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A Musical Feast

Feb 15 2005 18:27
Ruth Davies
Last Friday, the 11th February, was United Hospitals Music?s annual concert in Southwark Cathedral.
UHM in a rehearsal at Southwark Cathedral for a previous concert

United Hospitals Music is an amalgamation of all the London medical schools? music societies, consisting of students from Imperial Medics? Music Society, Guys, Kings and St Thomas? Music Society, George?s Music Society, Barts and the London Music Society and the Royal Free and University College Medical School Music Society.

The concert was in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital and began with a short talk from Mr Adam Jeffe, consultant and Honorary Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Research about Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The first half of the concert was performed by the orchestra, ably conducted by Surjo De a fourth year medical student from Imperial College. They began with Brahms? "Tragic Overture". This, written as the ?dramatic counterpart? to the ?Academic festival Overture?, was composed in 1880 after Brahms received an honorary doctorate at the University of Breslau. It has been described as an ?impressive movement?melancholy, and with a particular sense of foreboding? and the orchestra certainly lived up to this (particularly the string section), playing with style and flair.

The final piece in the first half of the concert was the "Suite from the ballet, ?Swan Lake?" by Tchaikovsky. "Swan Lake" was Tchaikovsky?s first ballet, composed between 1875 and 1876. This suite, published after the composer?s death, consists of 6 of the most famous movements from the ballet. In this piece the brass and wind sections really came in to their own and swept the orchestra and the audience along. There were also some excellent solos, in particular, from the harpist Nia Morgan and the leader Olivia Shields.

After a short interval the second half of the concert commenced in which the choir sang Walton?s "Belshazzar?s Feast", accompanied by the orchestra. This was conducted by Andy Heeps an Imperial College alumnus and Senior House Officer at St Mary?s Hospital and the baritone soloist was Robert Felstead a third year chemist from Imperial College.

"Belshazzar?s Feast", composed in 1931, tells the story of the writing on the wall that signified the downfall of Belshazzar and the city of Babylon with text taken from the Book of Daniel. The drama of the text is captured by the amazing harmonies and energy of the music. It was written for double mixed choir, orchestra including organ and percussion and two brass ensembles.

The performance as a whole was very good and this reporter particularly liked the sense of the drama the choir successfully created in their singing. Unfortunately the choir could not match the huge orchestral scoring and were in the loud sections almost inaudible. The choir also gave the impression of being somewhat under rehearsed. This was a shame as the standard when the choir were at their most confident and could be heard over the orchestra was very high.

The baritone soloist gave an excellent performance, his voice carrying well in the large space, using excellent diction and characterisation to tell the story.

Overall this concert was an enjoyable, good quality concert, with some excellent musical performances and all the performers are to be applauded.

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