The Queen Elizabeth Hall has reopened in exuberant style after extensive refurbishment. Its iconic, brutalist concrete has been sympathetically cleansed and conserved and new spaces have been created backstage by adapting and illuminating existing architectural features to give performers room to rehearse and reflect. The public spaces too have been enlarged to give comfort with stunning river views.
Chineke! is one of Southbank Centre’s newest Associate Orchestras, celebrating diversity and Chi-chi Nwanoku’s commitment to the championing of Black and Minority Ethnic music and musicians. The orchestra commenced with the Ballade by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912, born in London to a Sierra Leone Creole physician father), something of a calling card, played with freshness and vitality – outstanding dramatic bowing from the violinists and sparkling, delicate contrasts from the woodwinds.
Daniel Kidane’s Dream Song followed, its texts taken from Martin Luther King’s speeches. Roderick Williams delivered the lines almost as Sprechstimme, often only semitones apart, in his gorgeous warm tones, resonant with meaning. Chineke! Chorus impressed with a layered backcloth as the Voices of the Oppressed, and with the orchestra signifying unrest, including Britten-esque touches, and his The Building of the House (1967) followed, written the new Snape Maltings concert hall, although the composer first-conducted it for the opening of the QEH. The fusion of nervous, existential questioning and the setting of Psalm CXXVII added another aspect of musical sophistication to this concert, the performers again acquitting themselves with distinction.
Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony highlighted some exceptional players within Chineke! Orchestra, such as flautist Eric Lamb and oboist Armand Djikoloum, and Anthony Parnther caught the Symphony’s moods that change like the weather – brooding, sunny, charged and dramatic. Chineke! brought all its brightness and lively intelligence to a reading full of fun and gravity, exuding passion and personality.
- Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 (available on BBC iPlayer for thirty days afterwards)