Sinfonietta is birthday present

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Northumbria Sinfonietta in concert at St Michael’s Church, Alnwick.

The concert given by the Northumbria Sinfonietta in St Michael’s Church, Alnwick was a Celebration Concert, with profits going to support the church’s charities.

It was the conductor of the orchestra, Bryan Jackson’s 75th birthday and 70 years since he started playing the violin, although on this occasion, he left that to the guest soloist Gina McCormack.

The concert got off to a splendid start with a lively rendition of Otto Nicolai’s Overture ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’, based on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

Later, we heard music composed for a production of Henry Irving’s version of Henry VIII with three very English dances: Morris Dance, Shepherds’ Dance and Torch Dance.

These contrasting dances gave different parts of the orchestra the opportunity to shine.

The final item was Joseph Haydn’s Symphony no 100, subtitled ‘The Military’, which derived from the second movement where, for the first time, the triangle and symbols were used in an orchestral work.

Despite one or two hesitant moments, especially in the slower sections of the symphony, the orchestra was in good form, especially as it only has two rehearsals before the performance.

Undoubtedly, though, the highlight of the evening was the performance of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

Gina McCormack, the soloist and for many years leader of the Sorrel Quartet, is now leader of Matthew Bourne’s Ballet Orchestra.

She regularly gives recitals with her pianist colleague, Nigel Clayton, and they are performing in Melrose and Haddington later this year.

Like many professional musicians, she also loves playing concertos and these are quite often with amateur orchestras.

Her love of the music came across from her first entry and her ‘joie de vivre’ was infectious, with the orchestra responding.

The enthusiastic applause at the end showed how much the audience enjoyed the performance.

Bryan thanked the orchestra members, who come at their own expense, and Gina for making his 75th birthday concert so special.

We are privileged in Alnwick and the surrounding area to have this amateur orchestra, as well a number of choral groups and choirs.

In addition, professional musicians come to the perform as part of the Alnwick Music Society.

Last weekend, amateurs and professionals combined when the Fieri Consort lead a workshop for local amateur singers on Saturday, who then performed three items with the professional singers at the Sunday afternoon concert in St Paul’s Church.