CentralConcertLive Music/GigMusicReview

Celebrating Sinatra – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Conductor: Anthony Gabriele
Reviewer:  Selwyn Knight

It’s just over 100 years since Francis Albert Sinatra was born in Hoboken, New Jersey. His career had its ups and downs, taking in periods as a teen idol, film actor and academy award winner and elder statesman of music. Although he never learned to read music, his innate musicality made him the supreme interpreter of a song. Tonight, the London Concert Orchestra with singers Matt Ford and Emma Kershaw pays tribute with a concert of songs forever associated with Sinatra. Along the way, we are also promised a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, the centenary of whose birth falls this year, although it’s not always obvious which songs are included in that tribute.

Ford is probably the foremost crooner on the circuit today. His easy style and rapport with audiences make him a firm favourite. He explains that in this concert there are no impersonations, simply well-sung songs from the Sinatra canon.

He shares an apparently intuitive facility with phrasing that brings out the nuances in a song’s lyrics. He is equally at home with the upbeat Something’s Gotta Give or showing great delicacy of voice in I’ve Got A Crush On You. He also acts as MC dispensing anecdotes from time to time and closes the first half with an emotionally charged My Way.

Kershaw has a rich, clear and pure voice and, like Ford, is a skilled interpreter of songs. I Get a Kick Out of You is beautifully sung and accompanied by a tinkling piano whose notes seem to fall as lightly as rain. Her rendition of Cry Me A River is filled with emotion with tortured vocals and is a true showstopper.

Ford and Kershaw also share the stage for some duets, for example, From This Moment On and Something Stupid. Their voices complement each other well.

Both singers are supported from time to time by dancers. Brother and sister ballroom dancers Christopher and Emma Burrell make the most of the limited space on the Symphony Hall stage and fill it with elegance. The Swing Time Jivers treat us to jive and tap, exhibiting just the right amount of loose-limbed kicks and angular knees when jiving and also tightly choreographed tapping. In truth, although the dancers add visual interest to proceedings, it’s not clear that they really add to the value of the songs.

Holding it all together is the London Concert Orchestra under conductor Anthony Gabriele. His conducting style is flowing and energetic, making the orchestra really swing and defying the audience not to sway in time. He also acts as occasional MC with well-told anecdotes.

Sinatra was fortunate to work at a time when some of the finest songwriters, supported by fine arrangers, were at the height of their powers. His canon has stood the test of time and concerts like this, with today’s natural heirs to his style, are a fine way of keeping the songs alive.

Reviewed on 26 March 2017 | Image: Contributed

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Fine tribute to Sinatra

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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