Halifax Symphony Orchestra Christmas Concert
The Halifax Symphony Orchestra under their genial and motivating conductor, Nicholas Simpson, gave a delightful programme of Christmas orchestral pieces interspersed with carols for general participation.
Getting us into Christmas shopping mode, Eric Coates’s Knightsbridge March made for a bright jaunty opener. Then we were skating to Emile Waldteufel’s tuneful Skaters’ Waltz in the Bois de Boulogne before zooming off to the snowy steppes for an exhilarating sleigh ride Russian style with a stylish account of Prokofiev’s Troika from Lieutenant Kije.
An evocative arrangement of Howard Blake’s Walking In The Air featured strong brass and rich strings, the haunting melody imbued with nostalgia and regret, light years away from the cheesy sentimentality, perfectly captured, of White Christmas and Have Yourself a Merry Christmas.
Selections from The Nutcracker reminded us what a superb orchestrator Tchaikovsky was. The Russian dance was fast and furious, the waltz carefree and lilting. The Sugar Plum Fairy was picked out with great delicacy on the celeste, with the supple woodwinds pointing up the porcelain fragility of The Merlitons.
The highlights for me were Nicholas Simpson’s brilliant arrangements of We Three Kings, utterly compelling in its evocation of atmosphere, and Sacred and Profane, a motley medley of Christmas tunes deftly linked together. Harmonised and orchestrated with wit and skill it was played with verve and obvious enjoyment.