Music Appreciation

This group meets on the 2nd Thursday of the month at 2pm in each others' homes to relax, listen to and appreciate music in good company, 

Having started with the Desert Island Discs format, we have progressed to listening and discussing a variety of music genres, based on varied themes and artistes.

The group has enjoyed visits to concerts in Birmingham, Malvern, Bromsgrove and Kidderminster and has supported the Music for Youth sessions, performed by young people from around the country.

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Visits made by members:

What a treat there was in store for our visit to The Artix in Bromsgrove.  Julian Lloyd Webber, patron of the Birmingham Conservatoire since the summer of 2015 presented the first Classical Showcase.

Brilliant students studying in Birmingham presented pieces that they had chosen:  Luke English played pieces from Debussy and Malcolm Arnold on the clarinet.  From Yu-Mein Sun we heard Heinrich Ernst's The Last Rose of Summer and pieces by Chopin and Tchaikovsky.  The pianist Domonkos Csabay played Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio, The Three New Etudes from Chopin and Hugarian Peasant Songs from Bela Bartok.

The soprano Caroline Modiba, with Luigi Carroccia on the piano entertained us with pieces from Schubert, Richard Strauss, An die nacht and Cacitie and ended with Je veux vivre by Charles Gounod.  Amazing musical work from the next world wide generation of musicians.

In September 2017 the Conservatoire is moving to the UK's first purpose built digital building, costing £57M, situated on Jenners st, Birmingham.  Together with the Dance and Drama departments it will be part of Birmingham University.  The state of the art acoustical quality will offer world class facilities to world wide students of future generations.  Visitors are welcome to the building and to hear the many future concerts that will be held there.

We were privileged to hear, in the Symphony Hall, on Sunday afternoon, three of the most famous Brass Bands in the country.  The Foden Band, the Cory Band and the Black Dyke Band.  All 3 bands plus many others had competed at the annual British Championships held in the Hall on the Saturday.

The programmes from the Foden and Black Dyke bands were captivating, including pieces written by band members for the competition.

But the highlight of the afternoon was listening to the 8 times top ranked band in the World Brass Band Championships; the Cory Brass band from a small village Ystrad near Treorchy, South Wales.

This band had, the day before won the British Open Championship.  This year they hold the titles of being,  European Champions, British Open Champions, Brass in Concert Winners and winners of the National Championships, a feat not achieved by a Brass band before in any year.

As part of Saturday's competition, some of the band members won as being the best soloists on the Euphonium, Cornet and the Flugal horn.  Three music compositions by members also won awards.

The Cory Band's Musical Director and Conductor, Philip Harper won the honour of being awarded," Conductor of the Year"

The bands assembled at the end for an amazing finale, what a concert in a magnificent venue!

 

What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  On a visit to the Artrix in Bromsgrove to see  the Andre Rieu 2016 Maastricht Concert via Satellite.

You just felt that you were sitting in the medieval town square, Rieu's home town, right in front of the stage.  People from around the world had gathered to hear his beautiful "Waltz Orchestra", the ladies of the orchestra in beautiful ballgowns against the stage backdrop that changed with every piece of music.   Items such as The Blue Danube to My Fair Lady, Ravel's Bolero, to Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro sung by a stunning soprano star from Brazil.

The Bolero tune was very moving played by a father and two sons as the percussionists.  The Radetzky March by Johann Strauss Sr was just amazing.  The encore was almost as long as the second half of the concert.                   Andre Rieu  promises and delivers an unforgettable musical experience full of humour, fun and incredible emotion for all ages.   Looking forward to the screening of his Christmas concert.

 

A year has passed and it is time for the Music for Youth Festival held in Birmingham Symphony Hall and Town Hall.  It is like enjoying a weeks holiday, just relaxing in lovely surroundings enjoying fantastic, all produced by the next generation of music lovers.

Junior and Senior choirs, Brass and Wind Bands, full orchestras, Jazz, Pop and Rock, ethnic music, there was something in every genre.

A lovely showcase of music both inside the halls and outside in Centenary Square to show that all music genres are safe in the hands of the next generation.

 

On a glorious English Summer's day, group members plus members of the Singing groups visited Edward Elgar's House and Museum at Lower Broadheath, Worcester.

The visit was perfect with sunshine, a typical English cottage garden in full bloom, beautiful music and lashings of tea and cake.

We began with viewing a film of Elgar's life, followed the timeline exhibition full of his memorabilia, all of which had been given to the museum by his daughter Carice.  A tour around his house full of artifacts, clothing, personal belongings and photographs, including ones taken with  famous musicians of the time.  A seat on the bench by the side of Elgar himself made the day!  With the Malvern Hills in the distance no wonder his music was so beautiful and English.  A perfect summer's afternoon.!

 

Members made a return visit to hear the local West Midlands Light Orchestra perform real   "Get you in the mood for Christmas"  music.  As usual it was held in Stourport Manor Hotel, no long journey, no parking charges, perfect.

This year Claire Worboys joined the other soloists Garry Holloway and Rebecca Grace.  A variety of Christmas songs and carols were included on the programme.  Some special numbers were included to pay homage to the great Frank Sinatra, who was born 100 years ago on this date.  Many favourites like, Irving Berlin's Blue Skies, Cole Porter's I get a Kick out of you.  Les Pursey's arrangement of Silent Night and White Christmas, New York New York and  Mel Torme's The Christmas Song all gave variety to the lovely programme.

 

It was a horrible wet afternoon, so what better way to spend the time, but to listen to the Nostalgia Swing band playing some beautiful old songs.  Songs like; Summertime, Moon River, The Sandman, True Love and many more.  A soloist accompanied the band for many of the pieces.The Nostalgia Swing Band play for donations which are given to Russell's Hall Hospital charity.

Following the music and singing, we are then served with a traditional afternoon tea by the ladies of St James' Church in Blakedown.  A very enjoyable relaxing afternoon!

 

We made a return visit to the Birmingham Symphony Hall to hear and see the Spectacular Classics Concert.  Featuring the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Choir, the choice of music pieces were just stunning.  To names a few:  Rossini's William Tell Overture,  Jenkins's Benedictus from the Armed Man, Strauss's Blue Danube Waltz.  Also the Grand March from Aida, O soave fanciulla from La Boheme and Bizet's Farandole from L'arlesienne.

A beautiful rendition of Elgar's Nimrod was dedicated, by the conductor, Anthony Inglis to the victims and families who had suffered in the Paris tragedy the day before.  A very moving few minutes.

Another beautiful piece was the performance by the orchestra and choir of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.   The tenor soloist, Mario Sofroniou gave a gorgeous rendition of Nessun Dorma. 

The evening ended by everyone waving flags, singing Rule Britannia! and Land of Hope & Glory, a few times, which was followed by an explosive 1812 Overture complete with cannon effects, laser lights and a firework finale plus a few encores!     A brilliant concert!!!

 

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous, and off to The Artrix in Bromsgrove to join in the very special 40th anniversary presentation of The Rocky Horror Show.

Getting there early, we watched the audience arriving in full costume as is expected at a performance of this show.  Basques, fishnet stockings, suspenders were the order of the day.

  For the first time in 20 years, Richard O'Brien appeared on stage as the narrator, of his inspired spoof horror creation.   Joined by many special guests, they and the audience sang their way through the timeless classics, Sweet Transvestite, Dammit Janet and of course the largest pelvic thrusting worldwide Time Warp ever to make Rocky history.  Once again bringing the amazing Dr Frank N Furter and his spooky servant Riff Raff to change the lives of the young innocent Brad and Janet.

Still the world's favourite rock ' n' roll musical 40 years on, hailed by critics, adored by fans and still has audiences rolling in the aisles. 

 

Memories of long ago were revived when we went to Malvern Theatre to see the National Gilbert & Sullivan Opera company together with the National Festival Orchestra present their production of The Mikado.  What a very special treat, all brought up to date by the High Executioner's song.   Nanki-Poo, Yum-Yum and  Ko-Ko were polished, zany and camp.   Delighful singing, especially the Three Little Maids by this very talented cast.

 

What a lovely way to spend a summer evening, listening to the West Midland Light Orchestra.  They played a varied programme of musical numbers, from Spring is Here, Ten Cents a Dance by Richard Rogers.  Songs by Marvin Hamlisch, Johnny Dankworth, Jerry Herman and Cole Porter. 

Instrumental pieces, included ones by Bernstein, John Williams, Duke Ellington's "I've got it Bad" with an excellent trombone solo by Colin Howard.  The vocalists were Becky Grace and Garry Holloway, who sang an arrangement of "The Best of Times is Now" by Phil Rawle, a orchestra member.   Next concert  Sunday 13th December at Stourport Manor Hotel.

Members enjoyed a lovely week attending the Music For Youth National Festival 2015 held everyday in the Symphony Hall and Town Hall in B'ham.

The journey is now perfected to the last minute!!! shared cars to Galton road, no 9 bus, free, down to Broad street and walk straight into Symphony hall before the first school is on stage at 10.15am.  No hassle!!

Members all agreed that the standard had improved again from last year, the children were so enthusiatic and proficient.  We heard Junior and Senior choirs, Brass bands, Wind bands, full orchestras, and Jazz groups, from all around England.  The groups were mentored by professionals at the end of each session, many times the comment was, "the pieces were played as if by professional musicians"  What an achievment by students 8 - 18 years old.

As long as there are dedicated music teachers / conductors like those we saw, all genres of music is safe in the hands of this generation.

 

A well deserved standing ovation for the production of "The Rise and Fall of Little Voice" at B'ham Repertory Theatre.  The staging and production was adventurous and it worked.

The casting of Vicky Entwistle (Janice Battersby) the mother of Little Voice and of Chris Gascoyne (Peter Barlow)  as the musical agent; who both had acted together in Coronation St was a stroke of genius, they were so natural with each other throughout.

Little Voice was played by West End performer Nancy Sullivan, who not only has a brilliant singing voice of her own, but who had mastered the many voices of the older singers that she portrayed on stage.

What a lovely way to spend an evening - in the company of Julian Lloyd Webber, his wife Jiaxin and pianist Pam Chowhan.

Listening to him talking about his life from the age of 5, he was playing then a 1/10th size cello.  He talked about his scholarship days and all his musical friends that he lodged with such as John Lill.  Excerpts from concerts and family photographs appeared on the large screen, giving such an insight into this amazing musician's life and career, so cruelly cut short

All the musical pieces were performed by Jiaxin and by Pam, pieces such as Philip Glass Tissue no.2, his brother's composition Music of the Night from Phantom and part of the Rachmaninoff Concerto for Piano and Cello.

All through he spoke so warmly of his father who composed music for the cello and of the achievements of his brother.  During the question and answer session,Julian spoke about one of his special concerts, playing Elgar's cello Concerto with Yehudi Mehenuin conducting.  It was Julian Lloyd Webber who played the theme tune for TV's South Bank Show.

We listened to him playing Ravel's Bolero and accompanying songs with Cleo Lane.  He spoke about the many worldwide concerts performing with the jazz violinist, Stephane Grappelli.

But the best was to come at the end, when he took his wife's cello and played The Swan by Saint Saens,  there was not a dry eye in the theatre.  Magical!!

 

We are so fortunate to live close to 2 of the greatest concert venues in Europe - The Symphony Hall and Birmingham Town Hall.   Having been on the "behind the scenes" tour of the Symphony Hall, this time we joined the tour of the Town Hall.

Built at a cost of £25,000 and £7,000 for the land, the Hall was designed by Joseph Hansom of the "Cab" fame.  It was based on the Temple of Castor and Pollux in Rome.

Opened in October 1834 the profits were donated to the General Hospital who in return commissioned the installation of the organ, which was funded by public subscription at a cost of £3,000.

Built using Anglesey limestone, brought by river and canal boats from the quarry, it stood out in the then Town centre with its surrounding characteristic fluted columns,  It is used for Classical and Light music concerts, Pop concerts, Comedy shows and Sporting events as well as many Corporate events.  Through the 20thC it was the place to be seen, not only for the rich but for the working class of Birmingham who could enjoy many musical concerts and tea dances.

In 1996 the Hall was closed and a £35 million, 11 year refurbishment took place on the Grade 1 listed building.  Many of the original features were saved, the "wedding cake" architrives and the 100 yr old Canadian maple flooring.

On hand to demonstrate the organ's features was this year's chosen Birmingham Conservatoire student, Sarko from Japan.  It was a delight to hear and watch her play this special organ.

 

Beautiful sunshine, pretty village church and tingling sound of classical guitars!!

We gathered to hear a concert, part classical pieces and part film and TV themes played by the Stableford Guitar Trio.

It seemed so simple and easy but was assured by knowledgeable people present that it is very difficult to play these guitars.

The classical pieces chosen included a Spanish piece, Arena Y Sol by Gammie and 2 pieces written by JS Bach, Sleepers Awake and Adagio Cantata no. 156.  Two compositions written by a famous mandolin player, Leonhard De Call,  a beautiful Andante, Minuetto & Trio for 3 guitars and a lovely piece, Adagio and Rondo for 3 guitars.

The second half included the haunting Cavatina made famous by John Williams in the film The Deer Hunter,  the very difficult medley of James Bond themes was brilliant.  A piece by Jay Unger, the Ashokan Farewell was used in the recent US Civil War TV programmes, was very well received.

The finale was a piece arranged the players' teacher Brian Perkins,  Lennon and McCartney Yesterday and "I don't know how to love him" from Evita.

 A lovely way  to spend an afternoon, no cares or worries!! just lost in the music.

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday afternoon!  We went to the Artrix in Bromsgrove to see the Vienna Festival Ballet 35th Anniversary Gala, and what a treat it was.

The event presented excerpts from the best loved Tchaikovsky's ballets.  Highlights included the moment when Odette falls in love with her Prince in Swan Lake.  Clara's journey to a glittering land of snow in The Nutcracker's Waltz of the White Snowflakes.  The Rose Adagio from Sleeping Beauty where Princess Aurora is introduced to the four princes.

There was a beautiful sequence to the music of George Gershwin's Rapsody in Blue which contrasted well with the contemporary Hip Hop scene from Snow White.  The Pas de Deux from Coppelia was lovely.  The whole cast came together for the Grand Finale to music from Snow White.

What super local talent we have.  We went to Hartlebury Village hall to a concert given by The Crown Phoenix Big Band.  Seventeen excellent musicians, one enthusiastic conductor and Julie Knight, their vocalist.  The tune came from the 1920s composers through to the 40's music of Glenn Miller,  real big band stuff!!  Every composer was represented, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Gershwin,  Sam Nestico, Neal Hefti, Count Basie and Duke Ellington to name a few.  Julie sang a delightfully arranged, "Someone to watch over you" also "The Lady and the Tramp" amongst many more.  Compered by ITV's Peter Tomlinson who held the items together with snippets of music history, a great evening of talent all for £5!!  Roll on the next concert!

We attended the "The Drop of Life concert" at the Symphony Hall, it was arranged by the Severn Trent company choir.  This choir had originally appeared on Gareth Malone's TV programme where he arranged for company choirs to be formed ending in a concert at the Royal Albert Hall.  The charity evening was raising money and awareness for "Water Aid which provides clean water to the poorest people in Africa and Asia.

Birmingham City Gospel choir soon had the audience participating.  London City Choir was made up of employees from 18 nationalities singing with beautiful voices.  Next the Manchester Airport Choir entertained with, "Total Eclipse of the Heart, Bright Eyes, Fly me to Moon and Let it Be"

The Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service with their rich warm voices sang a really energetic version of "Stand by Me" with beautiful harmonies.  They then performed the Bruce Springsteen tribute song that he wrote in memory of all the emergency and military personnel who lost their lives on 9-11 day.  The audience seemed to be holding their breath!

Severt Trent had improved so much since formed, they sang with such beautiful harmonies;  especially in Man in the Mirror.

Together with the choirs, appeared very talented pianists and enthusiastic conductors, especially Rory Edwards.

David and Carrie Grant were the concert hosts and together sang acapello a lovely arrangement of Only You.  For the finale all the choirs came together to sing Drop of Life written by 2 members of the Severn Trent choir.  A very fitting end.

Fabulous, Fantastic Amazing experience was appreciated by all who attended the Last Night of the Spring Proms at the Symphony Hall.  For the first time, for all of us, we sat in the choir section behind the London Concert Orchestra performers.  To see the conductor, Anthony Inglis conducting his musicians was a thrill, and to be so close to them especially the percussion section gave us a new perspective of such a classical concert.

Pieces were varied from Rossini's William Tell Overture, Mussorgsky's Great Gate of Kiev to wonderful duets from the tenor, John Hudson and baritone, Stephen Gadd, performing the aria from the Pearl Fishers and Nessun Dorma.  The amazing spine chilling performance of Ravel's Bolero silenced the audience almost into disbelief as to what they were hearing.  Brilliant!!!

Of course no Proms night would be complete without the music of the Hornpipe,  Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory.  Our flag waving skills and singing were well practised!!

 A group of us attended the British debut concert of 2 German and 2 Slovinian young men who showed their versatility on the Baritone, tenor, alto and soprano saxophones.  The accoustics in Birmingham Town Hall are such that microphones are not needed.

The SIGNUM quartet perform without music scores , giving the ensemble artistic freedom on stage, thus allowing the audience to experience classical music in a different way.  The quartet's energy and flair provides a breath of fresh air on the classical music scene.  The joy of the versatility of the ensemble is demonstrated by their innovative programme, ranging from transcriptions from every era as well as premieres of works dedicated to them and others  arranged by them.  The audience called for many encores which were well received.

The group celebrates St David's Day.  Following a wonderful celebration of this day last year, the precedent was set.  Our Welsh lunch of Cawl,  Welsh cheeses and speciality breads was followed by Welsh cakes and fresh fruit salad.   A feast fit for St David himself, all made by a member of our group.  Thank you.

A short walk followed, to Areley Kings village hall where we were entertained by the Areley Kings Players.  This year the pantomime was The Snow Queen.  Written by members of the AKP, it contained all the items necessary to make an excellent panto.  Baddies, Goodies, Penguins, a Local Hero, Fairies and of course deliberate mistakes.  Beautiful costumes, sound effects and lovely scenery all made for an exciting performance.

This group raises thousands of pounds each for local charites.  Looking forward to next year!

 

Visits made by members in 2014  

A lovely way to begin Christmas celebrations.  Listening to beautiful music in the wonderful surroundings of the Witley Baroque Church.  The Advent Sunday service of readings and music were all taken from Handel's Messiah.  The arias were sung by very talented soloists, accompanied by John Jenkin on the piano.

 

What a super way to spend an afternoon!  Eleven of us attended a Concert and Afternoon Tea event organised to raise funds for the Churches of Blakedown and Churchill.

The Nostalgia Swing Band from Wolverhampton entertained us with many well known songs from the Big Band era.  With space to have a dance, Stella and Roy showed their versatility by dancing the foxtrot throu to the Cha cha cha!

Then followed a sumptuous traditional afternoon tea, it was lovely to be waited on!  All the food having been made by the ladies of the village.

 

Imagine going to hear Georges Bizet's opera Carmen, being sung in English!  We had the pleasure of hearing this opera performed by the Mid Wales Opera company accompanied by the Mid Wales Opera Chamber Orchestra, at the Artrix Theatre in Bromsgrove.  This intense and intimate opera was directed by Jonathan Miller with the translation by comedian, Rory Bremner.

Bizet's masterpiece is the tale of the captivating temptress Carmen, who seduces the naive Don Jose.  She leads him through a journey of love, betrayal and jealously ending in tragedy when, in a passionate rage, Don Jose, dramatically shoots Carmen.

This production was exciting, moving and seemed more emotional with  being sung in English.  A very enjoyable evening.

 

A new venue recently visited by some of the group - Palace Theatre, Redditch; a small very comfortable theatre owned by the town council.

We attended a production by Heritage Opera in Concert, "A Passion for Opera"  It took us on a tour of the operatic and musical theatre world.  The singers were all Heritage Opera professional soloists.  The concert offered first time opera goers & experienced aficionados to hear many favourite moments from the great operas.

The programme included excerpts from Rigoletto, La Traviata, Madam Butterfly, Carman, Barber of Seville  and a few numbers from Gilbert & Sullivan's Porgy & Bess & the Mikado.

Mark Cunningham sang the now very recognisable football World Cup anthem, Nessa Dorma, while Imogen Garner, a mettzo soprano and Thomas Eaglan joined to sing some beautiful duets.  The duet from the Pearl Fishers  was sung by tenor Mark and the bass voice of Tom Eaglan.  The singers were accompanied  by talented pianist, Benjamin Cox.  Altogether a very stress free entertaining evening.

 

MFY -   MUSIC FOR YOUTH  National Festival 2014

During the week long festival held in the Symphony Hall and Birmingham Town Hall we attended many sessions ranging from School Choirs to Brass Bands, Jazz groups to Wind Bands and School Orchestras.  We also visited some of the outdoor activities in Victoria Square.

The standards set by the performing groups seemed to be higher than ever.  Many of their music selections included arrangements by the student membersIt was also noticeable how many of the performing students had actually written pieces to be played and some students were even showing off their talents by conducting their group.

The guest professional musicians who had the task of adjudicating at the end of each session were commenting that some of the bands were presenting programmes of a standard worthy of professional orchestras, such was the high standard.

With students from all around England and Wales aged 8-21 who showed such a love and commitment to music, it was such an inspiration to all in the audience.  What a lovely way to spend your day in the beautiful setting of Birmingham Symphony Hall and the newly refurbished Birmingham Town Hall.

 

"Crazy For You" by George Gershwin, performed by the Bromsgrove Operatic Society at the Artrix Theatre, Bromsgrove.

This was an exciting fast moving show featuring a host of memorable great tunes; "I got Rhythm, Naughty Baby, Someone to watch over Me and Embraceable You"

It was a great high energy show with its plot of comedy mistaken identity, storyline twists and fabulous dance numbers together with lovely costumes.

The Operatic Society can be proud of their performance by their members who so enjoyed the evening along with the audience.  The accompanying orchestra was an added bonus, such talented musicians.  A great evening's entertainment enjoyed by all!!

 

" The Village that sings"   Cookley Community Choir, under the leadership of Mr. H. McNeil produced some beautiful sounds at a recent concert in St George's Church in Kidderminster.

The programme had a selection of songs from a spiritual number "I'm Goin' up a Yonder" to The Shepherds Song, The Rainbow Connection, Beauty and the Beast and Oklahoma.  To remember WW1 the audience played their part in singing Wartime songs.

The choir was joined by three vocal soloists and an amazing Cookley lady, Margaret Bowman who is a very accomplished flautist, her solo was breathtaking.

The vocal soloist David Lawrence has had a very successful career from appearing with the famous Moscow State Circus, where he trained for 3 years in Russian.  He has numerous appearances to his name on BBC TV, radio, Cabaret, touring on sea and land  playing the lead roles in many well known musicals and is no stranger to the West End.

The female soloist Sally McNeil is currently studying Musical theatre at Birmingham Ormiston Academy and has already appeared in productions in the West End and in the Symphony Hall.

The other soloist was 17year old Brad Walwyn, what a future he has, singing with such great maturity.  He too studies at Birmingham, but has already taken many roles in a number of musical productions around the Midlands.

The concert finale was a selection of pieces from the ever popular Les Miserables, Claude-Michel-Schonberg musical.  David sang a very moving "Bring Him Home, Sally sang "On My Own" and Brad gave a stunning rendering of "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.

The Community Choir finished off with "I Dreamed a Dream" and  "One Day More"

 

Our long awaited wish to join a tour around Birmingham Symphony Hall was full of expectations and we were not disappointed.

Opened in June 1991 by the Queen and now a venue for over 450 events each year.  Built at a cost of £30 million.  The interior was modelled on the Musikverein in Vienna and the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam.  The design by Renton Howard Wood Levin is considered to be the finest in the world because of its acoustic flexibility.

The acoustics can be changed to suit any music genre, via wall blocks, the reverberation chambers, the positioning of acoustic doors and the magnificent acoustic canopy which can sit high up on the ceiling or be lowered to 10ft of the stage to suit the sound needed.  Even the chairs are furnished with sound absorbing material.  A noise of a pin being dropped onto the stage can be heard on the back row seats of the upper circle!

The hall design included sitting the whole of the building on rubber blocks to minimise the vibration and to deaden the sound from the railway line which ran under the building.

The 6000 pipe organ was built by Johannes Klais Orgelbau of Bonn.  It was specially designed to take advantage of the reverberation chambers and the unique features of the the hall's acoustic design.  Built in Bonn it was then reassembled over 2 summers in 2000/2001 into the Hall.  The pipes vary in size from one centimetre to the largest at 32feet.

Roger our guide showed us around the huge backstage area, which is 50% of the size of the auditorium, and it is as clean and tidy as though it was opened yesterday, not a cable insight!  We went into the dressing rooms, all ensuite and with all having its own piano!  The grand piano storage room, heated and humidity controlled contained 2 Steinbeck's and 2 Yamaha's that guests can choose to use for their event, the pianos are retuned to the users' preferences each time.

The highlight of the visit was meeting a 20yr old young man, Alex Jones, a student of Henry Fairs at the Birmingham Conservatoire, on a 4 year scholarship.  One of the most talented organ players in the UK despite his young age, he has guested in every major hall in the UK.  He played examples of composers' works to show the versatility of the organ, truly breathtaking!

At the moment Alex is writing his own pieces for the organ and arranging other composers' works for his concert at the Birmingham Symphony Hall in 2015.  "Remember his Name"

Our group had waited a long time to secure places on this tour and our expectations were realised.  We experienced a fantastic event and realised how proud we were to have Birmingham Symphony  Hall on our doorstep.

 

A trip to Areley Kings Village Hall to see Ali Baba and His 40ish Thieves, presented by the amateur group the Areley Kings Players caused some speculation as to what we were going to experience!!

What an evening, we were entertained from the opening scene to the finale by a very professional group of actors.  The costumes, scenery, the acting and dancing were first class.  We laughed so much the tears rolled down our faces.  The script was unique, written by a local couple, full of local and topical references.  The character actors ranging from the youngest about 4 years old to many in their third age performed with such confidence.

We are already looking forward to next year's production.

"MUSTAFA GOTTA GO NOW"

 

Visits made by members during 2013

Members visited the Symphony Hall in February to hear the wonderful group of Opera stars;  "Amore"  Monica and Victoria, soprano and mezzo soprano; David  tenor and Peter  baritone.

Together with the Manchester Concert Orchestra they gave an enchanting evening of much loved classics and favourite romantic arias from Lakme, Romeo & Juliet, La Traviata, Carmen and many others.

 

Members recently attended a concert presented by Stourport Choral Society.  What a joy!

Titled, "Made in England" it was a collection of songs by English composers, ranging from Traditional folk songs to the wonderful music of Vaughan-Williams and Elgar to Andrew Lloyd Webber.  A riotous romp through the Pirates of Penzance & a medley of many of the Beatles songs  by Lennon & McCartney were all enjoyed.  The mood changed with the beautiful music & lyrics of Greensleeves, We'll Gather Lilacs & Basil Hood's English Rose & Parry's I Was Glad.

The very talented pianist, Angela Allard was outstanding in her accompaniment of Bohemian Rhapsody & the Musical Director Alastair Elliot was at his best.

 

For the second year running the members have attended the National Youth Festival of Music, held in Birmingham.  Schools throughout England were at the finals following the regional heats in April.  We attended everyday from Wednesday to Saturday at the Symphony Hall and even went to the Adrian Boult Hall this year.

The standard, confidence and professionalism of the young people from the age of 8 to 21 was outstanding.  The mentors who gave comments after each section, time and again mentioned that the orchestras were as good if not better than professional players.  The variety of programmes of the choirs, wind bands, brass bands and orchestras was very varied which added to the excitement. 

With the future of music being in the hands of these most capable of young people then there is so much to look forward to in the future.

 

Members made the short trip to the Artrix Theatre in Bromsgrove to attend a concert given by The Treorchy Male Choir.  This choir was reformed in 1946 under the baton of  John Haydn Davies, who was guest conductor at this performance.  This very famous choir has made countless appearances around the world, has the highest number of wins at the Welsh Eisteddfod and more than 60 commercial recordings.

The programme began with "Men of Harlech" and produced an overwhelming wall of sound.  The evening continued with a vast variety of numbers; Aria from the Pearl Fishers, the Chess Anthem, Loch Lomond, many pieces sung in the Welsh language, You Raise me Up, Nesse Dorma and Ivor Novello's We'll Gather Lilacs.  The audience had their chance to join in "My My My Deliah" now famously sung  at  sports fixtures in Cardiff's Millenium Stadium.  The finale was a wonderful selection of numbers taken from Les Miserables.  The choir members were able to deliver such a cross section of music genres with emotion, clarity and enthusiasm.  The female soloist Ros Evans added much Welsh humour to the programme.

The programme ended with the collective singing of "God Save the Queen" and the Welsh Anthem, "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau"  Land of My Fathers.

An evening of truly uplifting and inspiring song arrangements.

 

WOW! Wow! Wow!  Members were present at the Malvern Forum Theatre to hear the debut performance of Alexander Armstrong  (Pointless host) and his Band.  In this concert he celebrates his love of music and great British songs, in stunning new arrangements.  The acclaimed comedian, actor, and presenter introduced us to the songs he loves; Spandau Ballet's True, Lullaby of Birdland, Prefab Sprout's Halleluja, Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Nightingale sang in Berkeley Square; together with jazz standards and rock classics.  With his quirky humour between songs and his exceptional versatile band he breathed new life into a diverse range of songs, using his amazing powerful baritone voice.  His musicians, included Jools Holland's double bass player, Van Morrison's drummer, a musical director whose saxophone playing was sublime.  The pianist managed to play 3 tunes selected by the audience in at least 8 genres of music, including jazz, reggae, Elgar, ragtime, just amazing!  The concert ended with Richard Osman's favourite song, When the Thames Froze.

 

When we recently visited the newly renovated Birmingham Town Hall, the scene inside wowed us all.  Decorated in different shades of blue, the seats included it gave out an aura of peace and calm.  We went to hear the beautiful voice of Barbara Dickson and she did not disappoint.  She last performed in this venue in 1976 and two of our group were there on that occasion, what memories!

Barbara's latest CD includes many numbers made famous by the late Jerry Rafferty, and she performed a few of them including The Family Tree and Baker St.  The programme was very diverse, with songs from the musicals, Blood Brothers and Evita, and from The Beatles.

She played not only the keyboard but the Uillean Pipes and Indian Harmonium.  Two lovely items were Caravan and the Waters of Forgetfulness which she sang with the pianist Nick Holland.  One beautiful haunting piece was written by Vaughan Williams from a french poem, Sky above the Roof, accompanied by guitars and pipes.  Another very moving song was taken from a poem by Brecht, about a soldier's wife in WW11.  A very uplifting and at the same time reflective concert.

 

What a lovely way to begin Christmas festivities, with a visit to Malvern Forum Theatre to a Christmas Music afternoon.  A collection of carols, readings and music, which included excepts from Handel's Messiah including the Hallelujah Chorus.  The Peoples' Orchestra conducted by Christopher Rawley performed alongside the soprano Sophie Pullen and trumpet soloist Paul Archibald.  There were readings of Lord Tennyson's poem "Ring Out Wild Bells", and "Twas the night before Christmas" poem, by Clement Clarke Moore.

Lovely excerpts were played from the 4th Symphony by the English composer William Boyce.  Malvern Festival Chorus led the audience in the singing of popular Christmas Carols.  The performance ended with mulled wine and mincepies.