It was great to be back with the Radcliffe Orchestra this spring with another highly enjoyable concert in the Tingewick Hall on 11 March.

I have long wanted to perform Berlioz’ Rob Roy Overture as the composer’s overture that has passed me by over the years. Despite the Berlioz’ own misgivings about the work, it is a wonderful concert opener with so much to enjoy. It worked in this context as it gave a chance for the orchestra’s harpist, Rupert McShane, to play the extended duo with cor anglais (beautifully played by Henry Bettinson) at the heart of the overture. Inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Rob Roy, the music admirably reflects the dramatic story of the outlaw at the time of the 1715 Jacobite Revolution with Scottish tunes, Scots wha hae and The Bonnie Woods of Cragielea quoted.

The violinist, Edgar Bailey, made a welcome return to the orchestra to play Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole in a brilliant performance of this five-movement showpiece. It was a treat for the orchestra to accompany such fine playing and there was some beautiful ensemble playing from all. Edgar captured the character of this work with real insight and poise.

We completed our programme with a spirited performance of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony that gave opportunities for many players to shine. Amy Thakurdas’ horn solo in the slow movement was a real high point and Alison Matthews’ bassoon solo in the third movement was equally eloquent. Clarinetists, Steve Guard and Simon Kroll opened the symphony most beautifully whilst flutes (Andrew Turberfield, Katie Marshall, Huw Morgan) and oboes (Henry Bettinson and Sarah Pendlebury) provided many lovely moments. Brass (led by John Stradling’s trumpet, Dominic Vella’s trombone and John Underwood on tuba) gave great energy to the performance and the strings led by Sky Jaskutelyte, Helen Stradling (violin 2), Peter McElwaine-Johnn (viola), Rosie Powell-Davies (cello) and Tim Baker (double bass) played with unified commitment and musicianship.

The concert was given in aid of Guide Dogs which has done much to address the considerable need for the care and promotion of the work of guide dogs across the UK. Thanks to Amy Thakurdas for this connection and for bringing three fine Guide Dog mothers to a rehearsal and the concert. As ever, Rosie Adams is to be thanked for all her work for the orchestra along with all the committee.

I look forward to conducting another concert with the Radcliffe Orchestra in March 2024.

Edgar Bailey, violin

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