Did you catch the pre-concert talk?

Posted on 12th Dec 2022 15:10:34 by Admin

Not everyone is aware that we often hold an informal talk before our concerts – something fun and interesting to illuminate the music, whether that be the thoughts of the conductor regarding the programme selected, or specific musical insights from the soloist about the piece to be played.


Before November’s concert we were truly spoiled, as we had Dr Elaine King (our Rehearsal Conductor and Musicologist at the University of Hull), Dan Watson (our Guest Conductor) and Adam MacKenzie (our soloist for Rossini’s Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra) on stage in conversation.

They discussed provenance of the concerto, that is to say the dispute over its authenticity, as well as Adam’s delivery of it in rehearsals. Elaine, rather more reservedly, pointed out that Adam “brought humour to it”, while Dan suggested that he could hardly concentrate on conducting because he was “laughing so much” at Adam’s exuberance!

Rather less comic was their analysis of Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, which Dan rightly described as a complicated, layered piece that requires vast amounts of technical control, particularly because of the tempo and time changes, and gracefully shifting dynamics. He revealed that this was something the Orchestra had particularly focused on in rehearsals, with the ultimate goal being that smooth timelessness Vaughan Williams evokes so beautifully. He challenged the audience to listen out for that as the gold standard!

There was an amusing dispute between Dan and Adam as to the one word they’d use to describe Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony. Dan opted for “fierce” on account of how the symphony conveys Pyotr’s determination and strength of character at the difficult time in his life during which he wrote it. Adam, however, pointed out that the word he would use is simply “relief” – relief because the 5th and 6th symphonies are “terrifying” for bassoonists!

Attention turned to Dan’s experience working with the orchestra. The thing he’d found most impressive, he said, was their incredible work ethic, with players often turning up after a busy day at work, perhaps emotionally and physically spent, still ready to throw themselves into the music. This is what he attributed their rapid progress in rehearsals and overall high quality to, and he thanked all the playing members for their friendliness and resilience throughout his tenure as their guest conductor.

Finally, Elaine encouraged the pair to reflect on the biggest highlight of their careers. For Adam, it was getting a permanent position at Opera North as their Principal Bassoonist. For him, he said, it made him feel “fulfilled and accepted” and that opera had opened up a whole new world of music for him. For Dan, the highlight of his career was making music and bringing it to the world again post-pandemic which, temporarily, he feared would never happen again. That fear we can all certainly identify with, as well as the joy at being able to attend live music again!

Bearing that joy in mind, do make sure you’ve got your tickets booked for the February concert, the programme for which can be found on Hull City Hall’s ticketing page here. And next time, don’t forget to join us for more pre-concert musical insights!