March 28, 2019
On Sunday 24th March, North Downs Community Orchestra ("NDCO" or "The Fun Orchestra") celebrated their third birthday with a concert held at St. John's Church in Hurst Green. The church was packed with family, friends and fans of the orchestra, which has developed considerably in size and performance level since their inaugural concert on Godstone Green in the summer of 2016.
In her introduction to the concert, oboist, Alison Cattermole, first said a big "thank you" to the vicar of St. John's, Emma Eltringham, for the use of the beautiful church for their concert.
Alison then said: "The music tonight all has a bit of a party feel to it, as we are celebrating our third birthday. It is hard to believe that we are only three years old, as we have had quite a lot of changes during that time. We now have a fantastically expanded brass section and are thrilled to have a new percussion section!"
After the audience kicked off the evening by singing a hearty "Happy Birthday" to the orchestra, Richard Cross, freelance musician and the orchestra's long-term wind section coach, has been working with the full orchestra this term and conducted the concert, starting with a rousing performance of the Dambusters March by Eric Coates. First performed bravely by the then very small orchestra at their Godstone Green concert three years ago, the piece has become a signature tune, a great crowd-pleaser which they perform at every concert. This was followed by a beautiful and very moving rendition of Gabriel's Oboe by Ennio Morricone, then Waltz of the Flowers by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, featuring Margaret Watson on the harp - a wonderful treat for the audience. All the time, the performers looked as though they were really enjoying themselves, especially the new percussion section.
For me, the real highlight of the concert was the superb performance of The Swan, by Saint-Saens, played by cellist, Dzana Haki accompanied by Margaret on the harp. The audience was spellbound as Dzana took centre stage to play the haunting melody from Carnival of the Animals. Dzana's performance held an extra poignancy, as it represented her return to playing the cello following a break of over 20 years. Since escaping from the war in Sarajevo in 1995 and being reunited with her cello six years later, Dzana neglected to play the cello while she made a new life for herself in the UK. Then a friend told Dzana about the North Downs Community Orchestra and encouraged her to play again.
Dzana said: "I had not played for so long but everyone at the orchestra was friendly and welcoming and I have been practising hard for tonight's concert. I was very nervous to perform a solo but I am very relieved and happy now."
There was audience participation during the evening, who sang along to "I Vow To Thee My Country" in the first half and "Bohemian Rhapsody" in the second half. A lively medley of tunes from Mary Poppins was well and truly the icing on the birthday cake!
At the end of the concert, Alison Cattermole thanked everyone involved with putting on the concert and to their patron, Rainer Hersch, for inspiring them to perform so well.
Alison said: "Thank you all very much for coming and I hope you all had a great evening - this is what we are all about - having fun!"
NDCO welcomes musicians of all abilities, who do not have to audition to join the orchestra. So if you have an instrument you have not played for a while, or your are learning and would like to make new friends and have fun, visit www.thefunorchestra.co.uk for more information.
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