Review – 20th Century & Beyond

Mayfair Theatre
26 September 2009
Conductor: Steve Miles
Guest Soloist: Gladys Hope QSM

A particularly grotty weather weekend in Dunedin was enhanced greatly last week by a very well programmed concert given by St Kilda Brass. The third concert in this year’s Southern Victorian charitable Trust concert series, the 20th Century & Beyond took the large Dunedin audience on a journey through music of the 20th Century.

The programme started with the 20th Century Fox Fanfare before a rousing rendition of the Stars & Stripes Forever March by the March king John Phillip Sousa. Some very fine Soprano playing from Ralph Miller set the scene for the entire Cornet section to step up and be featured in Hora Staccato at break neck speed before a complete change of mood in the very cheeky theme tune to the film Those Magnificent Men in Those Flying Machines. Gladys Hope was the chosen guest artist for the evening’s concert, a singer and actress well known throughout New Zealand and a real favourite with the Dunedin public. Gladys gave her first contribution for the evening with a wonderfully spaced rendition of the traditional air Danny Boy. So lyrical and controlled, Gladys held the audience in the palm of her hand before air raid sirens, gun fire, bombs and search lights set the scene for a war bracket featuring Dam Bustersand the medley Keep Smiling Through.

More of Gladys Hope’s beautiful singing followed with Summertimefrom Gershwin’s Opera Porgy & Bess before the bands major contribution of the evening, Dean Goffin’s Rhapsody in Brass. Dating back to the 1940’s Goffin’s work is a very audience friendly work full of lyrical melody and catchy phrases. St Kilda Brass really excelled in this performance which was very well prepared. Very careful balance and exquisitely precise ensemble were topped off by soloists on top form, in particular newly appointed Solo Horn player Erynne Scherf who’s rendition of the second movement was both beautiful and haunting.

Another Opening Another Show got the second half underway before the very complex music from West Side Story arranged by Eric Crees. This was another big work on the programme which was delivered with panache and excitement. A very unusual start to the next item came from Gladys Hope and St Kilda Brass’s Bonar Robertson acting out the opening conversation of With One Look from Sunset Boulevard which was specially arranged for this concert by MD Steve Miles. Complete with American accents the actors set the scene perfectly before Gladys Hopedelivered a show stopping performance. Holding the character throughout, Gladys showed the enthusiastic and appreciative audience just why she is held in such high regard as a character actress and musical theatre start. This was a real highlight of the evening and was fully deserved of the extended ovation.

MacArthur Park and What a Wonderful World brought a very 60’s flavour to the concert before an upbeat and vocal rendition of Hello Dolly. The pulse wobbled a little in this number but the bands singing was as usual a highlight! Gladys Hope finished her evening with another of Steve Miles arrangements, this time reliving the role of Mrs Potts that she played in both Wellington and Dunedin productions of Disney’s Beauty & the Beast. Greeted with an overwhelming ah from the audience after its introduction, Gladys performed the show’s title track flawlessly and was real pleasure to listen to.

The finale of the concert taking us into the beyond was Ray Farr’sGalaxies. Full of dynamic contrasts and dramatic effect, the finale was handled with aplomb bringing the evening’s music making to a very exciting close (Before of course the obligatory rendition of the bands signature tune When the Saints).

The bands concert series now has a very strong following due to some innovative thinking and consistent quality. It’s great to hear such positive comments from the Dunedin public that really are getting value for money from this series. I look forward with anticipation to the bands next event on 21st November, Swing with the Rat Pack which will relive the fun and frivolous entertainment of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Junior with special guests Doug Kamo, Kris Bate & Rob Enari.

Sean McDonald

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