THIS summer concert in the marquee at Shiplake was a departure from the norm, the opportunity being taken to combine the 40th anniversary of the Henley Falaise Twinning Association and the 70th of D-Day in one celebratory concert.
Henley Symphony Orchestra were joined by Chorale Interlude from Falaise, Chorale Accord from Putanges, Aliquando and members of Benson and Henley choral societies. Two orchestral pieces, Walton’s Spitfire: Prelude and Fugue and Dvorák’s Symphony No 8 in G Major were conducted by Ian Brown, Fauré’s Requiem and Rutter’s Gloria by Chris Walker.
Despite counter-attractions from Wimbledon and Brazil, the public responded in true Henley fashion: the grounds were packed with picnickers and the marquee had an audience of 400.
D-Day was recreated by the boisterous Walton, its uplifting march accompanied appropriately by the droning of planes stacking above the marquee. The second violins launched the fugue at a cracking pace, eventually yielding to a gentle interlude featuring sensitive solos from principal oboe and principal violin. The fugue struck back and the energy persisted up to the final triumphant close.
Dvorák’s symphony then transported us from the horrors of war to the ethnic rhythms and haunting melodies of Czechoslovakia. The woodwind excelled throughout and the brass had a field day with their flamboyant fanfares. The highlight came in the final movement, where the cellos, producing a fine rich tone, enjoyed one of their best opportunities in the repertoire with an account of the main theme. Its later reprise and dénouement, involving well executed clarinet and other woodwind solos, was perfectly shaped by Ian Brown.
A dead acoustic and the incessant rumbling of Heathrow-bound aircraft did little to set the scene for Fauré’s intensely personal requiem. Fortunately, the massed choirs provided ample sound to compensate, and the experienced Chris Walker united them in a creditable performance. The voice of 18-year-old Camille Nicolas was perfect for the Pie Jesu. Fabrice Pénin’s baritone voice also had a distinctive timbre especially effective in Libera me.
To round things off, mirroring the opening Walton piece, the concert ended with a vigorous performance of the first movement of Rutter’s Gloria, and the choirs and orchestra signed off with a flourish.
Henley Symphony Orchestra summer concert