Conductor: Martin Yates
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
The latest in the series of evenings light classical music from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) celebrates the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Between 1943 and 1959, they dominated musical theatre in America. Tonight’s concert takes music from seven, including their five most successful: Oklahoma! Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music. The CBSO is supported in this venture by vocalists Robyn North, Sally Ann Triplett, Michael Xavier and Scott Davies and the University of Birmingham Voices under their director, Simon Halsey.
The evening commences with a selection of songs from Oklahoma!, their first collaboration, with the CBSO initially playing the overture. This is an exuberant start with music that seems to simply flow around the hall. The orchestration for this piece, and, indeed, all the others that are performed, is quite sublime with superb balance between the sections of the orchestra. Scott Davies is our first vocalist to shine with a beautiful rendition of Oh! What a Beautiful Mornin’ that shows off his lyrical voice. He will later impress with a sensitive version of Some Enchanted Evening, full of feeling. The first of a pair of songs in which a couple try to deny their feelings is People Will Say We’re In Love, performed by Robyn North and Michael Xavier. North’s voice has a brittle, almost metallic quality to it and she is occasionally difficult to hear over the orchestra. Xavier, on the other hand, is audible, hitting all the right notes. The couple later returns with If I Loved You from Carousel. This is beautifully lyrical and gives the performers the opportunity to show off their musical theatre credentials – an opportunity they grasp as this song, like many in Carousel, integrates dialogue and song to terrific effect. Indeed, the selection from Carousel ends the first half in a flurry of emotions, from the slightly sinister Carousel Waltzto the energetic June Is Bustin’ Out All Over, through the emotional turmoil of If I Loved You and the power of You’ll Never Walk Alone; the audience is quite drained as silence falls.
Our fourth vocalist, Sally Ann Triplett, specialises tonight in the comedy songs, starting with I Can’t Say No from Oklahoma! and including I Enjoy Being a Girl. She is sassy and kooky and fills the stage with her larger-than-life persona and stage presence.
After the interval, we are treated to a selection of songs from South Pacific, The King and I and what is more of a medley drawn from The Sound of Music. These are superbly sung and played, although the levels of emotion we felt during the Carousel selection are maybe not quite reached.
The vocalists are supported by the young singers of the University of Birmingham Voices. They provide an emotional underpinning to several of the songs this evening and are a pleasure to hear.
This evening’s conductor, Martin Yates, conducts with authority and also acts as MC. It seems that he is rather more comfortable conducting than speaking as his voice becomes stilted and clipped, although he comes to life more when recounting an anecdote about playing a selection from The King and I in Thailand.
The magnificent writing of Rodgers and Hammerstein and their orchestrations is brought brilliantly to life by the CBSO and the vocalists. Symphony Hall is filled with harmony in a selection of pieces that, well, just work together. A smashing night out.
Reviewed on 19 February 2016 | Image: Neil Pugh