Orchestra of the Swan's Hereford Walton concert review


Orchestra of the Swan at The Courtyard, Hereford *****
We usually experience Walton's brittle entertainment Façade as a two-handed recitation of 21 of Edith Sitwell's Dadaist poems. But what Orchestra of the Swan brought us on September 7 was a spectacular one-woman tour de force from Tamsin Dalley, delivering the entire panoply with huge reserves of stamina, engagement and communicative body-language, even including a wink to us in the audience. And it was amazing to realise she had already been through this gruelling work in rehearsal, just a few hours earlier.
With the discreet help of The Courtyard's excellent sound-system she rendered these complex texts with more clarity than I have ever heard in live performance, switching accents, characterisations and vocal colours in a bewildering kaleidoscope of vocal control. Dalley's Tango-Pasodoble, so languidly set by Walton with a quotation from "I do like to be beside the seaside" moving into The Lambeth Walk, was a literally breathtaking display of verbal pyrotechnics, switching from the languid to the machine-gunning spitfire.
Under Bruce O'Neil's assured, discreet direction, the OOTS musicians collaborated deftly, perfectly attuned to each other as in chamber music, underpinned by the busy yet lyrical percussion continuo of Tim Farmer
O'Neil and OOTS also delighted in two of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Edward Watson's chamber-sized reductions of Walton's music for two Shakespeare films starring Laurence Olivier.
As You Like It was attractive, almost Gallic in its piping pastoralism Jennifer Witton the haunting soprano in a surprisingly introspective "Under the Greenwood Tree", and Henry V, in Watson's resourceful reduction of Christopher Palmer's symphonic scenario, was totally gripping.
Who would have thought the Agincourt battle scene, stripped of a huge symphony orchestra, could sound so compelling? But in this brilliant rescoring it certainly works, tension building to a huge climax until the spent, exhausted postlude.
David Troughton was the narrator, doughty and resonant, but our memories of Olivier in that charismatic film did tend to intervene.
Christopher Morley


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