Stephen Williams Commemoration Concert

Bradshaw Hall, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire *****

Bradshaw Hall was a fine venue for this splendid concert, reuniting Midland Youth Orchestra alumni covering many years of dedicated performing in order to remember here the amazing contribution of Stephen Williams, first as a founder-member viola-player, later as conductor, music director and chairman. Lots of hard work has flowed under the bridges of this specially-assembled orchestra with some members now playing in professional capacities, not least leader David Gregory from the CBSO heading this large, skilful bunch of keen musicians.
In Search of Altruism, written by Stephen Williams originally as a tribute to MYO founder Blyth Major (there is a "big tune" in B Major), and subsequently dedicated to the young Nobel Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai, indulged in sweeping melodies, chunks of imaginative percussion, brass solos, colourful wood winds, with a final noble tutti leading to thought-provoking 'false endings' : smiles all round.
Soloist Charlotte Moseley truly transported us with familiar contrasts in Bruch's poignant Violin Concerto. Here is a performer with a wide repertoire of concerti having caught the music bug aged five and now sharing her musical passions with many local audiences offering a wide variety of concerti. Hard work has added a Masters degree to her accomplishments (DipRAM], graduating with distinction – her debut CD is to be released in spring 2019.
Lugubrious dark clarinets opened Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony, with sweeping strings introducing the full orchestra with majestic fortissimo. This hall can overwhelm somewhat, not a huge space (the wooden walls creating massive resonance), but thrilling nevertheless when the orchestra is in full throttle. All emotions from heart-stopping tenderness to overwhelming fortissimos were revealed in this account under MYO alumnus and conductor Anthony Bradbury - no holds barred!
A beautifully-produced programme book will remain a treasurable souvenir archive, detailing how the work of the James Langley Memorial Trust (Langley as equally devoted a servant to the MYO as was Williams) assists young musicians in practical matters such as instrument-purchase and tuition, and containing an absorbing article by CBSO Chief Executive Stephen Maddock describing how Stephen Williams and Anthony Bradbury came to him in 2004 to suggest how the Midland Youth Orchestra could provide the seed-corn for a fledgling CBSO Youth Orchestra.
And what triumphant fruits have flourished ever since.
Maggie Cotton, Christopher Morley

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