The Glasgow Barons/MacAlindin
Pearce Institute, Govan, Glasgow
Keith Bruce
four stars
A CONCERT by “Govan’s own orchestra” is only the tip of the iceberg. The Glasgow Barons are a fine chamber orchestra of conventional numbers and structure, in which musicians who have been making their living in other orchestras and ensembles in the city for many years sit alongside younger players as well as a good few recent arrivals in Scotland who have sought refuge here to escape difficult circumstances in their homeland.
But this performance, conducted by the band’s founder and artistic director Paul MacAlinden, a “hero” nominee this week’s Herald Diversity Awards, was the culmination not just of the rehearsal process but also of outreach work that has seen local people create their own visual art with artist Fiona Fleming and local schoolchildren write their own music with Kevan O’Reilly. The inspiration for both those projects came from a composition by Eddie MccGuire, Junk Shop Blues, that was written for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra over a decade ago, and drew its own inspiration from a Joan Eardley watercolour, Rag and Bone Shop.
So while the short piece, which starts with a walking bass line everyone knows, was a great opener, the fact that the composer had been putting the young folk through their paces earlier in the day was just as significant to its timely revival.
The performance of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony after the interval not only demonstrated the fine acoustic for the room as well as the quality of the playing, but also how carefully balanced that has to be, with a few occasions where the strings were overwhelmed by the other instruments, although the cellos and basses maintained a perfect pace through the Andante second movement.
The slow music at the end of the selections from Sibelius’s Pelleas & Melisande was also beautifully played in the first half, and set up the composer’s rather more rarely heard Humoresques for Violin and Orchestra, of which the Opus 89 No. 2 Andantino is equally lovely.
The soloist was 16-year-old Momo Ueda, a pupil at St Mary’s in Edinburgh whose poise and technique showed a calm maturity, with the work’s affecting harmonics dispatched with relaxed ease.