17th March Concert Review


Youth Orchestra paints a Picture


The Westmorland Youth Orchestra's spring concert – "Linking Music and Art" – fizzed with innovation and inventiveness on March 17 as new Musical Director Fredrik Holm's revolution rolled on.


Images to illustrate the music were projected onto a large screen behind the 50 players, who wore bright-coloured tops; musicians stepped up to introduce each piece in their own words, while two of them took turns with the conductor's baton.


The programme ranged effortlessly over almost four centuries, from 17th century France to Japanese computer game music, via British rock and American Jazz-inspired Gershwin.


One of the highlights was Holm's own Premiere Rhapsody accompanied by a rolling projection of art from Cartmel, Milnthorpe and Moorside primary schools; pupils had listened to the work and painted what it suggested to them – stars, pollarded trees or just abstract shapes.


Coldplay's Viva la Vida was accompanied by Frida Kahlo's eponymous painting and sung confidently by percussionist Zamira Young-Andrade.


The 170-strong sellout audience, who braved a late winter blizzard to reach Kirkby Lonsdale's Queen Elizabeth School, also loved Laura Braithwaite's assured performance of a movement of a Mozart flute concerto.


Holm's first concert last year was in the form of a quiz; his next, on June 30, will be inspired by folk music from around the world. Whatever else it is, it certainly won't be dull.


Oliver Wates


30th June Concert Review

On arrival the audience was greeted by a lovely sequence of short pieces played by the string ‘feeder’ group. Fredrik Holm’s light-hearted welcome was followed by the energetic Vaughan Williams ‘English Folk Song Suite’ with some lovely woodwind solos. In contrast to this very English music was Piazzola’s ‘Libertango’ in which the syncopated rhythms were no problem to these players!


At the heart of the WYO’s most enjoyable concert were three remarkable pieces which displayed a dazzling array of talents: ‘Africa’, ‘Caprice in D’ and ‘Primo Itinere’. The first, written by Marshall McDonald, is a substantial work full of African rhythms, which were played with vigour and accuracy by the young percussionists of the orchestra, and haunting mantra-like melodies delivered by all sections. For this the orchestra was joined by the Lancaster U3A singers, also trained by WYO’s energetic and imaginative conductor Fredrik Holm. This was a strikingly successful collaboration of young and old.


‘Caprice in D’ was written by Alistair Burton, WYO’s leader, and is a sleazy, tongue-in-cheek jazzy piece with a lovely feel for orchestral colour and texture. ‘Primo Itinere’, written by clarinettist Jenny Hucknall and conducted by trumpeter Sol Russell-Cohen, is an imaginative and atmospheric piece with very English modal harmonies.


This encouragement of young composers and conductors is a wonderful initiative by WYO. The reception accorded these performances, along with the award to Alistair Burton for the most outstanding contribution to the orchestra in the last year, is evidence of WYO’s continuing success.


Ian Jones