Now That's What I Call 175

CHRISTOPHER MORLEY FINDS BIRMINGHAM CITY UNIVERSITY'S 175TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS A LITTLE MUTED

                                    NOWTHAT'S WHAT I CALL 175
                                    Royal Birmingham Conservatoire ****

Trace previous incarnations of Birmingham City Universitybackwards through University of Central England, City of BirminghamPolytechnic, various links with the Birmingham and Midland Institute, and youend up with the Birmingham Government School of Design, set up to encourageartistic creativity which would make our goods attractive to buyers across thewater.
To celebrate BGSD's founding 175 years ago BCU promoted thisspecial concert in its showpiece Royal Birmingham Conservatoire's Bradshaw Hall,compered by the amiable John Suchet and showcasing both present-day studentsand welcoming the return of Punch the Sky, a world-rock party band who paidexhilarating tribute to the city's Dexy's Midnight Runners and Electric LightOrchestra.
This set sat a little awkwardly between the two classicalsegments, and deserved a less buttoned-up audience. Nevertheless, these alumnicame over with engaging personality.
Opening the compact evening (such events can so oftensprawl, with so many Buggins' turns requiring inclusion) was a delightful vocalsequence devised by Fraser Goulding. Lixin Liu, Felicity Davies, Annie Georgeand Miles Taylor, Jonathan French the ever-reliable accompanist, deliveredlittle gems by a range of composers connected with the city, from Mendelssohnto John Joubert and Michael Wolters, taking in along the way suchoff-the-beaten-track luminaries as Albert Ketelbey and Granville Bantock..
Ketelbey also featured in the closing offering, Michael Sealconducting his glorious In a Monastery Garden. The strings of the RBC SymphonyOrchestra sang soulfully, chorus gentlemen chanted with monastic gravity, andthe birdsong effects were not overdone in this account of immense dignity.
The same forces concluded this slightly muted evening with adisappointing performance of the finale to Elgar's Enigma Variations. Ensemblewas occasionally untidy, and didn't we miss the roaring underpinning of anorgan in the triumphant final bars.
Christopher Morley

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