I have a had a life-long love of the arts; enjoying theatre, ballet, art and movies. We are all time poor and have limits to our entertainment budget so I hope an honest review will help make your choices easier.
Queensland Youth Orchestras (QYO) have closed their 2018 program with an exciting celebration of fine music, presented by nearly 500 talented youth.
The final QYO concert, recently held at QPAC Concert Hall, was a wonderful evening out. With performances from the Big Band, Junior String and Wind Ensembles, two Youth Orchestras and the Wind and Youth Symphony', there was something to suit everyone.
The evening opened with the Big Band, conducted by Bohdan Davison. Firstly, we were treated to a piece of jazz history with a very energetic performance of Channel One Suite, made famous by the Buddy Rich Big Band. The QYO Big Band performance was full of energy, fun and a touch of sexiness, which in my opinion is the key to any great Jazz performance. This performance featured Hamish Jamieson on Tenor Saxophone, Tom Henderson on Drums and Ruby Mineur on Trumpet. Next up, we had a simply delicious performance of What a Difference a Day Made featuring the smooth and sultry vocals of Jessica Spina and equally sultry and talented Double Bass performance by Declan Fletcher. My only disappointment with the Big Band performance was that it came to an end all too quickly.
Luckily, I was soon consoled with a sweet and melodic performance by the Junior String Ensemble, conducted by Chen Yang. The Junior String Ensemble is QYO's youngest orchestra with 65 positions available for players 15 years and younger. Young they may have been, but their performance was delightful and their music selection was enough to lift anyone's spirits. They opened with Chase the Stars and Catch the Dream, a composition dedicated to pursuing your dreams and overcoming obstacles, and closed with Nessun Dorma, an aria from the final act of Puccini's opera, Turandot and popularised by Pavarotti. This performance was totally professional and a credit to both the Conductor and the performers.
We were next introduced to the Wind Ensemble, conducted by David Law for the past 10 years. The consistency of David's leadership and his connection with the performers was evidenced in the tightness of this performance. The audience was treated to a fiery performance of James Barnes Invocation and Toccata. Composed in 1981 for the New Mexico State University Wind Ensemble, Invocation and Toccata promised a dramatic score with repeated rhythms, massive poly-harmonies and stark contrasts in tone, colour and dynamics. Did the performance deliver all this? In my opinion, it delivered that and more. The performance pushed beyond dramatic, with percussion used to invoke feelings of pending danger and mystery, while the harmonies and a lively rhythm pulled you back into a position of excited anticipation. This performance kept me on the edge of my seat.
The final performance before intermission was by the Wind Symphony, performing movements two to five from the Yiddish Dances, composed by Adam Gorb and conducted by Warwick Potter. Compared to the previous performance, filled with drama and danger, this performance delivered excitement and fun— exactly what you need to lure an audience back from interval refreshments. Movement II had the audience bopping in their seat while daring them to jump up and do a little jig. But movements III and IV, my favourites, took a different approach—a series of gentle, yet mystical refrains were enough to charm a snake, let alone this humble reviewer. Then just as I was lulled into a submissive trance it would break into a somewhat mocking tone—back and forth I went, soothed then shocked. Movement V delivered all you would expect from a Yiddish dance. Once again filled with contrast, it oscillated from being fast-paced and energetic to sensual and seductive. Beautifully entertaining, a performance filled with frivolity.
Following interval we were treated to Mussorgsky'sNight on Bald Mountain (arr. Rimsky-korsakov), performed by Queensland Youth Orchestra 3 and conducted by Dr Bradley Voltz. This is a piece of music many would be familiar with as Stokowski's arrangement accompanied the Disney film Fantasia. Night on Bald Mountain also known as Night on Bare Mountain tells the story of a witch's Sabbath atop the mountain. Sadly, Mussorgsky's teacher was not impressed by the composition and he never heard it performed in his lifetime. Such a mystical and tragic backstory foretells the tone of this performance—this is a magical piece of music and the Queensland Youth Orchestra 3 did it justice with a magical performance.
Queensland Youth Orchestra 2, conducted by Sergei V Korschmin then performed the last movement of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. This was another extraordinary piece of music filled with movement and contrast. Symbolising the final struggle between darkness and light, this piece promises both victory and hope. The performance was precise and harmonious; it was lovely to see the orchestra play as one. There was, however, one performer who stood out for me and that was the lone percussionist, Emily Moolenschot, her supporting performance was confidently and artfully delivered.
The final performance on the program was delivered by the Queensland Youth Symphony, conducted by the QYO founder John Curro AM MBE. This passionate and dramatic end to the evening featured the final movement of Shostakovich'sSymphony No. 5. The performance opened with an energetic call to action then slipped into emotional contemplation before a triumphant and compelling conclusion. This was a perfect piece for this polished symphony, offering opportunities for both the whole group and individuals to shine. I particularly enjoyed the Harp and French Horns.
Queensland Youth Orchestra continues to defy their youthful title, delivering mature and polished performances. In my opinion, their concerts are one of the best ways to experience low cost, high-quality music.