E.L.O. Concert at The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh reviewed by Phil Farlow

No not a retro performance by the Electric Light Orchestra but Saturday 6th November 2010 was another occasion in the diary of James Beyer, much respected and loved conductor of the Edinburgh Light Orchestra, a 60 piece aggregation whose performances of great varieties of light music has become a must on many peoples’ calendars for a good many years now.

After a period of health concerns it was good to see Maestro Beyer back on the podium again conducting this fine collection of music makers who all help carry a very high standard of performance.

I was fortunate enough to attend part of a rehearsal earlier in the day and straight away the bond between conductor and musicians was very evident. James acting the gentle diplomat where things needed tidying up/correcting/underlining emphasis etc. for it is very much his baby and these concerts are a culmination of a great amount of work on primarily his behalf but not of course without an equal team effort of all concerned.

Programme notes are also carefully produced and edited by James and the concertgoers are gently taken through a light written history of each piece as well as the presence of his own unique introductions.

The concert started with Robert Farnon’s ‘Journey into Melody’ and from the first few bars one simply knew the standard of the concert was set. How that melody sings! Next was Eric Coates’ ‘Rediffusion March’ with all the familiar Coates signatures present and not least setting many a toe tapping. A Ted Ricketts arrangement of ‘A Tribute to Louis Armstrong’ followed, needless to say containing many of Satchmo’s hallmarks like ‘What a wonderful World’, ‘Saints’ and ‘Hello Dolly’. Then from the pen of Frank Loesser a Calvin Custer arrangement from the musical ‘Guys and Dolls’.

For vocal contrast we were treated to the charm of Mezzo-Soprano Carole Clarke, and how she shone during the three show tunes ‘On a clear day (you can see forever’) (arr. Ted Brennan), from ‘Oklahoma’ ‘I cain’t say no’ and Rodgers and Hart’s beautiful ‘Where or When’ from ‘Babes in Arms’. Both the latter arranged by Robert Russell Bennett.

Focussing back on the Edinburgh Light Orchestra, James, forever the researcher of the different had chosen next some moody but equally very listenable movements from Patrick Gowers’ Sherlock Holmes Suite: ‘221 Baker Street’, ‘Lucretia Venucci and her Family’, ‘Holmes in Europe’ and ‘Baker Street Reunion’. The programme notes surrounding the presentation of this piece were just so commendable from a music historians’ angle.

Just before the interval came Arthur Sullivan’s suite from ‘Pineapple Poll’ encapsulating as it does all the familiar and much loved melodies in an arrangement by Charles Mackerras.

Returning from the interval we were treated to Aaron Copland’s ‘Hoe-Down’ from his ‘Rodeo’; plenty of tempting opportunities here for the odd ‘ee-hah!’ As a complete contrast then came a beautiful Jay Wilbur string arrangement of C. Armstrong Gibbs ‘Dusk’. It was ‘chiefly ourselves’ next; James bravely conducted his way through a Music Hall Medley of ‘Put on your ta-ta little girlie’, ‘I’ll be your sweetheart’, ‘Somebody stole my gal’, ‘I do like to be beside the seaside’, ‘Lily of Laguna’ and for good measure we finished singing our heads off with ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’. A bit of audience participation always raises the spirits and with December not that far away this sing-song was perhaps a good opportunity to test our vocal chords for forthcoming Carol singing.

Back to the orchestra ‘proper’ again and wow! - here’s Sidney Torch’s ‘Samba Sud’ containing as this piece does, all those exciting and evocative Latin American rhythms; it was another example of James’ research into not missing opportunities of performing ‘live’ the very best in light music.
James then welcomed back onto the stage again Carole singing more show tunes; from Irving Berlin’s ‘Annie Get your Gun’ ‘You can’t get a man with a Gun’ (arr. R.R.Bennett), from Cole Porter’s ‘Born to Dance’ ‘I’ve got you under my skin’ (orchestrated by Jay Blackton) and from the pen of Noel Coward ‘I’ll see you again’ from ‘Bitter Sweet’.

The Grand Finale of this concert by James Beyer’s Edinburgh Light Orchestra was a concert orchestra selection arranged by Alfred Reed of very much the family favourite musical Oliver ! The Queen Hall, Clerk Street, Edinburgh resounded to all the familiar strains of this great Lionel Bart musical vehicle and surely warmed the full house that had attended this event on such a cold early November evening.

© Phil Farlow 2010. Reproduced with the kind permission of Phil Farlow.
Originally published in ‘Journal Into Melody’ (The official magazine of The Robert Farnon Society).

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