Date: 15 May 2004 Venue: The Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer: John Jane







Conductor: Bruce Pullan
Featured Performers: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Vancouver Bach Choir, Vancouver Bach Children's Chorus, Gareth Jones - baritone, Linda Lee Thomas - piano.

Maestro Bruce Pullan

The ‘Last Night of the Proms’ is an occasion for Vancouver Anglophiles to gather together and enjoy a repertoire of traditional favorites and popular classics followed by a series of patriotic pieces in the second half of the concert. Standard concert hall decorum is ignored as audience participation during the later part is not only encouraged but pretty much required.

Last Saturday evening, (May 15th) some members of the audience, enfolded in the Union Jack and wearing all manner of unconventional headgear, came along prepared to provide as much entertainment as the many talented musicians on stage.

The evening started with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra led by Bruce Pullan playing a medley from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. With the audience agreeably warmed-up, Maestro Pullan welcomed to the stage featured soloist, Gareth Jones for a selection of well-known songs from the immortal Noel Coward. With piano accompaniment from Vancouver’s Linda Lee Thomas, Jones entertained the audience with amusing anecdotes attributed to the late British showman in between favourite tunes like “Don’t put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington” and “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”.





Next it was the turn of the hundred-plus voices of the Vancouver Bach Choir with an inspired offering of the late Welsh songwriter Ivor Novello’s heart-warming anthems that helped get the British public through two world wars.

After the Intermission, or as Maestro Pullan described, “Half-Time”, the orchestra returned with a symphonic medley form Lionel Bart’s seminal and his only successful, stage musical, Oliver. The selection was followed by full length versions of these songs by members of the Vancouver Bach Children’s Chorus. The most memourable performance was “Consider Yourself” by Greg Froese and Charlie Mah dressed in character as the Artful Dodger and Oliver respectively.

The traditional last works of the evening included rousing renditions of: Sir Henry Wood's Fantasia on British Sea Songs, Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britannia and Jerusalem.

Since the attack on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon in 2001, some conductors, such as Leonard Slatkin have declared themselves in favour of toning down the patriotic ardor of ‘last night’. I believe this would be a serious mistake. The audiences’ exuberant participation is a response to the joy of the much-loved music and not from nationalistic fervour.

© 2004, John Jane