This weekend, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra opened the inaugaral Liverpool International Music Festival in the world famous surroundings of Sefton Park. The August public holiday weekend’s events have been a tremendous success, with hundreds of thousands enjoying the weather & sounds, and the organisers are now confident that the event will become the biggest in Europe within five years. Here is the commentary on the opening night, from Catherine Jones in the Liverpool Echo…
Liverpool International Music Festival begins with spectacular classical concert in Sefton Park
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra delighted crowds with classical and cinematic favourites
They came in their thousands, flooding into Sefton Park for the opening night of the Liverpool International Music Festival.
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra played a set of classical favourites in a free concert in the park.
Organisers estimate more than 10,000 people attended. Liverpool’s director of culture, Claire McColgan, said: “The response has been fantastic. We have had families picnicking here all day, getting a good spot for when Sense of Sound and the RLPO began. The atmosphere has been great. We couldn’t have asked for better.”
Even the weather behaved. Forecast rain held off, leaving music lovers to enjoy the concert.
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra chief executive Michael Eakin said: “We have been very lucky with the weather all day. It did threaten to rain a few times, but somehow it held off.”
The evening begun at 6.30pm with a performance from Liverpool choir Sense of Sound. Artistic director Jennifer John said: “It was a real honour to open the Liverpool International Music Festival. The crowd were brilliant – so enthusiastic and open to the music. I loved every minute of it.”
Before the show began there was also a Philharmonic ‘instrument petting zoo’, where budding musicians could try their hand at various orchestral instruments.
Simon Glinn, executive director of Philharmonic Hall and events, added: “It’s been a fantastic day. The audience has been great. There were people here even when the orchestra were rehearsing.”
As a fitting finale, fireworks illuminated the night sky as the orchestra played the 1812 Overture.
Ayotunde Falana, who lives overlooking the park, said: “This is the first event I’ve been to in Sefton Park that offered facilities such as a viewing platform for people in wheelchairs. I’ve been to concerts here where people would stand up in front of me. Simple things like a place where you can see the stage makes all the difference.”
Catherine Jones reviews the Phil at Sefton Park
If you want to launch your music festival with a bang then a 70-piece orchestra going hell for leather on stage while fireworks stream skywards behind them is as good a way as any.
You can always rely on the RLPO to rise to the big occasion. And you can always rely on the British summer to give organisers a few jitters.
The skies spat half-hearted flurries of water on and off during last night, but in the event the opening concert of Liverpool International Music Festival remained remarkably rain free – with an audience several thousand strong descending on the stage in Sefton Park’s Review Field.
The last time the Phil played the Aigburth park was in a big top way back in 1998 when no-one in Liverpool had ever heard of a young blond Russian called Vasily Petrenko.
Now, the conductor gets rousing cheers of recognition – and there was even apparently a “we love you Vasily” from one enthusiastic audience member.
Petrenko led the Phil through a programme carefully chosen for the venue and audience, with upbeat, blockbuster-ish numbers featuring plenty of whizz bangs, and classical favourites, the order of the day.
A couple of less well-known pieces crept in for good measure – Shostakovich’s unusual (for the Russian composer) but delightful fairground whirligig Jazz Suite which got at least one couple up and waltzing, and Arturo Marquez’s Conga del Fuego which, following Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, sadly paled in significance and failed to get any obvious conga lines going at all.
Elsewhere, aptly for a concert billed a Classic FM Summer Live event and fronted by the radio station’s Jamie Crick, there were outings for a robust Bizet’s Carmen, a bruising Mars from Holst’s The Planets, and a jolly, hand-clapping, foot- stamping Radetzky March.
A trio of film scores also added cinematic glister to proceedings, delivering a vibrant, exhilarating sound through the big stage’s speakers.
In fact, give or take the odd crackle and an occasional imbalance in favour of the strings, the sound system was particularly effective.
And as for those fireworks? Carefully timed to the closing minutes of the 1812, they generated genuinely appreciative oohs and ahhs.
Not bad for a free evening out.
The RLPO were preceded by Liverpool’s Sense of Sound singers who delivered an energetic a cappella set under Jennifer John.