh Community Gospels brought an acapella feel to the night, with the song “Didn’t My Lord Deliver” standing out for its jazz-like feel. The group performed a variety of traditional gospel songs with two modern pieces and “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers had audience members swaying and singing in their seats.

Sophia Nikolaiets’ performance of “Ava Maria” was a delicate demonstration of her remarkable vocal range at such a young age! Darlington Orchestra accompanied Sophia, with the woodwind and strings imitating the delicateness within the voice.

Many orchestras would struggle to refine their dynamics so as not to overpower the voice, but under David’s instruction Darlington Orchestra provided full orchestral backing with the voice still at the forefront of the music.

For audience members who wanted to join in, the final piece, “Abba Medley”, had people singing along to the likes of “Money, Money, Money” and “Knowing Me, Knowing You”. Then it was time for Darlington Orchestra to send us on our way with anticipation for the next concert already in the air.

Winter 2016 Concert Review from What’s on Darlo

Contributed by Elaine Barnett

Many of us could do with a boost in January and Darlington Orchestra obligingly worked up a Proms-party atmosphere at its Winter Concert in the Dolphin Centre‘s Central Hall on Saturday, January 23rd, 2016.

With a stirring performance of Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March No.1” and the able assistance of community choir Darlington SING, conductor David Plews drew the capacity audience into enthusiastic choruses of “Land of Hope and Glory as the finale to what has become a popular seasonal event.

Elgar’s march completed a programme of classical and light modern classics, which had opened with an engaging “Introduction and Fugue” by Mendelssohn employing the complete orchestra at full force to whet the appetite for the variety of music on offer.

And what a varied menu it was. Britten’s sometimes challenging “Soirees Musicales” set of dances and Tchaikovsky’s evocative “Chanson Triste”, with haunting strings, rubbed shoulders with show favourites from Lerner & Loewe including “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly”, tempting the audience to join in and McCartney’s wistful “Yesterday”, which, led by the choir, offered an open invitation to do so.

A popular favourite, “Symphonic Reflections” by Andrew Lloyd Webber with music from Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Cats, gave all sections of the orchestra an opportunity to shine, which they duly did. The orchestra embraced the sweeping and emotive themes, to the clear enjoyment of the audience.

There was still more in the packed programme of music and song: works by Brahms, Prokofiev and Walton all took a bow as did special guests SING Darlington choir, led by conductor Bridie Jackson.

The choir added an extra dimension to the evening’s entertainment with two warmly appreciated ‘a capella’ sets ranging from the choral to traditional African and gospel songs, folk and Bill Withers, before leading the community singing to round off another successful concert.

Darlington Orchestra’s next performance is at the Dolphin Centre on Saturday, July 2nd, 2016.

Summer 2015 Concert Review from What’s on Darlo

Contributed by Kate Ward

Darlington Orchestra served up a superb evening of entertainment at the Dolphin Centre’s elegant Central Hall on Saturday, June 20th, 2015.

The audience was treated to a rich banquet of musical styles, including a selection from Handel’s beautiful “Water Music Suite” and lovely uplifting dance music by Ivor Novello. There were also pieces like Barry Gray’s “Thunderbirds March” – a trip down memory lane for many listeners – and Hanna/Barbera’s “Meet the Flintstones”, when children young and not-so-young from the audience were encouraged to join in – yabba dabba doo!

For a toe-tapping first course, conductor David Plews led the orchestra in a lively rendition of Aaron Copland’s “Hoe-down”. This set the scene for varied music which was at times easy on the ear, and in places stirring to the soul.

For me, the main course came towards the end of the first half, when the orchestra excelled with their version of Holst’s “Mars: The Bringer of War”. From the opening bars, as the stringed instruments set up a relentless rhythm, we were invited to face the threat of a darker era – a timely reminder of the terror of the First World War during which the music was written. The piece began quietly and grew into a wall of sound.

Contrast came in the form of special guests, the Darlington Clarinet Ensemble, who played four sparkling pieces, perhaps the dessert of the evening! The sound, ranging from top notes on the E-flat clarinet to the low rumbles of the contrabass, was a joy to hear. “Rikudim” by Van der Roost particularly stood out; it’s a complex but fun piece that the group took in their stride.

The evening ended with the mellow, summery sound of “California Dreamin’ “and the orchestra sent us on our way humming this gentle tune and looking forward to their next performance.

Darlington Orchestra – Winter Concert Review from What’s on Darlo

by Elaine Barnett

Soaring strings to beefy brass, church music to “Star Wars” – you didn’t need to be a classical music buff to find plenty to enjoy in the Darlington Orchestra’s Winter Concert at the town’s Dolphin Centre.

The packed Central Hall bore witness to the popularity of the community orchestra’s regular concerts. And the audience was rewarded for turning out on a January evening with a programme of works spanning the centuries offering something to please a variety of musical tastes.

Under conductor David Plews, the event got off to a stirring start with a 17th century Deum by Marc Antione Charpentier, instantly recognisable from the Eurovision Song Contest as the theme music for the European Broadcasting Union.

More familiar themes followed; an excerpt from Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, a rather complex arrangement, but well known as the “Lord of the Dance” tune, a lovely selection from Frederick Loewe’s “My Fair Lady” offered romantic strings in “I Could Have Danced All Night” and well-conveyed humour in “Get Me to the Church on Time”.

In fact, popular music got a good airing, with “Highlights from Evita”, including a moving rendition of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s haunting “Another Suitcase” in Another Hall; Gilbert and Sullivan made an appearance with the Iolanthe “Overture” and, of course, there was John Williams’s blockbuster “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith” – a rousing performance bringing the programme bang into the 21st century.

Striking different notes were the elegant “Larghetto and Presto” by 18th century Hertel; Sicilienne by Gabriel Faure and “A Light Syncopated Piece” by Eric Coates with its hallmark early 20th century dance-band style.

This concert featured the premiere performance of special guests Brass Beneath which, as a tuba quartet, offered something completely different. The range from the growling bass to the alto tuba/euphonium showed what tubas have to offer and two short programmes were topped off by the smile-inducing “Mission Impossible”.

Overall, the orchestra served up a polished performance – maybe not note perfect, but that’s live music for you – and it was definitely worth braving the cold weather for.

The Northern Echo
review of concert January 2013

Darlington Orchestra, The Dolphin Centre, Darlington

Last time I attended a Darlington Orchestra concert, they were performing for the last time in the Darlington Arts Centre, and without a concert venue, their future was in doubt.

Happily the orchestra have now found a new home under the chandeliers of the Dolphin Centre’s Central Hall, and celebrated last night (Saturday, January 26) with a colourful display of orchestral fireworks.

The concert opened with a majestic arrangement by A Benoy of music from William Boyce’s Royal Birthday Odes. This full orchestral arrangement of music that was originally written for much smaller forces was both simple and effective, and the Darlington Orchestra delivered it with style, with lovely warm playing from the lower strings giving the music a powerful depth.

The dignified opening soon gave way to much livelier pieces, including a fiendishly fast Scherzo by Tchaikovsky and Liszt’s famous Hungarian Rhapsody No 2, and the audience enthusiastically clapped along to an exuberant rendition of Offenbach’s famous Can-Can from Orpheus in the Underworld.

We were also invited to join in with clapping and finger-clicks in the second half, although with a strict warning from conductor David Plews that he would dictate the speed of the acceleration in the sailor’s hornpipe, familiar to many from its inclusion in the Last Night of the Proms.

This relaxed atmosphere created by the orchestra makes every member of the audience feel warmly included in the evening, and is something quite special.

The orchestra’s guest performers for this concert were the boys of the Locomotion Choir, with guitarist Tony Kilpatrick. Their selection of popular songs included two lovely solos, and some accomplished harmony singing.

A peaceful medley of Simon and Garfunkel songs by the orchestra provided a nice contrast, before a finale of Broadway Showstopers. After the uncertainty of the past few months, the Darlington Orchestra are clearly determined that the show will go on.

Jane Shuttleworth

See here Letter to the Editor from Mavis and Norman Horton, Darlington



 The Northern Echo review  concert January 2012

A rousing concert given by Darlington Orchestra on Saturday may be the last time an orchestra plays in the town’s Arts Centre, but under the baton of David Plews, this enthusiastic group of local musicians ensured that it was a night to remember.

The orchestra opted for more familiar pieces than they did on their previous outing, and their spirited performance of Mozart’s overture to Don Giovanni, provided a suitably dramatic opening. They also demonstrated their skills at playing jazz: Take Five, made famous by Dave Brubeck, with its tricky five-in-a-bar rhythm went with a real swing, (helped along with added finger-clicks from the audience).

Quieter moments came with Sailing By – familiar to late-night listeners of Radio 4 – and a selection of Bach chorale arrangements. These lovely arrangements for full orchestra gave the brass and wind instruments a chance to shine, and I particularly enjoyed the trombone and horn playing.

The orchestra’s guest performers this evening were the Darlington Clarinet Ensemble. Their arrangement of Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor worked very well, at times sounding just like an organ with the reed stops out. The Secret Garden by Pam Wedgewood was an atmospheric piece, with a beautiful solo for the rich sound of the bass clarinet.

The clarinet ensemble joined the orchestra for the final piece, Moussorgsky’s Great Gate at Kiev, in a special arrangement by Mike Frankton, a member of both groups – using the clarinets for the bell-noises was a particularly effective touch, and the combined forces made a terrific sound.

The orchestra hope to continue giving concerts in Darlington, but with the future of the Arts Centre in doubt, they will now, like many other groups, be looking for a new home.

Jane Shuttleworth


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