The WA Symphony Orchestra had just finished Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, complete with 80-piece choir and fireworks exploding from the Langley Park stage. “That was great, better than Jennifer Lopez!” said my friend.
The estimated 15 000-strong crowd around us were on their feet cheering and the orchestra responded with two encores: Strauss’ Radetsky March and Peter Allen’s I Still Call Australia Home. It was a fitting conclusion to a very Aussie version of a classical music concert.
This was the first time the free Symphony in the City concert was held at Langley Park (moving from the Esplanade due to the Elizabeth Quay developments). A mild summer evening with the sunset reflecting on the Perth skyline made the perfect backdrop. The orchestra performed from a huge floodlit sound shell while the audience picnicked on the grass and screens projected the concert not just around the park but also to Albany and Merredin in a live regional simulcast. The concert was also webcast live with public screenings at towns around the state.

(To watch the webcast click here)

The orchestra were in relaxed form under conductor Paul Daniel, donning pirate hats for Klaus Badelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack. Delibes Flower Duet (Lakme) was a highlight with Perth divas Sarah Macliver and Fiona Campbell singing with a sweet delicacy that surpassed any recording or performance I’ve heard.

The WASO Chorus, recently returned from a tour to Hong Kong, brought a blast of energy to Verdi’s Anvil Chorus (Il Trovatore) and the men were in particularly good form for Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances (Prince Igor).

Presenter Andrew Horabin’s dry humour kept proceedings down-to-earth. His evocative introduction to Smetana’s Vltava (Ma Vlast) set the scene and the orchestra responded with a performance like a magnificent aural painting. It seemed even the wind stopped to listen to the hushed flute and harp depiction of the rippling river.

The engaging program effectively introduced the state-wide audience to the rich diversity of our orchestra. The icing on the cake would’ve been a piece by an Australian composer to showcase our living cultural heritage. But outclassing a pop concert at the new arena is a good start!

This article copyright The West Australian 2012