Spirited performance from Canberra Youth Orchestra

Music / “Magic And The Masters”, Canberra Youth Orchestra and James McCusker Orchestra. At Albert Hall, April 2.  Reviewed by LEN POWER.

IT might have been a dreary wet afternoon in Canberra, but it certainly did not dampen the spirits of the Canberra Youth Orchestra and the James McCusker Orchestra, who gave a spirited concert in the Albert Hall to a capacity audience.

The James McCusker Orchestra, conducted by Liam Meany, presented a program of three works by Verdi, Handel and Beethoven.

The orchestra played the haunting opening of the Prelude from Verdi’s “La Traviata” well, giving the right amount of feeling to this well-known work.  They followed this with two movements, Allegro and Hornpipe, from Handel’s “Water Music”.  Their playing of these pieces was nicely atmospheric.

Their final offering, the fourth movement of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5”, is a challenging work for any orchestra and the performers gave it a robust and colourful performance.  The brass section of the orchestra struggled at times but overall, these young musicians can feel proud of their achievement.

Louis Sharpe and members of the CYO. Photo: Peter Hislop.

The Canberra Youth Orchestra followed with a program of four works including two by contemporary Australian composers.

Conducted by Louis Sharpe, the orchestra commenced with the “Unfinished Symphony No. 8” by Franz Schubert.  Both movements were played well but there were some wobbly moments from the brass section.

The second work, “Ancient Forests Once Stood Here”, by Australian composer, Sarah Hopkins, was nicely played. This highly atmospheric work has an unexpected and electrifying opening with its creation of forest sounds and the orchestra performed the work with a pleasing epic quality.

It was followed by another Australian work, “Rock Hopping” by Maria Grenfell.  This reflective work was given a sensitive performance by the orchestra bringing out the beauty of the melodies in their playing.

The final item was Mozart’s Overture to the opera, “The Magic Flute”.  The orchestra captured the tension and colours in the music quite well.

Under the banner of Music for Canberra, The Canberra Youth Orchestra is the premier youth symphony orchestra in the ACT and wider region. The James McCusker Orchestra is Music for Canberra’s second or training orchestra in the performance pathway, sitting just prior to the Canberra Youth Orchestra.  It enables young players to gain exposure to the fundamentals of orchestral ensemble playing, as they develop their musical skills. JMO musicians typically progress to the CYO as they develop musically.

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