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Review of the Aspidistra Drawing Room Orchestra
Spring Bank Holiday concert

May 27th 2024 – Bank Holiday Monday – was beset by somewhat disappointing weather for late May. It was unseasonably cool and although the sun made a rather half-hearted attempt to shine, it was punctuated by occasional showers. However, those who braved the journey to Lauderdale House, on Highgate Hill in North London, were certainly not disappointed !

An unusually large audience was packed into the Lower Gallery – so much so that extra chairs had to be provided – and we settled down to listen to a concert of live music of the type which is almost impossible to hear anywhere else these days.

As Adam Bakker remarked in his introductory notes in the printed programme, the Orchestra's audiences mainly consist of dedicated Light Music lovers 'of a certain age'. Unfortunately, younger musicians - and indeed audiences – rarely get any exposure to Palm Court music now.

However, the instrumentalists find playing through this forgotten repertoire a real eye-opener and extremely gratifying to discover some fantastic music that no-one else seems to be performing. Their palpable enthusiasm is very obvious !

As per usual, most of the pieces were 'new' i.e. making their first appearance at an ADRO concert, with one or two exceptions which have previously had an outing.

Some of the well-known composers featured included George Frederic Handel, Pablo de Sarasate, Jerome Kern, Eric Satie, and Ole Bull, a composer and violin virtuoso of international repute who hailed from Norway; he was instrumental in encouraging Edvard Grieg – to whom he was distantly related – to take-up music as a career. Others of particular note included Matyas Sieber and Frederic Charrosin, both of whom made significant contributions to the canon of British Light Music.

Amongst the British-born composers, mention should particularly be made of Eric Jupp, [1922-2003] whose musical career started at the age of fourteen, playing piano in night clubs. He became a pianist and arranger for several top bands and was commissioned to compose film music. On emigrating to Australia, he became musical director to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. We were treated to a magnificent performance of his Bow Jest, which although originally written for a larger body of players, worked extremely well for this orchestra.

As always, the latter's line-up consisted of two violins, viola, cello, piano, flute and oboe/cor anglais. The latter instruments were in the skilful hands of Adam Bakker, who is the ensemble's musical director and arranger. Several vocal numbers were performed by mezzos Liz Menezes [who also plays first violin] and Camilla Cutts.

Once again, we were treated to a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of really pleasing music, culminating in a rousing performance by the orchestra and vocalists, together with the audience, of course of I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles – including the verse, which I don’t believe anyone had heard before – by John William Kellette.

Eagerly looking forward to the ADRO’s next concert !

Tony Clayden 2024

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