The Beecroft Orchestra | Spring Gala
September 17, 2023, Cheltenham Girls’ High School, NSW
In the light-filled spacious new Cheltenham Girls’ High School hall on a hot Sunday afternoon, many members of the local community enjoyed the Spring Gala held by Beecroft Orchestra, an amateur orchestra that provides opportunities for musicians to make music together and for young soloists, composers, and conductors to perform in public, hence living up to their motto “uniting people through music”.
Their conductor since 2014, Joanna Drimatis, addressed the audience before each work. Her enthusiasm and encouragement of musicians of all standards and backgrounds is to be commended, as is her ability to bring out the best in them.
The orchestra commenced with the Faust Overture by a recently rediscovered female German Romantic composer, Emilie Mayer. This choice of work highlights the orchestra’s varied and challenging programming.
Assistant conductor, Paige Gullifer, also the orchestra’s saxophonist, stepped up to oversee the performance of the second movement Minuetto from Dvorak’s Serenade for Winds Op 44 featuring the orchestra’s 2 oboists, 2 clarinettists, 2 bassoonists, and 3 of the 4 horns, as well as a cellist and double bassist.
The highlight of the afternoon were the 2 soloists, baritone Tristan Entwistle and soprano Samantha Lestavel, particularly when they both acted and sang the famous fun Papageno/Papagena duet from Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Tristan warmed up with the Vision Fugitive aria from Massenet’s Herodiade (the first opera where a saxophone was used), displaying lovely breath control, while Samantha treated us to Je Veux Livre (I Want to Live) from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette, showing her ease of voice production including several high notes. They were rewarded with wine and flowers respectively.
A very popular afternoon tea followed during Interval before proceedings were rounded off with Dvorak’s Symphony No 6 in D, Op 60. Its 4 movements were “full of hope and joy”, as Drimatis stated, and combined both traditional German symphonic form with Bohemian folk music particularly evident in the third movement Furiant (Scherzo and Trio) in D minor. The lightly scored second movement Adagio in B flat featured various woodwind solos. The exciting ending of the Finale back in the original key of D provided a fitting end to the concert.