March 30th 2019
On Saturday afternoon, an audience flocked together to listen to a full and varied programme by Thirsk Sinfonia at St Oswald’s Church, Sowerby. As usual, the high calibre of the orchestra was in evidence and there were solos from both their leader, Sarah Reece, and principle clarinettist, Katy Vedder who gave us a fine rendition of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto.   
TSinfO, conducted by the brilliant Charlie Gower-Smith, opened with Saint-Saëns Danse Macabre and for any avid BBC Radio York listeners, they will have already glimpsed an early taster that morning.
Set the scene - it’s dark and eerie and out of the calm a long bell chimes midnight, and the sounds of the strings and harp herald in the stirring of the earth. The solo violin suddenly cuts through the calm with its dissonance chords cuing the rise of the devil and his followers.  Sarah’s skilful playing produced many dissonant tritone chords - called diabolus in musica in medieval times - which were softly accompanied by the strings. The opening flute started the gradual ascension of graceful sound and increasingly dramatic dynamics before a sudden break heralded dawn and a rooster called (oboe), heard the skeletons scuttling back to their graves.  The poem, from which this music was inspired, was printed in the programme and was avidly followed by the audience as the music progressed, giving a very immersive experience. 
Danse Macabre was followed by Katy Vedder, an exceptional clarinettist originally from USA, who wowed everyone with Mozart’s clarinet concerto. The Allegro started confidently with the fast energetic semiquavers were no problem for Katy’s nimble fingers and precise tonguing.  The second movement’s calm and melodious tune drifted across the church from both the orchestra and the soloist as they intertwined.  The fast energetic and quite difficult Rondo-Allegro movement posed no problem to Katy as she flew over all of the scales and arpeggios, and staccato leaps with ease.  I’m sure we could even see steam coming from her fingers!
After an interval of tea and truly scrumptious cakes, the orchestra restarted with César Franck’s little performed Symphony in D minor. It is scored for a full instrumental group and TSinfO’s members included four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, a tuba, two percussionists, a harp and the usual compliment of woodwind and strings. It gave for a very full and rich sound that resonated throughout this glorious medieval church dating from 1145AD.  
Although this orchestra has only been performing for a few years, they are maturing into a very magnificent and exceptional orchestra.  If their track record for ‘different’ concert programmes is anything to go by (they performed to Hitchcock’s silent film Blackmail in the local cinema), I am looking forward to seeing what their new upcoming years programme will be, which will be available from Easter. 

August 6th 2017

St Oswalds Church Sowerby 

Sunday the 6th of August was a lovely day for the revived Thirsk Festival on the Flatts, and as well as the outdoor fun and games, Thirsk Sinfonia held a free concert at St Oswald's Church.  It was an absolute delight to hear this local orchestra play on a sunny Sunday afternoon.  The programme was a selection of music for oboe and strings, with the strings very ably led by Sarah Reece and the oboe beautifully played by Philip Cull.   We enjoyed music by Albinoni, Bach and Ennio Morricone.  Philip is a founder member of the Thirsk Sinfonia, who teaches not only at Durham and Newcastle Universities, but also at our local primary and secondary schools.  The Thirsk Sinfonia are back in action on the 30th September when they will be playing Ravel, Mahler and Beethoven at Sowerby Methodist Church.  Tickets are availble in advance from White Rose Books, so come and enjoy hearing this local orchestra which is growing from strength to strength.

Saturday 18th February


An historic musical event at the Ritz Cinema in Thirsk, taking this institution back to the first decades of its' 100 year plus history.  The accomplished semi-professional orchestra faced the daunting task of providing suitably dramatic music to accompany the silent version of the 1929 Alfred Hitchcock film "Blackmail".  Crammed into the limited space between the front stalls at the screen, the players had to work hard, there are not many pieces in their repertoire that require an hour and a quarter of continuous playing (we are into the realms of Mahler and Bruckner here!) in a piece where the pace and character of the music continuously varies to suit the action, and if they missed a beat, I was too engaged by the film to notice it!  This is probably the first time that a full orchestra has ever played to a film at the Ritz; there are no surviving records, but the atmosphere was probably only ever enhanced by a lady piano player in black bombazine!  The score was specially composed by Neil Brand, the leading expert on film music of all periods and the man charged with keeping his eye simultaneously on the screen action, the score and the players was conductor George Morton.  The event was hard work for all concerned - but as an overall experience, the effort was worth it.  The score was well integrated into the action - none of the traditional hackneyed improvisation.  The film itself, although being very much of it's period, was recognisable as a Hitchcock production.  His own traditional appearance in the background of all of his films is here - as a passenger in a London Tube train; and it is highlighted in the score by a subtle quotation from the theme tune from the Hitchcock television series "Funeral March for a Marionette" by Charles Gounod.  The orchestra invested much time and money into this event - the rights to the score and the film (beautifully restored by the British Film Institute) added to the usual costs.  It is unusual for a cinema audience to get the chance to applaud, but they did, and enthusiastically!


A Night at the Theatre

For saying that Thirsk Sinfonia Orchestra have only been playing together for just over a year, what a performance they gave on Saturday 18th February in the Ritz Cinema in Thirsk!
They played live to Alfred Hitchcock's silent movie Blackmail and it was a privilege to be in the audience. Their timing was impeccable and the score played perfectly with the film building the suspense and sense of tragedy. Everyone was captured by the atmosphere they created; no small feat of achievement. As I left I heard one attendee say" it was easy to forget the orchestra were playing live!". High praise indeed.
Bravo TSINFONIA and roll on the next performance!

Watch a snippet here.