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Concert Review 2nd March 2024

We set off on a cold and bleak Saturday evening to the Great Hall at the University of Lancaster, thankfully to be warmed to the core by an engaging programme with the promise of better days to come. It was excellently performed by the Haffner Orchestra and their guest soprano, April Koyejo- Audiger, conductor Alex Robinson and leader Julian Cann The hall was packed with an audience consisting of all ages and it was great to see how well loved and supported our local orchestra is by the people of Lancaster.

Debussy’s sensual tone poem Prelude a l’apres midi d’un faune was the first piece to evoke the heady warmth of a summer afternoon. The faun is a mythical flute playing beast, half man and half goat remembering or perhaps dreaming of two nymphs. The faun is introduced by a haunting, sinuous solo flute. Christine Lorriman’s tone was gorgeous in this very exposed start to the piece. The flute is soon joined by interweaving wind instruments, shimmering harps and tremolo from the strings. A sumptuous start to our evening.

The next piece, Les nuits d’ete by Berlioz further took us to the heady days of summer with love in the air. These songs were settings of six poems describing the highs and lows of love. Our soloist, April, magically reflected this with a voice that ranged from the deepest depths of despair to the heights of ecstasy. She had beautiful stage presence, and captured the powerful emotions of the piece. For those that went to the pre -concert talk it was a pleasure to hear both April and the conductor, Alex Robinson speak of their love for this piece of music. It was also surprising that April learnt the piece by ear, feeling that this approach in some way ingrains it into your very being. The orchestra supported April sensitively and we certainly felt the heat of those summer nights and our heart strings being pulled in every direction.

Elgar’s Enigma Variations in the second half took us away from French composers and poetry, but it continued a theme of music written as tone poems. Each section of the piece is a musical portrait of a friend of Elgar and as every person is different the sections vary from light-hearted to warm or sometimes poignant.  All parts of the orchestra get a chance to shine. We catch glimpses of the theme throughout but it is a pleasure to hear the full force of the orchestra as it builds to the well-known Nimrod describing Elgar’s great friend A.J.Jaeger on their walks and talks in the Malvern hills. The orchestra enjoyed playing this piece and that feeling was transmitted to the audience.

A truly lovely evening and thankfully the promise of warmth, love and friendship was met by a glorious spring day on the Sunday following the concert.

Siobhan Tough


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