"I really enjoyed the concert and thought the orchestra played extremely well... everyone learnt [the Bartok Violin Concerto No. 2 so quickly; Orchestra of the City has to be the best amateur orchestra" ANDREW HARVEY, VIOLIN SOLOIST
"The Orchestra of the City is a wonderful group. Their commitment and enthusiasm are thoroughly infectious and I felt lucky to have the chance to play with them."KATHARINE GOWERS, VIOLIN
"The Orchestra of the City captured the spirit of Sir John Tavener's music in their playing of - Lament for Jerusalem. There was a beauty and purity of tone which was very impressive. I greatly enjoyed working with such committed musicians and their talented conductor - Benjamin Bayl"
PATRICIA ROZARIO OBE
"The orchestra played wonderfully well throughout the concert and coped excellently in their difficult role as accompanist to the organ soloist in the Barber "Toccata Festiva"; "It is always a pleasure performing with good amateur musicians as they take so much care and delight in the music, but when they are also as technically able as the City Orchestra, the pleasure becomes a mutually absorbing experience - never to be forgotten".
It is rare to be part of a concert where each and every member of the orchestra is involved fully in the musical journey. The Orchestra of the City under the very able baton of Benjamin Bayl is one such group. Having worked with some of the UK's most established orchestra's and conductors I have to say that the Orchestra of the City under Benjamin Bayl can be considered a hidden gem in the music making of London and the UK. The full throated soaring string sound together with the pitch perfect intonation of the wind and brass make this orchestra to be heard.
Concert Review, June 2004
Surround sound for real. The Orchestra of the City with Simon Preston on the organ of St John's, Smith Square proved that 5.1 is not required to experience the true acoustic delight of sitting in the midst of the music. The programme by this young orchestra, youthful in age, temperament and existence, comprised Samuel Barber's Toccata Festiva, Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring and Symphony no 3 in C, Organ, by Camille Saint-Saens.
Only a year on from their first performance The Orchestra of City are now gearing up to give the European premiere of Sir John Tavener's Lament for Jerusalem in September. In an age of self-gratification, and money for nothing, it is a pleasure to know that this is not a professional machine, made up of non-professional performers from all walks of life who are keen, extremely able, and who want to play good music. And good it is.
The Barber and Copland made an interesting pairing. Both from the top draw of American composers they are at once similar in their mid twentieth century feel, but also significantly different, each with their own distinctive narrative character.
The Toccata Festiva is a conversation between the orchestra and the organ, a dialogue that develops into a jousting match, Simon Preston's animated playing at one end of the building was matched with vigour by the Orchestra at the other, the audience caught in between, not quite breathless but surprised at the punctuating silence in the depths of the organ solo. Appalachian Spring, a contrast in style, works well as an orchestral piece, indeed is probably heard more on the concert platform than on the ballet stage. Commissioned by Martha Graham, the full orchestral version adds body and texture played to the full by the Orchestra of the City.
Camille Saint-Saens saw the Symphony no 3,"Organ" as his magnum opus and despite a list of well-known pieces it is hard to think of another from his pen that makes the hair stand on the back of the neck. The subtle start, conductor Benjamin Bayl almost stroking the sound out of the violins, created a distance between players and listeners, a distance that was soon filled as the volume rose and, with eyes closed, the imagination saw the whole orchestra on the move, closing the gap between themselves and the organ. The adagio held just the right amount of romance, enough to paint the picture with great strokes of colour without becoming a cliché. When the natural break occurred, orchestra and conductor readjusted themselves, clothing, music, instruments and mind, ready to attack the final two movements, girding their mental loins to celebrate Saens-Saens. And this preparation was needed, Bayl picking them up as one and running through at a pace suggesting he had the promise of a clandestine tryst at half past nine. Slightly shaky and positively exhausted they all made it to the end, and what a sound, what culmination, the usually restrained audience not even allowing the final notes to die away before cries of joy sprang from lips and approbation rang from every pair of hands.
RICHARD HOLLINGHUM - (c)Richard P Hollingum 2004