This year’s Commemoration Concert began with Rossini’s William Tell Overture which featured five solo cellos at the start. (The cello section of this year’s orchestra was probably the finest it has ever been!) Rebecca Daltry then took to the concert platform with the final two movements of Mozart’s Exsultate Jubilate which ends with the famous Alleluja. Another Upper Sixth leaver, Helen Avery, played the beautiful Fauré Pavane and Stephen Whitford, also leaving this year, delighted the audience with selected extracts from Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro. Chamber Choir sang three part-songs while Close Harmony gave renditions of two more contemporary songs. Sinfonia gave a fine, spirited performance of Rutter’s Suite for Strings but the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Brenna Tin’s performance with orchestra of the first movement of Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor.

Louis Morford, Leader of the Orchestra, writes his thoughts on the Commemoration Concert….

The cellists drew their bows for the William Tell overture, an introduction to the uplifting and heroic battle that follows. The serene and harmonious passage that ensued was enough to lull even the most alert of wind players into a deep sleep. After a quick skirmish between the lower and upper strings, with a short respite found in the trio, the fanfare of the trumpets acted as a call to arms and in certain cases, a wake up call, for the rest of the orchestra and audience. The famous final section galloped ahead, Mrs Porter spurring on the exhausted players right through to the emphatic end.

Rebecca Daltry then delivered a masterclass in technique and vocal range through only the final two movements of Mozart’s ‘Exultate jubilate’. Not to worry though, Mozart’s adolescent nature did leave the original cantata one recitative short of a motet anyway. Even if the young prodigy was cutting corners, Becky certainly wasn’t, delivering the cantata with precision and stateliness. Perhaps it was baroque protocol that the singer be chased off the stage with flowers, but then again the cantata was composed for ‘castrato’. This was the only inaccuracy to be found in what was a sensitive and dexterous performance.

John Rutter’s ‘Suite for Strings’ was next on the agenda. The first movement saw a battle for supremacy of emphatic chords between the different parts. This was eventually won by the cello section who had clearly also won the game of musical chairs beforehand. The second and third movements created good contrast with the serenity of the second a distant memory after the literal ‘dashing away’ of the third.

The Chamber Choir delivered a typically precise and sensitive performance, achieving moments of intimacy and as well of those of of joy and jubilation. A real range of colours, as well as a very wide vocal range in the Finzi, gave the performance both musicality and flair. Helen Avery was next to step forward, transporting the audience back in time to the sixteenth century with a beautiful rendition of Fauré’s Pavane. Fauré himself described the work as ‘elegant, but not otherwise important’ but this performance had all the charm and beauty of one of Fauré’s true masterpieces.

Having filled the auditorium with an air of romance, a capella group Close Harmony seized the moment with two typically well constructed Sawyer arrangements of modern songs of love. As ever, confidence exuded from the group, which managed to deliver as their name promised despite being larger in number than in previous years. Love, however, took a different and sometimes darker turn as baritone Stephen Whitford strode to centre stage intent on taking us through the sometimes turbulent emotions of the characters of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Stephen’s love for opera, depth of emotional connection to the pieces and sheer presence exuded throughout the performance, with each tale’s climax outdoing the last. And for those who thought he was finished and could wait no longer to embrace; just one more and he was! Bravissimo!

And so, with stage reset and orchestra reformed for the finale, Brenna Tin took her opportunity to vanquish all-comers with an inevitably victorious performance of Grieg’s Piano Concerto. Her ability to deal with the challenges of this piece with style and panache whilst commanding and leading all her supporting forces to their freedom was worthy of future legendary recollection. Perhaps to match the exploits of William Tell himself?