As students and staff looked forward to the Easter break, Loreto’s musicians combined their considerable talents to present another highly successful Easter concert. The venue once again was the splendid auditorium of the Royal Northern College of Music.
Ian Jones’ Percussion Ensemble provided a rousing opening to proceedings, before vocal soloist Ellen Nield, accompanied by Silvia Lucas on piano, charmed the capacity audience with her delivery of Henri Duparc’s Extase. Graham Southern directed the college Big Band in a lively interpretation of Maynard Ferguson’s Marketplace, a soulful version of the Duke Ellington classic It Don’t Mean a Thing, featuring Funanya Okonkwo on vocals, and a pulsating take on Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man, all driven by a dynamic rhythm section and highlighting the magnificent trumpet playing of Bob Koropisz.
Some familiar eastern European melodies followed, as Dewi Tudor-Jones’ String Ensemble presented an assortment of Romanian and Hungarian folk dances, by Bartok and Brahms, in splendidly accomplished style. Straw boaters and striped blazers were the order of the day as Loreto’s very own Barbershop Quartet entertained the audience with their exquisite close harmonies and comic timing, before the Loreto Pop Choir, joined by full orchestra and two junior school choirs, from Rolls Crescent and St Mary’s Cof E, brought the first half of the evening to a resounding close. Their Phantom of the Opera, with Mark Englander providing the thunderous organ chords, and Siobhan Kelly reaching those famous top E notes, was a delight, and they met the challenge presented by One Day More from Les Miserables with considerable aplomb.
The second half of the concert started in novel fashion, with Silvia Lucas’ Piano Circus: one grand piano, seven rotating pianists – you really had to be there! Silvia Lucas was again much in demand on the next item, this time as accompanist to gifted soprano saxophone soloist Emily Whitehurst, who played Nightclub, 1960, from Histoire du Tango, by Astor Piazzolla, with great verve. Jennifer Dyson’s Wind Ensemble captivated the audience with their medley of tunes from the Sound of Music, and were certainly not daunted by the complexities of Sondheim’s Into the Woods. The music of Kurt Weill, Bruckner and Mozart formed the basis of the Chamber Choir’s contribution to the evening, delivered with customary precision and musicality, under the direction of Head of Music, David Lloyd-Mostyn.
Pianist Isobel Priest demonstrated her virtuosity and technical flair as she played the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in F minor, which left the full college orchestra to bring the evening to a tumultuous close with Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra, the third movement of Schumann’s Symphony No 4, and the first movement of Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No 1, the performance of the latter showcasing the impressive talents of clarinet soloist, Chris Hardy, winner of the St Cecilia Music Prize, 2018.
With over 120 performers enjoying the chance to perform at such a prestigious venue, and the support of a highly appreciative capacity audience, this inspirational evening is an absolute highlight of the college calendar.