Review: Guildhall Orchestra opens New Year with family concert at York Barbican

Lynne Dawson: ” bewitching in an unattributed version of Goldilocks”

Review: York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican, January 4 2020

TUBBY the Tuba was the headline star and Goldilocks & the Three Bears put in an unscheduled appearance at York Guildhall Orchestra’s family concert on Saturday afternoon.

There were also sizeable selections from two musicals, Les Miserables and The Sound Of Music, while the more traditional delights of Johann Strauss the Younger added Viennese touches to the New Year hi-jinks. A good time was had by all.

Not that the YGO took its duties lightly. On the contrary, behind Simon Wright’s genial baton there lurks a hard taskmaster; he ensured his charges delivered their customary high standards.

Anyone whose 2019 was less than satisfying will have been soothed by the story of Valjean’s journey from despair to hope, evoked by the musical version of Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. YGO brought reassurance to this emotional roller-coaster: we can all now face 2020 with confidence.

So too with the Von Trapp family, whose real-life journey from Nazi Germany to liberation in the USA inspired Rodgers & Hammerstein to write The Sound Of Music60 years ago. Here we had 15 singers from York Stage Musicals (otherwise unidentified), half sopranos and half children, adding vivacity and verve to the familiar songs.

Brian Kingsley: soloist for Tubby The Tuba

Although her name unaccountably escaped mention on the front cover of the programme, YGO president Lynne Dawson’s contribution to the afternoon was invaluable, as narrator in the two children’s stories. Her charming, chameleon voices brought her characters instantly to life: we felt Tubby’s disappointments keenly.

She was partnered here by Opera North ace Brian Kingsley, the north’s finest tuba player, whose velvet tones were plaintively suggestive.

Dawson was equally bewitching in an unattributed version of Goldilocks, which amusingly made reference to other favourites such as Brahms’s Lullaby and Henry Bishop’s Home, Sweet Home. Soloists in both wind and brass were really on their toes here.

The Strauss family and Franz Lehár filled in the rest. And how. The orchestra’s kitchen department had fun popping the corks in the Champagne polka and providing fireworks for Thunder & Lightning. The brass went to town in the Tritsch-Tratsch polka and the crazy ending of Lehár’s Gold & Silver.

But it was the majestic sweep of the strings in two Strauss waltzes, The Emperor and The Blue Danube, which lives in the memory. The audience clapped heartily in the Radetzky march at the close: everyone went away happy. This event has deservedly become a New Year tradition in York.

Next up: YGO’s 40th anniversary concert at York Barbican on February 15. Don’t miss it.

Review by Martin Dreyer