DAVID Haslam lived up to his reputation as a man of many musical talents at Hexham Abbey.
After being offered the post of principal flute in the Scottish National Orchestra when still a student, Haslam went on to conduct numerous concerts at home and abroad, working with artists including John Lill, Ida Haendel and Sir Thomas Allan.
In 1998 he and Annamaria McCool formed the English Philharmonic Orchestra which continues to excite reputation wherever it appears. But not even a portfolio like this guarantees the performance a packed audience at Hexham’s magnificent abbey were treated to on Friday evening.
Delivering a performance from its twelfth annual Candlelit Christmas Concert tour, the orchestra’s programme was based on the seventeenth century flowering of Italian violinist composers such as Corelli, Torelli, Manfredini and of course, Vivaldi. The abbey’s imposing architecture, paired with the simplicity of candlelight, made for an atmospheric and altogether Christmassy event. A chamber choir of around 20 mixed voices, drawn mainly from Newcastle and Northumberland, maintained a sweetness and clarity of tone which felt particularly appropriate for a concert of these sorts.
The orchestra mastered a programme of difficult classical pieces; beautifully weaving together soft strings with the more imposing wind instruments such as bassoon and trumpet. The appearance of acclaimed English National Opera singer, Suzanne Manuell, added a further dimension to the evening; blending well with the choir on a number of occasions.
Soloists, Anthony Thompson on trumpet, violinist Tristan Guerney and oboe player, Philip Cull also added something special.
And Haslam’s own composition, Kyrie and Gloria, only confirmed his diversity as a conductor, composer and talented flautist.
The English Philharmonic Orchestra will perform their final Candlelit Christmas Concert at St George’s Church, Jesmond, Newcastle, tonight.