Rarities and Humour at Buxton G&S Festival Promenade Concert

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Monkton, Sullivan, Elgar, Parry: Soloists, Chorus and Buxton Festival Orchestra / Timothy Henty (conductor), Opera House, Buxton, 29.7.2012. (RJW)

With the festival Masters of Ceremony suitably attired as top-hatted Victorians of aloof station, the Buxton Proms appropriately opened with Sullivan’s balletic Di Ballo overture.

There is a particular appeal for this form of event to those who know the Gilbert & Sullivan canon of operas back-to-front and inside out. It is an occasion to hear music for the first time and hear variations on a favourite piece. Although well attended, the event should have drawn a larger audience because there was much to enthuse about. To satisfy the curious, the programme consisted of orchestral overtures, musical selections, a medley of vocal numbers, recitation and choral contributions. For me the highlights were the rarities and the comic elements injected by singers, Richard Suart and Jill Pert.

Rarities were the Monckton’s highly melodic Our Miss Gibbs selection and the Quaker Girl medley sung by the young performers in stage dress. A lost song from Thespis, ‘Little Maid of Arcadee’ had been orchestrated from the piano sheet music for this occasion perhaps. I was pleased to hear the naughty lyrics of the second and third verses reinstated (talk of jilting being considered too risqué by the starchy Victorians for delicate ears).

The Quaker Girl medley of this Monckton musical was a prelude to a performance the following day by David Goulden’s North West Youth Productions, the Liverpool based singers resplendent in their stage costumes. The Brisk Dance, a movement from an early Sullivan’s masque, Kenilworth (1864). In it the young Sullivan exercises an exploratory side of composition in providing interesting rhythms and colour.

A hilarious interlude involved Richard Suart and Jill Pert, who sang and acted out the long Act II Mikado comedy scene between Katisha and Ko Ko. Much amusement came from facial reactions and Ko Ko’s emotive writhing and twistings to certain phrases in Gilbert’s text.

Two numbers were taken from Sullivan’s last opera, The Emerald Isle; an Irish patter song, ‘If you wish to appear’ and the Act I finale, ‘Come away’. Both were ably sung and nicely accompanied by the Festival Orchestra. To complete The Proms image Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance, No 1, and Parry’s ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ were included – with Good Queen Vic unusually beating time from her box. It was a fun programme and well-enjoyed evening.

Raymond J Walker