On the last Saturday of July an audience of over 700 enjoyed both glorious sunshine and wonderful music as the island’s very own Symphony Orchestra gave a oustanding mid-Summer concert at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway in Havenstreet.
The orchestra dispensed with their usual concert dress and replaced them with a combination of black with splashes of colour throughout each section. Not wanting to miss out, conductor Jonathan Butcher donned both a bright red shirt and a waistcoat that would not go amiss on BBC TV’s Sewing Bee.
The music was equally colourful, opening with a French pairing of Offenbach’s Orpheus In The Underworld, with its famous Can-Can, and the little known Scènes Pittoresques by Massenet. Throughout the concert music several pieces with a railway theme were heard and why not, we were at the Stream Railway after all. The Copenhagen Steam Railway Galop, Bahn Frei! (which means Track Clear!) and Rhythm On Rails added some great fun to the programme and hats off to the percussion section for providing a combination of bells, whistles and even steam engine sounds…. created by a tank of compressed air!
Taking on both the musical direction and the compèring, Jonathan Butcher highlighted the orchestra’s tribute to HM The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee with heartfelt renditions of Nimrod from Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’, and a fantastic new arrangement of I Vow To Thee, My Country by Holst. The audience showed great respect for these two pieces and you could have literally heard that pin drop at the close of both.
On the lighter side we heard a medley of songs from Bernstein’s West Side Story, including ‘Tonight’ and ‘I Feel Pretty’ amongst many others, and also Jamaican Rumba by Arthur Benjamin which, according to the programme notes, resulted in the composer receiving a barrel of rum annually from the Jamaican Government! The second half began with the theme to Jurassic Park, by the great film composer John Williams. Special mention to the trumpets on this one, that was some playing!
To conclude the concert, the audience got their chance to participate with a tribute to ‘The Last Night of the Proms’. In fine voice, complemented by some enthusiastic flag-waving, the audience blasted out Rule Britannia! (Fantasia On British Sea Songs) and Land of Hope and Glory (Pomp & Circumstance March No.1) and eventually Jerusalem, although the orchestra sneaked in a couple of encores before that last one!
We were assured, such was the success of this concert, that the Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra will be returning to the Steam Railway on Saturday 29th July 2023. They now take a well-earned rest before returning to the Medina Theatre in November when the programme includes Vaughan Williams’ A London Symphony. Don’t forget the closing date for season ticket renewals is just two weeks today, Saturday 20th August!