20 August 2012

A national Forrest

The Forrest National Chamber Orchestra was not one I knew of, but it was a nice find. So was the venue. They played at the neat, timbered, acoustically crisp Wesley Music Centre. It’s a venue with a major ongoing musical program and one that I’ve too infrequently attended. With the coming dearth/death of music in Canberra, Wesley and such institutions will be increasingly needed and loved (presumably while others are maligned).

FNCO is convened and conducted by teacher Gillian Bailey-Graham. This concert featured two successful, mature students: Rebecca Smith on violin and Rosemary Davidson on viola. The first piece with Barber’s Adagio for strings. It’s touching and very well known. I’d heard it from the Sydney Symphony and it had been eminently professional and smooth, but that performance didn’t connect for me. This was a bit rougher but more immediate and intimate. The emotions seemed personal, experienced, not syrupy. Perhaps it’s just the interaction an audience has with musos at 5 paces, but this spoke to us directly as a rendition for thousands in a performance barn can’t do. I particularly enjoyed Rebecca’s violin for tone and intonation, and the lines that would pass from violin to Rosemary’s viola with shimmering strings behind. There were also some devilishly ensemble chords that formed behind some lines. They challenged the group and more traditional listeners but added an air of unsentimental truth to my ears.

The second number was Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante in Eb major 1st movement. This was older, clearer, livelier, lighter, stately sometimes flowing, melodic and contrapuntal rather than harmonic and layered. It was easy to grasp and almost homely with its overt and tuneful harmonies and joyous melodies. You couldn’t not love it. The final work was Vaughan Williams Concerto grosso for string orchestra. This was a return to the harmonies of the twentieth century, but this time with a dogged industriousness. There were five movements and they varied, but I had a feeling about this as obstinate, unyielding strings of quavers or minims, the orchestra playing together in industrious concurrence. The work of sturdy English yeomen or a nation of shopkeepers.

Congratulations to an amateur orchestra for a very successful program, and one that was clearly entertaining and well received. The Forrest National Chamber Orchestra was led by Gillian Bailey-Graham (conductor) and featured Rebecca Smith (violin) and Rosemary Davidson (viola). The full orchestra was: Violins 1: Rebecca Smith (concertmster), John Dobson, Yi-an Lai, Liam Keneally, Jet Lin, Jack Chenowyth; Violins 2: Hannah Lord (principal), Donica Tran, Lockie Ferrier, Rosemary McPhail, Sally Whitehouse; Viola: Rosemary Davidson (principal), Christian Carmody, Robert Harris, Clare Whittle, Lyndall Nevin; Cello: Frances Stevens (principal), Elizabeth Prentice, Duncan McIntyre, Julia Janiszewski.

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