Review: Airedale Symphony Orchestra, Leeds Philharmonic Chorus, Leeds Town Hall, Saturday 29th February 2020
THE lavish orchestral and choral forces assembled for this enjoyable programme of Broadway musical theatre and opera were led with tremendous aplomb by John Anderson, the Airedale Symphony Orchestra’s permanent conductor since 1989.
Jerome Kern’s 1920s musical Showboat ignited an electrifying evening. A medley of ‘hits’ contained within the Overture led into Ol’ Man River, pensively sung by baritone Neil Balfour and the Chorus. The Promise of Living from Aaron Copland’s opera The Tender Land was performed with blazing fervour by the chorus and ASO. Copeland, who was dubbed “The Dean of American composers”, unforgettably conducted a Suite from The Tender Land in this very hall back in October 1976.
Leeds Philharmonic Chorus Master Joseph Judge then directed his unaccompanied choir in a finely nuanced performance of Samuel Barber’s Agnus Dei. Next came Marietta’s sublime aria from Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt (The Dead City). This was sung with a gorgeous sense of line by soprano Sarah Power.
Composer Randall Thompson was represented by Choose Something Like a Star, from his Suite of Seven Country Songs for chorus and orchestra. Gershwin’s meandering jazz infused rhapsody An American in Paris showcased the full orchestral panoply – including a battery of percussion, five saxophones, and a trio of car horns! Part One ended with Make Our Garden Grow, the gloriously uplifting orchestral and choral finale from Bernstein’s operetta Candide.
Robert Russell Bennett’s forty minute-long concert arrangement of Gerswin’s folk opera Porgy and Bess filled Leeds Town Hall with light and colour. Familiar numbers like Summertime – ravishingly sung by Sarah Power; I Got Plenty of Nothing – a soft-grained performance from Neil Balfour, and Bess You is My Woman Now, were all featured. The casually dressed Leeds Philharmonic Chorus injected life and swaying movement into the big choruses like Gone, Gone, Gone; Overflow, I Ain’t Got No Shame, and The Promise’ Lan’. The stupendous finale Lawd, I’m On My Way was encored. Astonishingly, this was a first Leeds performance of Porgy and Bess. Surely, a fully staged production from our own trailblazing Opera North is long overdue.