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Beenham wind orchestra returns with a spring in its step

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Beenham Wind Orchestra Spring Concert at St Mary's Church, Thatcham, on Saturday, February 12. Review by Derek Ansell.

A spring concert in February might appear a little early, but then Covid has thrown many organisations out of kilter. This was Beenham Wind Orchestra's orchestra’s return to music-making in front of a live audience. It was also an occasion to mark the retirement of their long-term conductor Robert Roscoe.

He chose to start proceedings with a sprightly reading of Bach’s Fugue a la Gigue. Woodwind began, followed by brass - all played with a steady, loping rhythm. Counterpoint neatly executed.

Robert Roscoe, picture Fiona Bennett
Robert Roscoe, picture Fiona Bennett

The orchestra continued with Holst’s Second Suite in F, Roscoe coaxing a bright open sound and good attack from the players. This composition in four movements is based on six folk songs. Manhattan , by Philip Sparke, featured Andy Smets as trumpet soloist, his lines mellow on the Serenade before he played a galloping horn on the Scherzo. Colonial Song by Percy Grainger had a pastoral melody from the woodwind, rich brass following and an explosive finish.

Excerpts from Stravinsky’s The Firebird may not have been the longest piece played, but it was certainly the loudest. This allowed the six-person percussion section to flex their drum, cymbal, triangle and other rhythmic instrument muscles.

The first half ended with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas, where the conductor brought out the best of the composition’s requirement for varying dynamics.

Beenham Wind Orchestra, picture Fiona Bennett
Beenham Wind Orchestra, picture Fiona Bennett

Dance of the Knights from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet is a stately piece of music, played with good intonation by the orchestra at a medium tempo. Love’s Enchantment by Arthur Pryor was a showcase for trombone soloist Thomas Gibbs, who performed this tricky chart with considerable skill. Percy Grainger’s Handel In The Strand cruised along at a brisk tempo, woodwind, brass and chattering percussion all playing well under Robert Roscoe’s baton. The final selection, Sparke’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes from Saint-Saens’ 3rd Symphony was played with vigour and precision.

At the end, before the encore, Mayor of Thatcham John Boyd made a presentation to Robert Roscoe.

Beenham Wind Orchestra will have quite a search on their hands to find a conductor to match Mr Roscoe.

Beenham Wind Orchestra, picture Fiona Bennett
Beenham Wind Orchestra, picture Fiona Bennett

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