Edward Clark (Musical Opinion)

Naming a brand new orchestra by this title might be stating the obvious but the founder conductor, Michael Young, is clearly intent on trying to change his audience’s perceptions of what humanity in our modern world actually means.

In his noble quest he was assisted by, as guest speaker, Francesca Martinez, whose reputation for “wobbly” comedy (she has mild cerebral palsy) and for inspirational public speaking, has set a new tone of what adopting decency in a morally corrupt world actually entails. Her speech to the audience focused on a need to move away from consumerism in favour of protecting our climate which would, with a consequent sense of global (achieved through our individual effort) responsibility, lead to a better, kinder world. She offered the opportunity for everyone to adopt a consequent change in values for the benefit of our modern age.

Noble sentiments indeed and the audience cheered her to the echo. After all each member was there as a donor to the creation of the orchestra and this was the showcasing of all the hard work leading up to the concert.

On with the music. Beethoven naturally, a great (the greatest in music anyway) humanist although not necessarily a great human being in his intercourse with fellow humans!

The Leonora Overture No. 3 possessed a natural flow and plenty of power. To end we heard that paean to the natural world so beloved by Beethoven, his Sixth Symphony “The Pastoral”, a firm favourite and made more so in this affectionate performance which allowed time for the orchestra principals to showcase their musicianship in plenty of ways. The strings were responsive and alert throughout. There was nothing of the so-called “authentic” brigade about this playing and so it came as a fond reminder of past performances by the giants of the rostrum.

In between came two less familiar but equally beautiful metaphors for a truly human response to external forces: Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 by Villa-Lobos in which the composer used his knowledge of European music to illustrate his Brazilian heritage of teaming cities and huge tropical forests.

Man’s inhumanity to man followed with the second movement from Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3,Symphony of Sorrowful Song. The composer suffered great personal loss to German concentration camps but was able to contend Germany had also produced Bach, Schubert, Strauss and, of course, Beethoven as well. His sorrow was possibly due to how to reconcile such divergences in a single nation.

In both April Fredrick, soprano, was the touching soloist.

A final word about Michael Young, the inspirer of this concert and future project; he gives every sign of being a thoroughly complete human being, having a deft way with his audience and a deeply serious approach to great music.

Rion Willard (The Thinking Hand)

The Beethoven Orchestra for Humanity had it’s debut concert on the 8 Feb 2016.

This was a musical experience that ripped through the DNA of every cell in my body. A physical force of sound produced by some the of most prodigious musical talent in the city -unified into a transformational auditory energy under the guidance of talented conductor Michael Young.

The intimate setting under the Menier chocolate factory gave the audience a unique chance to literally inhabit the sound and space of the music. The captivating climaxes of Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony could be felt not just heard as if you were inside the violent thunderstorm which Beethoven had painted. The Second movement of Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs was originally written from the perspective of a child separated from her mother. By setting the piece in the context of awareness for our planet’s climatic emergency, BOH gave the music a pertinent meaning as though we are the children losing our mother earth.

The emotion and heart beats of the players were within touch, the connection between players palpable and the typical conventions of the classical music experience, which can often create an uptight pretense were removed leaving a pure visceral entrance to the power of this music.

Combining this musical revelation with the intelligent and rousing words of the comedian and activist Francesca Martinez, created an evening that pointed towards the remarkable potential each of us has to transform, contribute and empower.