A wonderful evening out for the discerning musician was promised, and this year’s Lent Concert was exactly that. A rather bittersweet affair too, as it was one of the final performances for the Upper Sixth musicians about to focus on their exams.
The Big Band of 19 assorted brass and reed players, conducted by Mr David Whitson, kicks things off in lively fashion with A Night in Tunisia, the Dizzy Gillespie jazz standard. Bethany S, taking the trumpet solo, is tonight’s Miles Davis, while Harry D on saxophone is Charlie Parker.
Next up is Errol Garner’s Misty, a song made famous by many vocalists, notably Johnny Mathis, but here returned to its original instrumental arrangement. Harry D provides a smooth sax melody for the first verse. Bethany S’s beautifully controlled and lingering trumpet takes the second verse, before the whole ensemble comes together in close harmony for the middle eight, before Harry’s sax returns to finish.
Satin Doll closes the Big Band set - as it so often did for Duke Ellington, showcasing the ensemble brass and reed playing, and pinned down by a grooving Flora D on drums and Tommy H on bass guitar.
The nine-piece Brass Ensemble, directed by Ms Eira Owen, performs next with Fauré’s Pavane, rooted by Ramon B's tuba and supported by the trombones of Samuel B and Mr Peter Tarbet. Rising higher are the horns of William S, Genie W and Edmund H, with a top melody from the trumpet trio of Bethany S, Seb S and Ben M-S. It is a haunting, sombre performance, and a momentary change of pace from the Big Band, before we upshift into the energetic and dynamic Finale from Rossini’s William Tell.
Next up, the Saxophone Quintet (Harry D on saxophone; Mr Roland Roberts and Cecily M on violin; Sophie W on viola; and Kinna W on ‘cello) performs Cavatina, the second movement of Quintet for Saxophone and Strings, by Director of Music, Dr Ian Morgan-Williams. Its compositional complexity and lack of repeat patterns or phrases demands precision from the quintet, holding the audience in tension until a final, delicate chord.
Mr Steve Dummer’s Concert Band of nearly 30 performers treat us to Adam Gorb’s Bridgewater Breeze. Aside from the subtler ‘Lament’, it’s all wonderfully jolly, jaunty and dance-in-your-seat stuff.
They close the first half with the rousing, energetic urgency of Ron Goodwin’s 633 Squadron, a fitting tribute ahead of the RAF’s centenary. This evocative performance transports us, up and away to the interval.
The second half opens with the Upper Sixth Vocal Ensemble (aka The Woof Band), who delight us with Billy Joel’s hymnal And So It Goes. The sextet of Nima S, India F, Genie W, Harry D, Bethany S and Seung-Youn H deliver gorgeous multi-part harmonies; Seung-Youn and Harry add texture with brief and contrasting leads. A poignant few minutes which clearly move the audience.
A shift of furniture heralds the String Chamber Orchestra, led by Mr Roland Roberts, who firstly entertains with the Allegretto from Elgar’s Serenade for Strings, a gentle and pitch-perfect performance. The oboes and horns join them to form the Chamber Orchestra, and Seung-Youn H takes the lead in a performance of Vivace from Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D major. The playing here is quite breath-taking. As is so common at Lancing, close your eyes and you’d be forgiven for thinking you are listening to performers with many more years’ experience!
To end the evening, the stage is re-set for the full Symphony Orchestra, led by Dr Morgan-Williams, and with Seung-Youn H as lead violin. Mendelssohn’s Scottish Symphony with the Allegro Vivacissimo is indeed very lively and vivacious! Next comes Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, which is an absolute treat. It’s hard to single out individuals with so many great performances on show, but Aidan S, mostly seen behind the timpani, delights us with the famous water droplet-evoking celesta motif in Danse de la Fée-Dragée. It’s a triumphant end to a night of contrasts; we were promised a wonderful evening out, and the musicians of Lancing College delivered that in fine style.