Friday, June 17, 2011


National Concert Orchestra of Great Britain at the Civic Theatre

This quaintly named band brought their “happy music” to the Civic last week.
A small ensemble, whose microphones meant that the sound picture was strangely distorted, yet could not compensate for a thin sound [only two cellos].
No programmes were provided, but hesitant, rambling introductions from the conductor, who forgot to introduce himself, but confessed to being a slightly deaf ex-rock'n'roller. Not a great communicator, whichever way he was facing on the rostrum. The sound lacked any excitement – sedate polkas, leaden Mozart, limp Lehar.
I did enjoy our conductor's own favourite, Leroy Andersen's Belle of the Ball, that old Tauber tear-jerker, Vienna City of My Dreams, and a lively Pizzicato Polka played by the strings, led by leader Amanda Rowden-Martin, who of course could have easily directed the whole thing from her violin, like AndrĂ© Rieu, or indeed the Waltz King himself …

I can reveal that the conductor was Greg Francis, a musician with vast experience in the business, though “Mozart 40” is about as close to classical as he comes. I certainly wasn't alone in feeling disappointed here – a very sniffy comment in the front-of-house book by the interval – but I suppose it did provide gainful employment for a couple of dozen musicians, and a night out for fans who can't get to Rieu.
Video of Belle of the Ball – not sure where, certainly not the Civic – and, for comparison and camp kitsch, AndrĂ© doing the Sieczynski .

Greg Francis has been in touch [April 2012] - I quote the substance of his email here:

I wonder in view of your somewhat defamatory description of me , you would be happy to include some information on just one recent concert the orchestra (though certainly not the same players !) performed recently.

As you will see, the concert was for NSPCC charity 'Childline'. The main feature was Russell Watson, for whom I conducted throughout - at his request ! The program also including a couple of last minute and unrehearsed titles. No complaints from Russell, or any of the other singers. In fact, Russell himself told his manager that he'd felt as though he'd worked with me for years, and we are working together again later in the year, and next year.

I am sorry, and I admit that the concert was unrehearsed and, the orchestra I had been sent to work with, had their own ideas about tempos, phrasings and such. It was not an easy night for me, particularly as I was also nursing a dislocated right shoulder, and rather tired from the lack of sleep caused thereby ! Perhaps I ought have canceled the concert, and let the people sit in an empty theatre ? 

You may wonder how I come to have some excellent credentials on the website - particularly having conducted for people like Russell Watson, Alfie Boe, Mark Rattray, Joe Longthorne, John Lawrenson, Edmund Hockridge and many more, including most of the BBC and NDR (German) Radio Orchestras ?

Would that not make you wonder why that evening's performance was 'under par' - rather than launching into a straight forward 'knife in the back' review ? 

RUSSELL WATSON and Soprano JANETTE MONROE , showing part of the National Concert Orchestra of GB. conducted by Greg Francis at Southport Theatre. Also shown is The Manchester Girls Choir.
They raised a total of £30,460 for NSPCC 'Childline' charity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reading your review is as if I was at a different concert. Yes, this was a smallish orchestra (think about 40ish) but I thought they played very well. The stars of the orchestra for me were the principal violinist, trumpet, clarinet, double bassist and percussionist. I agree that a programme would have been nice but I thought the conductor was a very humble man. I felt the orchestra were really playing for him.

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