Wilton’s is the oldest music hall in London. The current hall was built in 1859, with parts of the building dating back as far as 1710. Empty since the 50’s, a careful, £2.6m restoration in 2016 allowed theatre-goers to experience Wilton’s as it would have been in its hay-day.
Like the building, one of the cellos that the United Strings used in the performance is also a survivor from the eighteenth century.
All of this fits nicely with the themes of U.S.E’s latest album “Renewal” from which tonight’s performance was drawn
Wilton’s is a romantic and evocative setting for classical music with great acoustics. Praise must also go to Wilton’s technical team who did a fantastic job with lighting that changed naturally with the music, added drama at exactly the right moments and almost seemed like a part of the music itself.
The evening began with Julian Azkoul’s arrangement of Joanna Marsh’s “In Winter’s House” The first of three 21st-century composers to feature in the programme. The original was written for five singers with Azkoul creating an interpretation for string orchestra that works beautifully. This piece is also the opening track on “Renewal”
Caroline Shaw’s “Entr’acte” (2011) was next, a marvellously playful re-imagining of a minuet and trio, in the words of the composer; “riffing on that classical form but taking it a little further.”
Ruby Hughes then joined the orchestra for Golijov’s “Three Songs for Soprano and Strings”. The three songs reflect Golijov’s diverse European influences with one song being in English, one Yiddish and one Gallego (The language of Spain’s Galicia region). The intimate perspective of the songs worked excellently with the closeness of the space at Wilton’s and it felt like Ruby Hughes was singing to each one of us personally.
Philip Herbert’s “Elegy: In Memoriam – Stephen Lawrence” is a dramatic and sombre piece scored for 18 strings in response to the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993. To quote Herbert:
“There is a need to place a higher value on the strength that comes from diverse
peoples living together harmoniously, across the world. We all have something
valuable and very positive to contribute to the larger part of the puzzle of life in
the world today. Stephen Lawrence was deprived of the right to a life where he
could use his amazing talents for the good of wider society. Nevertheless we can
press together across our communities to help realise his dreams.”
Composed by Richard Strauss in the last days of the second world war and arranged for 16 strings by Eric Mouret “Metamorphosen” closed the evening on a note of hope and transformation.