Orchestra prove a hit in cathedral

Musical director Xenophon Kelsey conducts the St Cecilia Orchestra. (Picture by Ian Hill Photography
Musical director Xenophon Kelsey conducts the St Cecilia Orchestra. (Picture by Ian Hill Photography

Ripon Cathedral was the setting for St Cecilia’s Orchestra performing the Beethoven Leonara Overture, Beethoven Piano Concerto No 4 with Hayley Parkes, and the Brahms 4th Symphony last month.

We were given a warm welcome to the cathedral by Canon Ruth Hind.

It says in the excellent programme notes for the latest St Cecilia Orchestra concert that it has become one of the finest semi-professional orchestras in the country.

I heartily concur with this statement and this evening’s performance was no exception.

As usual, except the last concert of Brandenburg Concertos, Xen Kelsey was firmly in charge of proceedings and we started the evening’s music with Beethoven’s Overture Leonara No 3.

Beethoven composed only one opera Fidelio for which he wrote four overtures and No 3 is probably best known.

The orchestra excelled tonight, brilliant coordination and control and the brass section were really good. Most people would be familiar with the theme – a delight and I really enjoyed it.

The highpoint of the evening for me and I suspect most of the audience was Beethoven’s 4th Piano concerto.

The soloist was Hayley Parkes – never heard of her, not surprising as she is still studying at Royal Northern College of Music.

She was also one of the five finalists in the BBC Young Musician of the Year.

At 19-years-old, what a challenge for her to play this great Beethoven composition. Not surprisingly she looked a little nervous before the start, but she got straight into gear once the music started.

What a performance she gave, such strength and no music sheet. Furthermore I spoke to Hayley in the interval and she told me it was the first time she had played this concerto in full and in front of a live audience. The audience loved her.

After the interval we were treated to Brahms Symphony No 4 in E minor. I’m not a great lover of Brahms, but I know I’m in the minority.

Many people see allusions to Beethoven’s compositions in this symphony. The third movement is probably the most well known.

We were party to a very robust rendering of this complex symphony and I thought the woodwind were particularly good.

I should mention that the orchestra was led by Joanne Atherton – she hails from the North West of England, which confirms my view that the St Cecilia orchestra is able to source the cream of players from a wide area.

Another fine performance by the St Cecilia Orchestra – don’t forget the Summer Concert at Holy Trinity Church Ripon on June 25.