sat 16/10/2021

Aurora Orchestra, Collon, West Handyside Canopy review – energy blasts outside Kings Cross Waitrose | reviews, news & interviews

Aurora Orchestra, Collon, West Handyside Canopy review – energy blasts outside Kings Cross Waitrose

Aurora Orchestra, Collon, West Handyside Canopy review – energy blasts outside Kings Cross Waitrose

First big UK symphony performance to an audience since lockdown - from memory

Memorised magic: the Aurora Orchestra's Beethoven 7 Both images by Monika S Jakubowska/Kings Place

Blessed are the players and musical organisations who adapt and innovate, for they shall inhabit the post-lockdown landscape. And while we appreciate the difficulties any orchestra faces in terms of re-opening logistics and costs, livestreams have their limit.

Kings Place, under the aegis of which this event was held, Snape Maltings, Bold Tendencies in Peckham's Multi-Storey Car Park, Scottish Opera, Battersea Park Bandstand Chamber Music, the Fidelio Orchestra Cafe and the Wigmore Hall, admitting a public very soon, are the heroes now.

Even the thrill this audience member got from the first A major chord of Beethoven’s most energetic symphony, the Seventh, was worth a hundred online experiences. There was even a Promming element; as passers-by, many with their Waitrose shopping, noted with surprise what was going on, and while some sped by as if this were not the remarkable happening it undoubtedly was, many stood at the side to hear the whole thing. All players who could stood, too, which always ups the energy. Beethoven, as the Aurora's main man Nicholas Collon (pictured below) observed in his spoken introduction, has had his anniversary year partly scuppered, though it's worth noting that an awful lot of him surfaced right up to 15 March, the last day of concert life as we knew it, when Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia recreated the mammoth 1808 spectacular featuring so many of his works. The composer would surely have loved this big bang of back-to-business. Nicholas Collon conducts Beethoven 7Inevitably circumstances made it more a total experience than a chance to really assess what kind of an interpretation this was from Collon, how the interplay of score-free players actually worked. That will be Jessica Duchen’s task when the performance hits an (audience-less) Albert Hall for the Aurora’s Thursday Prom. The funnel-shaped covered walkway between St Martin’s College of Art and the supermarket renders the sound both reverberant and very loud. Woodwind tone could be piercing. Climactic moments like the reiterated pounding at the heart of the first-movement development and the thunderous turns of the screw in the finale stood out in dance-revels which you might like to hear rendered in crisper focus; the soft lower strings at the start of the Allegretto, the subsequent long-term crescendo and the high, bright articulation of the scherzo worked best.

Yet all these varying levels of success were rendered insignificant in the general joy shared by young performers so obviously delighted to be playing together and a wildly enthusiastic audience. The soul was truly fed, as it can only be in a live event; the proof was in the enterprise. Much more of this, please.


Excellent review, and agree 100% about the opening A major cord - never have I been so moved by the single first note of any symphony! The loud volume described could be attributed to the amplification which both Richard Morrison in the Times and David Nice seem to have missed. There were microphones amidst the orchestra and banks of speakers spaced through the length of the 'Canopy'. It probably was necessary to have some amplification given the natural acoustic of the space and to overcome ambient sounds. While it was an incredible event, the amplification does emphasise how vital it is to get back to indoor concerts ASAP!

Yes, I had no idea it was amplified. Just sounded like a reverberant mess they were making the best of. Probably best left to nature.

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