As the New Year gets underway, the Alderley Edge Orchestra prepares to launch itself on its most adventurous journey yet, an odyssey into outer space with Gustav Holst's suite, The Planets. This is an enormous work in both dramatic scale and in the number of instruments used including two harps, celeste, tubular bells, six horns, banks of brass and percussion and a ladies' choir.
The Planets is Holst's best-known work and was inspired by his interest in astrology. Each movement conveys ideas and emotions associated with the influence of that planet on the psyche e.g. in Mars, the bringer of war, Holst conjures up a vivid picture of the brutal, senseless horror of war with drums, brass and woodwind predominating to portray struggle, fear and menace with terrifying effect. In contrast, Venus, the bringer of piece, is warm and tranquil with a mood of tender yearning. Many of you will know the central theme of Jupiter, the bringer of jollity, the tune used for the anthem, I vow to thee, my country. It has also been adapted to form the theme tune for the Rugby World Cup.
We are happy to welcome back conductor Juan Ortuno, popular with both orchestra and audience and guaranteed to produce an exciting performance. Of The Planets, Juan says: "As an astronomer and sky lover, I have been always fascinated about Holst's suite "The Planets". I discovered this music when I was a teenager, and for years I attended every single performance that was scheduled in Madrid. Holst was introduced to astrology by his friend Clifford Bax during a trip to Spain, and he shows perfectly the character of each planet in the 7 movement suite. The ethereal ending, with the mystic choir fading away, reminds me of the Voyager spacecraft, that left Earth in 1977 and is now exiting the solar system. This music should makes us feel really small compared to the vastness of the Universe."
Many other composers and film-producers have recognised the mesmerising power of Holst's masterpiece – John Williams used the melodies and instrumentation of Mars as the inspiration for his soundtrack to the film, Star Wars. Hans Zimmer, writing the soundtrack to the film, Gladiator, was so closely influenced by Mars that a lawsuit for copyright infringement was filed by the Holst Foundation!
The orchestra will also be demonstrating star quality with the brilliant young clarinettist Oliver Janes, who will play Weber's First Clarinet Concerto. Roger Dowling, Chairman of the orchestra, says: "We have followed the career of Sale-born clarinettist Oliver Janes with great interest over the years. Grandson of John Fuest, the former principal clarinet of both the Liverpool Phil and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Oliver first performed with us seven years ago when he was a young student at Chetham's School of Music. Last year, at 22, he became the youngest-ever principal clarinet of the CBSO and we are delighted that he has made the time in his busy schedule to return as soloist in Weber's First Clarinet Concerto."
The programme is completed by the beautiful and melodic overture by Hamish MacCunn, Land of the Mountain and the Flood. The title comes from Sir Walter Scott's epic poem, The Lay of the Last Minstrel, and portrays the wild beauty of the Scottish Highlands: "O Caledonia stern and wild ..... Land of brown heath and shaggy wood, Land of the mountain and the flood...." One of the themes may be well-known to viewers of the television series, Sutherland's Law, where it was used as the signature tune.
The concert will take place at 7.30pm on Saturday 3rd March in the Festival Hall in Alderley Edge, SK9 7HR. Tickets cost £10 for adults and £1 for under eighteens. Tickets will be available on the door or can be bought in advance through the website or on the ticket hotline 01625 581321.
Guest post by Helen Hall.