Movie music to see in the New Year

Music critic John Manning praises SASO’s “outstanding” New Year concert of  film music

Although music from the movies may not be regarded as “classical” by some, it really follows in the long tradition of composers such as Hamlet and Mozart who wrote for the theatre. It is music designed to help entertain people and if anyone doubted this, they only had to listen to the annual New Year’s Day concert in St Albans Abbey when the St Albans Symphony Orchestra and their conductor, Bjorn Bantock, devoted themselves to the subject.

And anyone who was there will endorse the fact that it was a tremendous evening with some outstanding performances both by the entire orchestra and individual members.

The programme packed in music from some of the finest works written by leading composers over the past 50 years or so including John Williams’ Star Wars, E.T. and Harry Potter, Monty Norman’s James Bond, Bill Conti’s Rocky and a feast of pieces by Hans Zimmer.

And, to achieve this, the orchestra was stiffened by the inclusion of the Abbey’s organ, an extra rhythm section and guitars. Helping the proceedings along was percussionist Alasdair Malloy as presenter for the evening  gave an outstanding solo on steel drum in music front Little Mermaid. There were also outstanding performances by flautist Hattie Webster on penny whistle in the music from Titanic and principal cellist Alice Wainwright.

But for me the really outstanding individual performance came front orchestra leader Jenny Wigram with her heart‑stopping solo from John Williams’ music for Schindler’s List. And, as groups. the orchestra’s percussion and brass sections did some really incredible work.

One noted guest member of the percussion section was former London Symphony Orchestra percussionist Ray Northcott who has the distinction of performing on the sound tracks of every one of the Star Wars movies so far released. 

This was an evening filled with big, bold and brash music guaranteed to blow away any remaining hangover. from New Year’s Eve celebrations and proved once more that the Abbey  and  St Albans Symphony Orchestra’s traditional concert is the place to be on January 1.

Herts Advertiser, 9th January 2014