Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
A Tribute to the Music of the War Years

Conductor Ken Hsieh Featured Performer Linda Lee Thomas, piano Host Christopher Gaze

Date 9 November, 2006 Venue Orpheum Theatre Reviewer John Jane

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s matinee series ‘Tea and Trumpets’ has become a hugely popular and inexpensive means of attending light classical concerts performed by an outstanding Orchestra.

Arrive at the Orpheum early enough and you will not only have an opportunity to chat to the many youthful seniors that regularly attend this series, but also be welcomed in the lobby by a cheerful volunteer handing you a cup of hot tea and a delicious cookie.

Today’s special programme in honour of Remembrance Day featured music, mainly marches, that were popular during and just after the Second World War. With a single exception, that of Franz Schubert’s March Militaire No.1, all works were by British composers.

Maestro Ken Hsieh started the selection with great ceremonial pomp in performing William Walton’s Crown Imperial March, better known in Britain as The Coronation March since it was originally written for the coronation of King George VI in 1937. Its theme certainly exudes the notion of a “British Empire.”

On hearing the lilting melody from Ralph Vaughan Williams' famous English Folk Song Suite, one could almost hear fellow concert-goers proclaim “Ooh, that.” This work is hardly ever recognized by its official name but becomes instantly familiar on hearing its minor theme in the first movement. On this rendering, all three movements were played with warmth and jubilation. (particularly the 3rd movement)

Richard Addinsell’s somewhat misnamed Warsaw Concerto has little to do with Poland’s capital and is really more a Rhapsody than a Concerto featured Linda Lee Thomas on piano. A great favourite at the end of the war, its popularity seemed to wane until English lyrics were written for it twenty years later, and was re-named “The World Outside.” Ms Thomas’ interpretation was performed and received enthusiastically, promoting a generous ovation from an appreciative audience.

The final selection on the programme was a symphonic medley of beloved war-time favourites collectively titled Songs That Kept Us Going and attributed to Stanley Black. Black was a pioneer of jazz, who recorded with such luminaries as Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter. He wrote many fine tunes, but none of those featured in this medley that included “The White Cliffs of Dover,” “Bless 'em All” and “We’ll Meet Again.”

Ken Hsieh and the orchestra rounded out an uplifting afternoon by giving an encore to a very responsive audience. Predictably, the piece chosen was Charles Parry’s uniquely heroic Jerusalem. Even more inspiring than Maestro Hsieh’s interpretation was the audience’s spontaneous vocal response of William Blake’s lyrics.

In part of his narrative, host Christopher Gaze quoted this excerpt from For the Fallen which adorns war memorials around the commonwealth.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them
. - Laurence Binyon

© 2006 John Jane