The Essex Symphony Orchestra’s summer concert launched an exceptional talent onto the music scene. This was the 25yr old composer Andrew Hall whose new work, Marconi Echoes, was debuted to great appreciation by the knowledgeable audience at Christ Church.
Conceived as an almost unprecedented collaboration with the composer, orchestra and conductor Jonathan Tilbrook over a year of development, the piece is exclusive to the ESO, and takes as its theme the place Chelmsford has in the history of radio and electronics. It is a bright, optimistic piece of five movements bookended by the echoes and very clever variations on the first song to be broadcast on radio – Dame Nellie Melba’s rendition of ‘No Place like Home’ -for the first and last movements.
The orchestra had been completely re-arranged in a complex and unfamiliar reseating so that each of the three intervening movements, featuring different sections of the orchestra could be employed in colourful and abstract tone poems depicting first, Marconi’s ‘electric light moment’ for the invention of radio complete with the hiss and crackle of the cat’s whisker, then the explosion of electronic technology which it presaged, and finally, the width of networking that it spawned, through the computer age and even the Facebook generation.
The collaboration between composer, orchestra and conductor was midwifed by the Adopt-a-Composer scheme of the Performing Rights Society Foundation, and there will be another chance for audiences to hear the work, as it was recorded by Radio 3 for broadcast later in the year.