There was a choice of top-flight afternoon entertainment in Glasgow on Sunday 15 January. At Hampden Park, Rangers and Aberdeen were fighting for a place in the final of the Scottish League Cup. Being a supporter of Greenock Morton, Hampden was not an option for me. I decided on high culture. It was the right decision and what great value it was for £5. I opted for the Merchant Sinfonia’s Winter Concert, the first public performance by this amateur orchestra since before the pandemic.
Under the baton and sense of fun of its conductor, Louise Martin, the orchestra lit up the City Hall.
Once an ensemble that benefited from the expertise, direction and cheque book of BBC Scotland, the Sinfonia is now independent of the Corporation. These days it must find its funding from other sources. A prominent funder is Glasgow Life, Glasgow City Council’s charitable foundation. In a city that reinvented itself as a global destination of the arts and culture, it is entirely fitting that an amateur orchestra is supported from public funds. The people of Glasgow appear to support it too. There was a big, warm and appreciative audience for the Winter Concert.
A heady hour of glorious music brought us Bizet, Vivaldi and that Scottish favourite, Hamish MacCunn’s Land of the Mountain and the Flood. William Alwyn’s Suite of Scottish Dances came next.
Overture: Revival – a hopeful piece of music
MacCunn had set the stage for the world premiere of Overture: Revival, by another West of Scotland composer, the distinguished musician Eddie McGuire, who was in the audience. His Revival marks the world re-emerging from the pandemic. In the hands of Louise Martin and her players, McGuire’s overture lifted the heart. Your correspondent has no qualifications to comment on the piece other than to say he enjoyed it and hopes to hear it again. It’s a composition that might help give Glasgow a wee nudge to a better future, as the city and its people face a world where hope and confidence are much needed.
The encore: a fitting surprise
Along with the rest of the audience, I thought the Merchant Sinfonia’s spirited rendition of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture marked the end of the orchestra’s first outing of 2023. But these happy people wanted to play on, so we had an encore of the theme from Dr Who. That was entirely fitting, for the Merchant Sinfonia is a bit like the TARDIS: it can take you to new, unexpected, and exciting worlds on a dank January Sunday afternoon.
All hail the Merchant Sinfonia. Can I sum the experience up in one word? Yes, I can. Fun.
The Merchant Sinfonia also calls itself Glasgow’s Community Orchestra and it’s looking for more players (visit the website at https://merchantsinfonia.org.uk/).