Abergavenny Orchestral Society has been going for well over 100 years but is just about to embark on its most ambitious enterprise to-date. On November 29th it will be staging a performance of Beethoven’s last, greatest symphony – the Ninth – with its famous choral setting of Schiller’s Ode to Joy.
This is not often performed, for two reasons: Number one – it is difficult! Number two – it needs a lot of performers, collaborations between orchestra and choirs, and a suitable venue.
AOS is staging the concert jointly with two local choirs. One is the award-winning Crickhowell Choral Society, recently featured on Radio 3. The other is the “The Glam Reunion” Choir, a new phenomenon formed by ex-members of the Glamorgan Youth Choir and Orchestra, in the face of cuts to education music services which are closing down the opportunities for a new generation to experience live classical music first-hand. The Glam is an inspiration which shows how people whose lives were enriched by music can keep the flame alive even when the curtain is being brought down on 50 years of free instruments and free lessons.
There is something quintessentially different about live music, for the performers and for the audiences – and losing that would make South Wales a poorer place to live in.
Last Sunday AOS held one of their regular orchestral workshops, spending a day working on Holst’s “The Planets”, in Clarence Hall, Crickhowell. Players of all ages took part, from youngsters to senior citizens, including three generations of one family! It was a chance for local musicians to get to grips with one of the great pieces of the 20th century musical repertoire, in a friendly, no-pressure situation, with a performance for friends and family at the end of the day.
Beethoven’s Ninth is at the other end of the AOS spectrum, something that has been worked on for months, staged in Brecon Cathedral, with a large orchestra and massed choirs. It is a bold departure – a bigger venue to fill, and further for the regular Abergavenny fans to travel, but also a chance to engage a new audience. Let’s hope that the spirit of live music, rooted in and growing out of our community can make the transition!
To find out more about the orchestra visit www.abergavennysymph.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets for the Beethoven concert are available now from the website, from Abergavenny Music in Cross Street, and from the Brecon Cathedral shop. A coach will run from Abergavenny to Brecon for those not wanting to travel separately.