REVIEW: Richmond Chamber Orchestra Summer Concert

Richmond Chamber Orchestra at Grinton Church.

I hadn’t heard of the Richmond Chamber Orchestra until June 30 when a Dales friend persuaded me to go and hear them.

After their Summer Concert in Grinton Church, I’m very pleased I have now. It really was a perfect programme for a summer’s day, cheerful and bright, accomplished and with plenty of variety. The RCO seems to be a rather unique ensemble, with a superb professional violinist, Philippa Mo, in charge, and a mix of professional players, semi-pros, and gifted amateurs. It all makes for infectious enthusiasm and a strong rich sound. A string orchestra with an additional harpsichord, tambourine, bass drum and harp really is a bit unusual too!

They played Bach, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Finzi, Vivaldi (‘Summer’ from the Four Seasons of course) and a piece no one seemed to know, Suite in Old Time by Dobrinka Tabakova. The viola player Alyssa Moskowitz delivered a virtuoso solo part passionately, and the piece was a great discovery, with mysterious sounds and beautiful harmonies. Philippa Mo’s interpretation of Summer was fast and furious: her bow was a blur, and she had the orchestra clinging on for dear life! Italian summers aren’t quite the same as Yorkshire ones, with people overcome by the heat and flies, thunderstorms and gales. The Vaughan Williams variations on the well-known folk and hymn tune Dives and Lazarus was another magical piece unknown to me, with harp and shimmering strings. The most English piece had to be the Elgar Serenade for Strings, one of my favourites, and the orchestra got the variety of moods just right.

All in all the RCO was a discovery for me, and apparently for quite a few of the large enthusiastic audience. If you want top-class music-making and a great mixture of familiar classics and new discoveries, go and hear them.