STUART REED: Despite the winter chill, the whole programme was a joy

Musician Katie Davis and Corporal James Sandalls, violinists with the Countess of Wessex String Orchestra and the Royal Marines
Musician Katie Davis and Corporal James Sandalls, violinists with the Countess of Wessex String Orchestra and the Royal Marines
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Our regular Fareham contributor on a fantastic joint show by a royal and a military orchestra

Whoever thought of bringing the Countess of Wessex String Orchestra (CWSO) and Royal Marines musicians from the Portsmouth and Collingwood bands together deserves a medal – even if they’ve got one already.

Billed as Spring Concert 1, the combined orchestra put on a knockout performance at St Mary’s Church, Fratton.

Despite the winter chill outside the whole programme was a joy to listen to.

Marines and soldiers, officers and enlisted troops, men and women sat side by side to fill the church with a big, beautiful sound punctuated by

delicate solo passages.

Many musicians shone during their moments of prominence.

Two major works were played either side of the interval. In the first half the four movements of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade were carried off with skill and sensitivity.

RM Sergeants Gunn, Bowditch, Hall and Page conducted The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship, The Story of Prince Kalander, The Young Prince and Princess plus Festival in Bagdad with flair and vigour.

Desk partners, Corporal James Sandalls and Musician Katie Davis took turns in playing in the leader’s seat for different movements of the

Rimsky-Korsakov.

With gently articulated playing, these fine violinists expressed the voice of the beautiful story-teller Scheherazade with clarity and sweetness. Katie, who previously played with the Royal Philharmonic and has only been in the army a mere 18 months, was in her element.

The second half of the evening was just as enthralling.

Dvorak’s Symphony No 9, from New world, is a well-known crowd-pleaser.

The Czech composer wrote this in 1893 when he was director of the National Conservatory of America in New York.

The work reflects his interest in American folk tunes.

With Captain Sam Hairsine conducting, RM Musician Mitchell Rock opened the second movement with unhurried, professional assurance and a uniquely warm, rich sound on his cor anglais: the oboe’s bigger brother.

The New World Symphony contains stratospheric harmonics fit to terrify the average violinist.

But with his usual aplomb, Corporal James Sandalls made them look easy.

Principal director of music, Lt Colonel John Ridley, who recently returned from recording marches with the Plymouth Band, took up the baton to end the show with yet more marches – the Royal Artillery march CAMUS, Heart of Oak and a Life on the Ocean Wave.

Finally, spare a thought for RM Musician Jodie Giles from the Collingwood band who played the oboe in a couple of movements despite it being her 22nd birthday.

She could have been out celebrating. Tough luck Jodie, duty comes first.