Chineke! Orchestra – St George’s, Bristol

Wednesday 11th April, 2018

One of the new found joys of 40 gigs was a renewed love of classical music. Before last year I had only been to 2 or 3 classical concerts in my life. I now scour St George’s programme looking for classical concerts. This one caught my eye as Chineke! have been lauded as a brilliant orchestra, and as a champion of black and BME musicians, they clearly wish to make this genre of music as open and available to as wide an audience as possible. Besides they were going to play some Beethoven, and he’s a genius.

I adore St George’s, it has the best acoustics in the City. It’s an intimate venue, steeped in history and the sound quality is superb in every seat.

Somehow Chineke! squished more people on the stage than I thought possible, I’ve seen orchestra’s play at St George’s before, but not in this number. So many violins. They played 3 pieces in the 1st half and then Beethoven’s 4th Symphony in the 2nd. I knew none of the music beforehand (I’m more familiar with Eroica, the 5th and 9th symphonies, you know, Beethoven’s big hits).

Of the first halves pieces the one that stood out, for me, was the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Romance in G. It had lush strings, was incredibly beautiful and romantic and made me close my eyes and smile. I felt quite dreamy. The tone of Dream Song was very different, and that is the utter beauty of an orchestra. The range of emotions evoked by such a variety of sounds within a programme. How each instrument, individually and together, can produce such range.

According to the programme Beethoven’s 4th was regarded as wild and undignified at the time. The changes of pace and rhythm patterns would have made it seem so then, I guess, but now, simply sounds as how a symphony should. That was and is Beethoven’s genius. The original rebellious muso.

The passion and playfulness of conductor, Anthony Parnther, was evident and the joy the orchestra took in playing this piece was also obvious. It looked quite a physical effort, requiring real stamina to manage all the changes of rhythm and emotional tone.

There really is something entirely glorious about hearing an orchestra live. The vibrations of the strings, the thumping of the timpani drums, the sheer visceral thrill of it all coming together in your ears. There isn’t anything quite like it, especially in such a lovely venue. Thank you St George’s and Chineke! Orchestra for re-lighting my love of classical music. Making it affordable and accessible is so vital. Keep on “championing change and celebrating diversity in classical music” it makes a difference.

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