Alnwick, Music Society

The beautiful display of spring flowers at Bowburn Park beside Alnwick Castle.
Picture Jane Coltman
The beautiful display of spring flowers at Bowburn Park beside Alnwick Castle. Picture Jane Coltman

It was a light-hearted evening at Alnwick Recorded Music Society when members chose recordings to illustrate aspects of humour in music.

Kabalevsky’s Comedian’s Gallop was followed by a very short excerpt, the brief orchestral ‘sneeze’ from Kodaly’s Hary Janos Suite. Next came two pieces from Saint-Saens Carnival of The Animals. This was followed by Florence Foster Jenkins’ unforgettable performance of the Queen of the Night’s aria from The Magic Flute.

We then heard Malcolm Arnold’s tongue-in-cheek Grand Grand Overture, performed at one of Gerard Hoffnung’s festivals. William Walton came next with Yodelling Song, Scotch Rhapsody and Popular Song from his ground-breaking entertainment Façade, performed by Edith Sitwell and Peter Pears.

We were treated to a clever improvisation on JS Bach’s Prelude in C from the Well Tempered Clavier by Gabriela Montero, followed by a brief extract from Rodion Shchedrin’s witty ballet based on Bizet’s Carmen.

Joan Sutherland was the performer in Olympia’s aria from Offenbach’s Tales of Hofmann, in which the automaton singer runs out of steam and needs to be wound up.

JS Bach may not be famous for his sense of humour, but in his Coffee Cantata he makes fun of coffee drinking, which was highly fashionable at the time. We heard the lively final recitative and trio.

After an interval, we returned to the Hoffnung festivals, with Matyas Seiber’s accompaniment to the recitation of William McGonagall’s Tay Whale by Dame Edith Evans. This was followed by a brief choral shout from Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, introduced by the composer.

The harpsichord featured next, with George Malcolm playing JP Rameau’s La Poule with much musical clucking. Then we made a second visit to Mozart’s Magic Flute with an excerpt in which the bird catcher Papageno is reunited with his love Papagena with much joyful ‘papaing’.

After a jolly Shanty for Wind Quartet, Johnny come down to Hilo by Malcolm Arnold, we were treated to Victor Borge’s spoof on A Mozart Opera, then Mozart with Ill Wind by Flanders and Swann, a clever and amusing interpretation of the last movement of the Fourth Horn Concerto.

We then moved on to electronic music with an excerpt from Isao Tomita’s arrangement of the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks from Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition – it will never seem quite the same again.