Best of British
Perth Pops Orchestra & New I Voci Singers
Perth Concert Hall
reviewed by Phoebe Schuman
Using the winning formula he has applied to such remarkable effect over the years, John Christmass marked the tenth anniversary of his Best of British concerts with a program that drew a capacity house, most of whom seemed determined to have a good time. They did just that – if whole-hearted participation in community singing of pub songs is anything to go by. But there was meatier fare than “Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” and “I Do Love To Be Beside the Seaside” on offer, not least the opportunity to listen to soprano Rachelle Durkin who leaves shortly to take up a coveted scholarship at New York’s famed Metropolitan Opera. All eyes and ears were focussed on this young singer, a long-time student of Janice Taylor-Warne. Clear voiced, she was in excellent fettle, especially in “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose”.
Two short unaccompanied items, sung by the New I Voci Singers, were the highpoint of the evening with choir founder John Christmass, who is second to few and better than most as choral trainer, taking his charges through their paces. For clarity of line, quality of harmonic tissue and timbre, this was choral singing to savour. So, too, was Jenny Coleman’s beautifully considered account on the flugel horn of a transcription for the instrument of the slow movement from one of Rodrigo’s concertos for guitar. Another thoroughly worthwhile contribution was Graham Wood’s playing on the violin of Shostakovich’s “Romance” from The Gadfly. Baritone Mark Alderson, too, did well, notably in Sanderson’s Up from Somerset, sung with scrupulous attention to the composer’s requirements.
Events of this nature (requiring, as they do, the most fastidious attention to logistics to run as smoothly as they do), don’t just happen. And the attention to detail that is the hallmark of any Christmass presentation was much in evidence here. In order to create, as closely as possible, an ambience suggestive of the traditional Last Night of the London Proms (on which Best of British presentations are modelled) there were balloons aplenty, coloured streamers, Union Jacks in profusion, some hanging from the balconies, others in the form of little flags left on seats for audience members to wave about, yet more on caps and even waistcoats worn by some of the more flamboyant concertgoers – and cardboard cutouts of Coldstream Guards and Beefeaters.
David Hawkes was compere as well as giving a perhaps excessively over-the-top account of Noel Coward’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen.
The lion’s share of the conducting of the 50-strong Perth Pops Orchestra fell to Ashley Arbuckle, for many years – as concertmaster – a mainstay of the W.A.Symphony Orchestra. His clear, uncluttered beat did much to ensure the success of the evening
COPYRIGHT © September 2001 Phoebe Schuman