Review: Aldeburgh Festival, The Multi-Story Orchestra, Ipswich, June 14

The Multi-Story Orchestra

The Multi-Story Orchestra - Credit: Archant

As the name suggests, this is not a conventional symphony orchestra, playing in traditional concert halls in evening dress. Its base is a disused multi-storey car park in Peckham, south London, from where it has performed The Rite of Spring, Sibelius’ fifth and Brahms’ first symphonies to audiences of 1000, many of whom would be seeing and hearing a live orchestra for the first time. It is run by the youthful duo of conductor Christopher Stark and composer Kate Whitely.

Now they have moved to the car park of Endeavour House in Ipswich for the opening of ther 2015 Aldeburgh Festival. The powerful opening chords of Beethoven’s Prometheus overture were given additional resonance by the acoustic and the audience was immediately engaged. The fast moving quaver passages lost a little in clarity but the overall impact was considerable and warmly received.

Three choirs from Ipswich schools, Rushmere Hall, Sidegate Community and Northgate High, along with Cantabile, a youth choir run by the County Music Service, joined with the orchestra for a performance of Alive, written by Kate Whitely to words by the Cambridge based poet Holly McNish. The straightforward but strong and effective work is about the joys of experiencing everything that the world has to offer and the commitment and attention shown by the children was outstanding.

Copland’s Appalachian Spring was in many ways an appropriate choice, the composer’s sympathies being very much with ‘the common man’ and the piece contains one celebrated tune. However, it is by no means an easy listen and its fairly slow and lengthy opening does require close attention. Once again the large audience was wholly absorbed and there were spirited and characterful contributions from all parts of the orchestra. It did not seem at all inappropriate that in a work so much associated with the outdoor life the quiet final bars were augmented by some passing traffic.

The Multi-Story orchestra and its visionary founders have rightly won many plaudits for their innovative approaches to presenting classical music and everyone involved in the organisation of this remarkable event deserves our unqualified thanks. We would be pleased to see them return next year.

Gareth Jones