Thursday, April 21, 2011
The performances were good to excellent, and as an uplifting tonic to the soul on a cold Saturday night in the centre of Birmingham, it was great.
Next up was the Shropshire Young Musician of the Year in the new Theatre Severn complex in Shrewsbury, our nearest town. Our local Council tax payers have, whether they realise it or not, spent £28 million of their hard earned money on this new building, which sits in a prime position on the bank of the Severn near the Welsh Bridge.
Anyway, inside is what really matters. There are two theatres, a larger one seating around 800, and a smaller one where we were for the concert. Four young performers, all still at school, were playing a major Concerto supported by a 55 piece orchestra, for the honour of claiming the title of Shropshire Young Musician of the Year. Some 32 individuals had entered, and the preliminary rounds had whittled them down to the final four.
The whole evening was a real wake up call to those who think the younger generation today are a bunch of wastrels. The four soloists were all remarkably good. It must be immensely nerve-raking to stand up in front of the Musical Great and Good of the County, as well as 200 or so other mere mortals and the local radio station recording it all, and play such difficult pieces so well. I know that there is no way on God’s earth that I could have contemplated such an undertaking when I was their age. I thought they all managed it exceptionally.
I’d never been in the small theatre of the new Complex before, and although it’s quite “swish”, the acoustics are horrible. It’s so dead and dry, sucking the vitality of the instruments away from the sound that reaches the audience. I understand they didn’t bother to do any work on the acoustic performance of the space, and didn’t it show. No life, no vibrance and no resonance to enhance the sounds coming from the players. It must have been quite dispiriting for them. Ships and Ha’porths of Tar, I think.
And now to the last of the three. I love the cello, it’s probably my favourite instrument in the orchestra. It’s the warm, autumnal, dark chocolatey sound it makes that appeals to me. And some of my favourite music for the instrument are Bach’s six Suites for solo cello. Richard Jenkinson, Principle cello with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was coming to play two of the Bach suites as well as one of Britten’s Three Suites for the instrument, a piece I’d never heard before. It was in one of the local Churches, which dates from around 1300. There were only about 50 people in the pews, but the church is quite small and it had a really pleasant feel to it all.