Tuneful treats at the Ealing Music and Film Valentine Festival

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I really never win anything. So winning a pair of tickets to a Saturday evening orchestral concert – the pinnacle of the Ealing Music and Film Valentine Festival – was quite the treat.

Now in its second year, the Festival celebrates the best that Ealing has to offer, backed by a dense history of music, film and dance. As such, the Trust is wholly committed to investment in local talent and inspiring arts and culture in young people. All very logical and lovely.

Saturday night’s volunteer orchestra comprised musicians of all ages, but with supreme talent in common. Set against the backdrop of the stately Ealing Town Hall, the Ealing Symphony Orchestra (expertly conducted by John Gibbons) played a collection of well-loved classics, from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (The Apprentice theme tune to you and me) and Sleeping Beauty. I was singing the Disney version of Once Upon a Dream in determined waltz rhythm in my head for the rest of the weekend. There were also plenty of pieces I didn’t recognise, but that other classical connoisseurs might.

Clarinettist Emma Johnson gave a stonking solo performance of John Dankworth’s clarinet concerto – a piece that had only been played twice before ever, and this was the first time in nineteen years…no pressure then. Dankworth’s widow Cleo Laine was in the audience, tapping her feet along to the jazzy runs with the rest of us.

But my favourite had to be the finale: Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker where, to my surprise, I found I recognised every piece. The strings rose and fell in perfect unison, while the dreamy harp was a highlight.

Classical music is much more ingrained in you than you realise. It reminds you of refrains that you might have heard elsewhere in popular culture, but exists as stand-alone art. I’m delighted I got the opportunity to go and see the best of Ealing’s musical talent in full force. Keep up the standards, EMFF. Here’s to next year.

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