LIVE REVIEW: Todmorden Orchestra Centenary Concert – Todmorden Town Hall

This celebration of 100 years of Todmorden Orchestra also included celebrations of 50 years’ membership for Ann Davies (French horn) and Heather Hudson (percussion). The programme was challenging but successfully accomplished.


The concert opened with Shostakovich’s ‘Festive Overture’ and went on with Ravel’s ‘Pavane pour une infante defunte’ – pavane for a dead infanta. The beautiful but sad music certainly goes with this title, but apparently Ravel chose it because he just liked the sound of the words.

The first half closed with Bruch’s first violin concerto, a triumph for soloist Martyn Jackson, who played it as if he had written it himself.

Incidentally, the interval featured delicious free cupcakes, a kind gift from the orchestra, which cannot be expected every time.

The second half featured several British composers. ‘A celebration for orchestra’ by local composer Lawrence Killian showed different kinds of celebration, with a romantic ‘Anniversary’ coming in between ‘Birthday Treat’ and ‘Jubilee’.

Malcolm Arnold’s ‘Four Scottish Dances’ expressed that composer’s vitality and ability to create great tunes. There was also his sense of humour, when the bassoon seems to get sozzled in the second dance. The third dance blew us away with its surging melody, and the set finished with a vigorous Highland fling.

The most typically English work was ‘By the banks of green willow’ by George Butterworth. Butterworth does not mess about with the two English folk tunes that he arranges here, but gives them a serene setting.

You can find all sorts in Todmorden market, which is where local composer Arthur Glover found the anonymous march ‘Royal Visit (Bacup 1913)’ – a rollicking work well worth saving and arranging.

Tchaikovsky’s ‘1812 Overture’ concluded the concert. Here Russian tunes contend with the Marseillaise, symbolising the invaders. In the end the Marseillaise is cut short, as Napoleon fails to finish what he started – the bells of Moscow celebrate his departure and thundering cannons punctuate the final triumphal march. We went home invigorated.

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I came to Todmorden in 1979 with my record collection but have gradually become converted to live music