A packed St Leonard’s church, Eynsham, was treated to a fabulous concert of music on Saturday 1st December by four separate ensembles all led by the multi-talented Wendy Marks, who arranged many of the pieces played. The entertainment started with Freeland Orchestra’s performance of Ralph Vaughan-Williams’ The Wasps Overture, the first of a five-part incidental work the composer wrote in 1909 for a production at Trinity College, Cambridge.
What a great way to start a concert - all the instruments playing the initial angry buzzing and immediately captivating the audience! The orchestra very successfully caught the essence of this very English piece with its repeated pentatonic main theme that comes back in various guises.
The second piece was Dvorak’s Golden Spinning Wheel, the story of a king’s sweetheart who’s magically brought back to life after having been gruesomely murdered! A rhythmical opening played between cellos and horns very effectively conjuring up the king’s cavalry and a little later the beautiful, full and eerie quality of the cor anglais provided the necessary magic.
West Oxfordshire Clarinets (WOC) followed with pieces that were tightly played and certainly diverse. Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade seducing the audience and evoking a real feel of 1930s American music halls, as clarinets do so well. Their show-stopper, the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem, was dignified, singing to us remarkably like human voices, with a subtle updated twist from the top E flat clarinet.
The bright, fresh sound of John Stanley’s Voluntary started West Oxfordshire Winds’ (WOW) energetic set, and they finished with George Gershwin’s American in Paris, played with such verve that the audience might have expected Gene Kelly to appear on stage at any moment! Again the range of pieces demonstrated their versatility and sensitivity in capturing each mood, and providing interest for everyone.
Each ensemble has its own alluring character - but perhaps the most alluring of all was Wendy Marks’ West Oxfordshire Learners (WOL), an ensemble of young and not-so-young wind and brass players, showing how the discipline of ‘the musical team’, despite technical limitations, is a powerful commodity. In particular, the simple and humorous Day-O, familiar to all, turned, unexpectedly, into an amazingly strong and rather moving anthem.