Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra Spring Concert
Sunday June 12th 2022

A pleasantly warm and sunny day was the backdrop for the annual concert of the ADRO, which was given at its regular venue, Lauderdale House on Highgate Hill, North London.

Normally taking place on Spring Bank Holiday Monday, the event was 'offset' by one week, due to the special four-day celebrations held the previous week to honour the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.

The concert was dedicated to the memory of the orchestra's flautist, Anastasia Arnold, who tragically lost her life whilst riding her beloved Triumph Bonneville motor cycle, in a road traffic accident earlier this year in North-West France.

She was on her way to the Chateau Charly studio in Cherbourg, for the recording of the orchestra’s latest CD. The session was thankfully able to proceed, courtesy of flautist Claire Harmsworth, who gallantly 'stepped-in' at the eleventh hour. Copies of the CD, also dedicated to Ana's memory, were available for purchase. A full review of the disc can be found here.

Ana was not only an exceptionally talented musician – but, since joining the band several years ago, had become one of its driving forces. She took the initiative to produce several 'lockdown' recordings during the pandemic, created its YouTube channel and also its presence on Spotify.

Despite the tragic circumstances, the players did not wish this concert to be a mournful occasion, but rather to be a celebration of Ana's life, her indomitable spirit, sense of fun and joie de vivre.

In addition to the regular performers – Liz Menezes [lead violin/voice], Kate Clarke [violin], Michael Bennett [viola], Kate Rattenbury [cello], Rosi Ward [piano], Adam Bakker [oboe/cor anglais, who is the ADRO's 'supremo'] and Camilla Cutts [mezzo] – Derek Benton, Ana's predecessor, was welcomed back once again on flute.

The programme included music arranged by Ana Arnold, together with some numbers which she particularly liked. Two new pieces were presented, specially arranged after her death – I'll Be With You by the American composer Arthur Altman, which was found crumpled-up in an Amazon delivery box (!) by Derek Benton, who immediately recognised its charm and set-about making the arrangement, and Dawn Chorus by Liz Menezes. This celebrates the good times that the instrumentalists had together, quoting no less than fifteen pieces they had performed in recent years.

Amongst the very generous helping of quality light music served-up for our delight were pieces by Adelgiso Ferraris [Souvenir d' Ukraine], Irving Berlin [Alexander's Ragtime Band], Harry Wood, elder brother of Haydn [Il Seraglio, ragtime waltz], and Haydn Wood himself, who was represented by a relatively unknown composition [Day Dreams, morceau de concert]. This was assembled from various mislaid parts, some of the latter having been sent all the way from Vancouver Island by our good friend Marjorie Cullerne, who is – of course – Haydn Wood’s great niece.

Another newcomer was Heather On The Pampas, [tempo di Joropo], by Sydney Del Monte, which had made its ADRO debut in one of the orchestra's 'lockdown' videos last year – as mentioned above.

It is heart-warming to remind ourselves that this ensemble has been in existence since the mid-1990s and continues to flourish. Sadly, there are so few opportunities to hear this kind of fare and the audience in the very full gallery of Lauderdale House were very appreciative of the standard of performance and indeed the enthusiasm of the players, as always.

Once again, very many thanks are due to Adam and his intrepid band of musicians, for a wonderful afternoon of equally wonderful music.

Tony Clayden June 2022

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