Live Review- The University of Nottingham Wind Orchestra & Brass Ensemble at The Great Hall -14/11/10

The Great Hall in Trent Building is usually a place of foreboding and dread. My two previous encounters with that room are not remembered fondly. The tedious boredom of having to transfer medical details in fresher’s week surrounded by fellow hungover students and the horror of being trapped within the hall for 3 hours during exam period, are experiences I would like not to repeat. Despite this strange apprehension of the Great Hall, I found myself there to support friends in the University Wind Orchestra’s first concert of the year. Rather than containing an aroma of last night’s Ocean (which may account for either of my two previous visits), the hall was filled with a mixture of family and friends and as such, I had to make do with a chair at the back. Starting the evening’s events was the University’s unauditioned Brass Ensemble and in keeping with the film music theme of the night’s proceedings, they quickly set the tone by blasting the fanfare played during the 20th Century Fox credits. A gimmick this was not. The quality of the brass players was clearly evident and the audience were left smiling and occasionally mimicking signs of recognition during their performance. This was to be a night in which the more universally accessible pieces of classical music could be appreciated. Being the night of Remembrance Sunday, the Ensemble aptly performed John Williams’ Hymn to the Fallen taken from the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan. The highlight had to be the solo flugelhorn performance of Chris Blunt during the piece Concierto de Aranjuez, a composition made famous in the film Brassed Off. Performing unaccompanied during certain sections, he played flawlessly to the impressed 150 strong audience.

After the continuous clapping for a number of minutes, it was now time for the Wind Orchestra to set about trumping the high standard already set. The quality of the previous performances was stunning, yet the accessibility of the music seemed to be lacking before the interval. In was nice then that upon recommencing the orchestra performed Danny Elfman’s score for The Simpsons. Taking away the images of the screen and listening solely to the music allowed those in the audience to appreciate just how complex this score is, and how superbly these students performed it. A collection of epic themes including Bridge over the River Kwai, Braveheart and Dances With Wolves, furthermore evidenced how every member had worked tirelessly to ensure no one would be let down. From a personal point of view, the programme grew more enjoyable through each piece. The theme from Schindler’s List showed the individual talent on offer as the tones of Emily Knowles on the Saxophone and Charlotte Daniel on the Flute, shone through in this haunting melody. What is more, the Symphonic Suite to Lords of the Rings’ “Fellowship of the Ring” showed the conducting talents of 2nd year student Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, who capably and comfortably held together the orchestra in this epicly scaled and sized score. The Big Finale obviously could not live up to the epicness of the previous piece. Instead the programme notes asked the audience members to invoke their imagination during the performance of Cartoon by Paul Hart. Occasional laughter punctuated the performance as the spectators listened to the music stereotypical to the cartoons of Looney Tunes and Disney films. Such music remained in my head on the walk home and I’m sure I was not alone. Perhaps, in retrospect of this concert, my views on the Great Hall are forever changed.

Rob Orr


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