The incomparably brilliant Halle Orchestra was back home again last night at The Bridgewater Hall for its penultimate concert of the year. They really were in fine form last night, sounding better than I have heard them for a long time, if that is actually possible! And to make it even more astounding, if I am to believe conductor Stephen Bell's comment that they had only two and a half hours of rehearsal that morning, then it makes it even more astounding!

It really doesn't matter what style of music this orchestra chooses to play, and last night it was all understandably film music, with one or two little twists and a wonderful Swing Big Band finale, they really are just incredible. And last night also was the largest I think I've seen their numbers too. It was an orchestra of 90 musicians, and boy oh boy when they make some noise, they really know how to make that noise sound amazingly sonorous and not just ear-piercingly loud like some other orchestras I wouldn't care to mention!

Once again, the orchestra was under the baton of the energetic and passionate Stephen Bell. I've been seeing quite a lot of him recently, and I really admire not only both his dedication and love of the music he directs, but also his wonderfully effervescent style of conducting; bouncing up and down and really coaxing the best out of each section / player.

The orchestra was joined for last night's concert by a young singer by the name of Dean Collinson, on his Halle performance debut. And he certainly joined in with the spirit of the evening by almost acting out the songs he sung and was indeed an extremely engaging performer. He sang Thunderball from the James Bond film of the same name, and somehow managed to sound just like Tom Jones. [Although he very wisely decided against holding the final note for anywhere near as long!]. He sang From Russia With Love, again from the James Bond film, and was crooning away sounding just like Matt Monroe complete with slight American accent! And for the last song he performed 'I Wanna Be Like You' from The Jungle Book somehow amazingly managing to sound just like the Disney film version!! How did he do that?! The only thing that would have made it complete would have been a Louis Armstrong impersonation for his rendition of 'We Have All The Time In The World'. Oh well, can't have everything!!

So I think you will have understood two things by now. 1) I really enjoyed the concert, and 2) It was all about the music that accompanies films about heroes or more specifically superheroes.

There was music from the great composers of the genre; John Williams, Erich Korngold, John Barry etc. and also some lovely surprises too. A rather emotive rendition of Vangelis's Chariot's Of Fire theme (featuring a lovely moment to shine with the piano solo by Paul James); a march entitled Summon The Heroes, by Williams, which was written for The Atlanta Games in 1996. The heroes there being the sporting kind. But the most interesting for me was the Music from Apollo 13 by James Horner. This was played superbly by a solo trumpeter, Gareth Small, way up in the back of the auditorium facing the orchestra producing a lovely spatial effect to the music, and would have made Giovanni Gabrielli (1554 - 1612), the father of antiphonal and stereophonic music, proud!

As always, the programme notes were informative and interesting, with Mr. Bell highlighting some of these during the concert making our experience of the music all the fuller. The two, tragically ironic titbits that stood out for me though were that the last recording Louis Armstrong ever made was, 'We Have All The Time In The World', and Horner, the composer of the music for the film Apollo 13, died in a light aircraft crash earlier this year.

Gosh, that was a rather down-beat way to end the review - so I'll continue just for a short paragraph to say that the Halle played a lovely encore last night; not in the programme, music from the film, The Incredibles, and the music was just that, incredible!

If anyone thinks that The Halle Orchestra are all a load of old stuffy Bach and Beethoven lovers, and they think that there could be nothing of interest for them. {I know a lot of people like this!} Then THINK AGAIN! Tonight I am going to see them perform the music of Abba with, I am told, the orchestra in fancy dress and four soloists to make up the world famous pop group!

Reviewer: Mark Dee

Reviewed: 29th December 2015