CentralConcertFestive 15/16Live Music/GigMusicReview

Sinatra Centenary – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Conductor: Richard Balcombe
Reviewer: James Garrington


This year marks the centenary of the birth of Frank Sinatra, surely one of the greatest interpreters of song of the 20thCentury – and this concert, performed on what would have been his 100th birthday, presents a celebration of some of his best-loved work, with the Manchester Concert Orchestra, singers and dancers.

The tone for the evening is set right from the start, with a swinging Come Fly With Me performed by one of the two vocalists featured in this concert, Iain Mackenzie. Mackenzie is in good voice throughout, his smooth, mellow tones ideally suited to presenting these Sinatra classics. To be clear, though, this is not a tribute act – there are no Sinatra impersonations or impressions to be seen. What we have is a different sort of tribute, an homage to the enduring popularity of a great entertainer and his music.

The concert continues, and the songs keep coming, all well-known and well-loved. I’ve Got You Under My Skin with the Nelson Riddle arrangement performed with aplomb by the Manchester Concert Orchestra, is followed by The Way You Look Tonight. If anyone is missing their Saturday dose of Strictly, there is some compensation here as ballroom dancers James Wilson and Leila Stewart take to the stage to add an extra dimension to proceedings.

Mackenzie isn’t the only vocalist on the bill, and shares the honours with Georgina Jackson, who takes over the stage to give us I Get a Kick Out of You before performing some duets with Mackenzie. Jackson has a pleasant voice, though not perhaps quite as suited as Mackenzie’s to the music performed in this concert. That said, their voices blend well in You Make Me Feel So Young and Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

The entire evening has a familiar feel as the almost definitive Riddle arrangements keep appearing – Witchcraft, Fly Me To The Moon and Night and Day are featured, with Jackson performing a very up-tempo It’s Alright With Me nicely accompanied again by the ballroom skills of Wilson and Stewart. Other numbers feature a different group of dancers – JazzCoTech, who have a Street/Jazz Dance fusion style, which, although performed with energy, often does not feel appropriate to the music.

After wrapping up the first half with My Way, the second part of the concert has a Christmas theme, with a succession of the seasonal music Sinatra recorded starting with the ever-popular White Christmas, better known as a Bing Crosby song although Sinatra recorded it twice. Winter Wonderland, I’ll Be Home for Christmas and Let it Snow! are all included, along with Mackenzie and Jackson performing Baby It’s Cold Outside and Marshmallow World.

The programme is very full-on musically, and in an evening celebrating Sinatra’s birthday it would be nice to break it up a little with some anecdotes about his life or background to some of the songs, which would add a little variety and maybe some humour. Among the succession of – often quite similar – familiar arrangements, the occasional respite is welcome, so along with My Way, a beautiful The Christmas Waltz, Mel Torme’s The Christmas Song and a wonderfully restrained Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas stand out as highlights of the evening.

No Sinatra concert would be complete without New York, New York and it duly pops up as an encore, along with Lady is a Tramp bringing an evening of celebration to a close.

Happy birthday, Frank!

Reviewed on 12th December 2015 | Image:Sid Avery

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