The Great Hall was packed, the audience brimming with anticipation, and the ArtsFest team eagerly awaiting a weekend of well earned relaxation. Keeping the audience entertained during potentially awkward gaps was Billy Feenan, whose irreverent comments increased the evening?s joviality. The night?s proceeds went to ?Theatre Crossroads?, a charity ?that aims to teach maths and science through physical activity and performing arts?.
Sinfonietta made a courageous start to the evening with a strong performance of Sibelius? rather lengthy En Saga. They maintained an emotive, professional sound throughout, with moments of power from the brass keeping the audience on their toes. The violins and violas deserve a special mention for their rather tricky bow work that provided good support for the excellent soloists.
Wu Shu followed, blowing the now slightly mellow audience away. True to the program?s description they gave a ?dazzling display of martial arts routines and fight scenes.? Starting gently with slow movements, each part grew until we were treated to highly energetic fighting and a man breaking a metal bar over his head! Kudos to the guy who turned a wooden pole into a circular blur.
As if such contrast wasn?t enough, the ballet contingent of Dance Company then gave a lovely interpretation of Ludovico Einaudi?s music. Their movements were graceful and well synchronised, giving a totally different emotional experience to Wu Shu.
If you?ve never heard of, let alone seen, Funkology you unfortunately can?t grasp what they?re like. Certainly a group to put a massive smile on your face, they perfectly balanced break dancing, good music and humour. Imagine a western, where instead of shooting each other, they make each other dance. But not in a camp way?
ICSM Chamber Choir?s repertoire mirrored the evenings? theme of contrasts. First up was Tavener?s Song For Athene, which, after a somewhat shaky start, quickly became rather moving with a strong bass solo. Within one bar of their second piece, Barbara Ann (of Beach Boys fame), every singer relaxed into a state of Californian style fun, and a sigh of joy passed through the audience. All in all a very good performance.
The first half finished with a tap recital. We knew this long before the lights came on by the sound of them walking on, which added to the fun of it. Tap is a dance form rarely seen, but a joy when done well, and Dance Company certainly did it justice.
Windband?s rendition of Rossini?s famous The Barber of Seville began the second half on a classical note. Their confidence resulted in an enjoyable performance with only a couple of minor hiccups. ICU Dance continued with an array of ballroom dances. The waltz was graceful, the jive lively, and the tango slightly erotic. Despite technical difficulties these energetic performances were well received.
It seemed the theme of contrasts would be interrupted as ICU Dance followed Dance Company. A notion ended by ICU Dance?s transformation into monsters. It was actually slightly scary: there were growling sounds, ethereal music, and the performers seemed close to jumping off the stage to maul everyone. Think Thriller, but with more movement. If this is contemporary dance, I love it.
Time for more classical goodness. Despite being relatively new, ICSE are going from strength to strength. Playing Suite for Strings by Janáček, they had a distinctly professional air about them. A good, tidy performance from the string ensemble.
Dance Company then returned for their final display with jazz dancing to music from Fame. There were power chords, multicoloured wristbands, with some air guitar thrown in for good measure. A bright, fun and highly entertaining performance.
Last up were Imperial Brass with three pieces that left you wanting more. Pastime With Good Company, a Henry VIII classic, showed how well Jazz and Baroque styles mesh. A jazzy version of Londonderry Air followed and I must concede that, whilst I normally hate this tune with a passion, it did sound good. A shame this version isn?t played at the Proms. This all pales into insignificance, next to their finale: the theme from The Incredibles. It?s hard to go wrong with soundtracks, especially when they?re this good, and Imperial Brass were staggering.
On the whole an excellent concert, and a good exhibition of Imperial students? wide range of talents.