Review by Danny Gaisin
Akin with the majority of theatre and concert goers, there have been occasions where a performance is so below par that one has opted to leave during intermission. Last night’s Hamilton Philharmonic performance was the diametric opposite; we wished we could have omitted the opening segment completely and just returned for the post-interval! Vaughan-Williams ‘Lark Ascending’, performed by violin soloist Lance Ouellette, displayed why the piece consistently makes the Most Boring Top Ten listings. Like most Lightfoot compositions, the piece is repetitious; tedious and interminable.
Even played faultlessly by Ouellette, this was a soporific and unfortunately, the HPO’s composer-in-residence –Abigail Richardson-Schulte’s Song of the Poets piece was no improvement. The choral work is dreary and even the intermittent crescendos had difficulty in keeping the audience awake. Redeemer University College’s choir sang the piece with clarity and perfect harmony. The segment ended with tenor Bud Roach performing Finzi’s ‘A Farewell to Arms’. His voice is honeyed and smooth while his presentational manner reeks of sincerity. He even utilizes Obama’s earnest left-hand emphasis.
Post interval, the H.P.O. under conductor Sommerville offered its ‘Show Off’ piece, Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. Faultlessly presented and with sensitivity and emotion, this was an outstanding rendering of a familiar work. On stage with the Redeemer Choir, the HPO musicians were augmented by the ‘Rileys’ Regimental Band. Our Royal Hamilton Light Infantry is one of this city’s jewels and given recent events, inviting their participation must mean much to the community. Roach was again stage-front as the audience ummed along with Sommerville; the choir; and soloist for a reminisce-ing trip back to the war days and the songs of dame Vera Lynn. He even invited the audience to vocalize ‘We’ll Meet Again”; one of her most popular records.
Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” was composed to celebrate Russia’s hindering then stopping Napoleon’s attempt to conquer the Tsar’s army… Not in honour of Canada beating the Americans at Niagara; Lundy’s Lane or Stoney Creek! Enhanced by the red-tunic-ed Band members, this performance was pure icing and we noticed audience members reprising the closing melody as they exited.
Brief bit of Canadian WWII trivia.
In the summer of 1943, a German U-Boat infiltrated the St. Lawrence and had surfaced to recharge the batteries. Being night, and showing no lights, they thought they were safe between the anti-sub netting. The Montreal Symphony Orchestra was planning a performance of the 1812 using cannons from a frigate in the harbor. Needing to time the duration of the actual firing to the sound’s arrival on Mt. Royal, there was a fair bit of shelling. The Sub’s commander thought he’d been seen and ordered a rush submersion. Seeing this happen, a few well-placed depth charges had it back on the surface and locked up in a local Stevedoring enclosure for the duration!