Conductor's Report for AGM - July 2022
MUSIC DIRECTOR’S REPORT FOR AGM July 2022
Firstly, an apology for not being with you in person tonight. My daughter is in Venice this week with her school choir, and I felt incumbent to be with her and Marion in sharing what is probably her last school music trip. I hope that you will understand that I felt that I must put my family first on this occasion.
I am writing this after last night’s wonderful 60th Anniversary concert in the Leascliff, and firstly I want to congratulate you for a terrific performance. All three pieces were excellent (bar the slip up by one of the guest players at the beginning of the Brahms, which nearly skewered the whole piece!). In spite of that, you rose wonderfully to the Festive spirit of the Brahms. This was followed by some of the best accompanying that you have ever done in the Tchaikovsky. Indeed I think that your accompanying was the best I have ever been witness to with an amateur orchestra. Our soloist was a sheer delight of course, but it takes two to tango – and the orchestra’s dancing around her pirouettes was amazing. Lastly, the Enigma was delivered with a wonderful array of moods, tempi, ensemble challenges and the rest. All our rehearsing paid off and I congratulate you all. My only gripe was with some poor intonation in the brass – and they were the extra players. So does that mean we play in future without them? Unfortunately not, because the music would not sound complete, but it’s something to ponder. (But that is a conductor’s problem, rather than an orchestra’s!)
And so back to our previous concerts. To be honest, I have to say that overall the pandemic has had little affect on our musical performances. The November one was stunning, especially the Dvorak, but I was so pleased at how well the Stravinsky was played by the wind and brass, who rose to its challenges with great attention to its difficulties. I’m not ignoring the bold and exciting rendering in the strings of the Egmont Overture, and we accompanied the Elgar Cello Concerto beautifully too.
Our March concert also brought very fond memories of our performance of Tchaikovsky’s 4th. This epic work is very difficult to bring off effectively, but I thought the orchestra’s performance brought the concert to a fitting close, and the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto and the Moussourgsky was played with boldness and bravura. We were all feeling pretty angry with the (modern) Russians at that stage of the war, and it was so appropriate to start with the Ukrainian national anthem. I think our audience particularly appreciated this too.
I was very sorry to have missed the Christmas Family Concert, but I am very grateful to Peter for stepping and holding the fort so competently and enthusiastically.
Two further things I should like to mention. One is a moan: From the conductor’s perspective, I do think that members of the orchestra should time their holidays and absences better around the orchestra’s schedule. It is simply not acceptable to absent oneself just before a concert – particularly in the week before. It does not just put extra pressure on the conductor, in the rehearsing of difficult music, it puts extra pressure on the whole orchestra – particularly the section that the player is part of, but also other parts of the orchestra. Composers write complex music that integrates the whole orchestra together. The absence of one part can create serious problems in the texture of the whole ensemble. So, let’s make a special effort to study the schedule for the whole of next year EARLY, and avoid crucial clashes of dates in the orchestra’s calendar.
Secondly, a very special word of thanks to Flo, who has moulded and encouraged the strings to work together into a cohesive whole, and I offer my thanks to her for her excellent work, both with communication with principals of other string sections, but also with every member of the string ensemble.
I should like to end by thanking the Committee, and Derek and Belinda in particular, for their stalwart work this year on behalf of the orchestra. There have been countless discussions on email and occasionally Zoom, to try and find the best way forward for the orchestra. This was particularly in regard to finding suitable venues for us to play in. With our regular venue out of action it necessitated a lot of head scratching and footwork in order to locate other halls. It was by no means an easy task, and it highlighted how very few spaces we have in East Kent for giving orchestral concerts. Chamber music, in pretty country churches, on a summer’s evening, with nice wine in the interval is one thing, and is in itself an uplifting experience – but try getting a whole orchestra in that setting, with all the extra equipment involved, and one soon realises what a logistical mountain there is to climb. Suitable venues is what the committee set out to find, and it is thanks to them that we found any suitable alternatives. They were not ideal perhaps, but very workable and gave us a new insight into the challenges of putting on public concerts. The luxury that Canterbury, Maidstone or Tonbridge have with suitable spaces is not something that we can afford or have on a regular basis in Folkestone. Nevertheless we manage, and it is thanks to a lot of behind the scenes work by a few people that it is achieved. Even last night, after the LeasCliff concert, who was the last to leave, 40 minutes after the concert ended? I leave that to your imagination.
So, as we approach the end of one artistic year and approach a new one, I am sure we all aspire to creating more beautiful music for the people of Folkestone and its environs, and also derive enormous pleasure and satisfaction for ourselves in the doing thereof. My very best wishes to you all.