When the combined forces of the Isle of Man Symphony Orchestra (IOMSO) and the Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra play The Planets on May 17th at the Villa Marina it will not only be one of the highlights of Island of Culture 2014, but also one of the rare occasions when the seven-movement orchestral suite will have been performed in the island in its entirety.
‘You need about an 80-strong orchestra for The Planets, so on our own with around 45 players we simply wouldn’t have the resources. Joining forces with the Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra has made it possible,’ said IOMSO conductor Maurice Powell.
‘The idea for the concert was born around two years ago. A couple of Slaithwaite members guest with us occasionally and we started to think how the two orchestras might work together at some point and that led to a proposal to perform The Planets. The work’s a real crowd-puller and because it requires a large orchestra, can rarely be performed outside of large cities such as London or Manchester.
‘But even with joining forces we could never have staged this concert – probably one of the biggest in living memory in the island – without the funding we’ve received from the Isle of Man Arts Council and support from the Villa Marina, so we’re extremely grateful to them for helping make the concert possible.’
The Planets will form the second half of the programme and be conducted by Benjamin Ellin, music director and principal conductor of the Slaithwaite Philharmonic Orchestra.
He said: ‘The Planets is a remarkable theatrical work that demands a vast orchestra, a choir and just about every instrument imaginable. It’s a wonderfully written piece and, as a composition, beautifully crafted. There’s an ethereal quality about it but at the same time, with its influences of Vaughan Williams, its musical roots are very English in style.
‘The great thing about The Planets is that it’s in sections, but it’s an intense work to perform and you need to be match fit.
‘A performance of the complete suite of The Planets is quite rare. This is a major joint production and the levels of positivity, confidence and belief in the project on both sides is really high. Everyone has invested so much time and energy into this; we want to instill a sense of occasion, give it our best and make a great night of it.’
The first half has a distinctive Manx theme. It opens with Haydn Wood’s Manx Rhapsody into which four Manx themes are woven. Mr Powell explained that strong links existed between the Island and Slaithwaite; Haydn and his brother Harry having been born in the West Yorkshire town but later moving to the island.
‘We also have Arthur Butterworth’s Ragnarok, The Doom of Gods. It’s a gritty piece written for the Manx Youth Orchestra in 1995 that’s never been played since and is based on the Norse saga as depicted on the Ragnarok stone in Andreas,’ he added.
The first half will also feature two world premières: JE Quayle’s Fantasy-Overture On Maughold Head and Charles Guard’s new work, Song of the Southern Hills.
Mr Powell explained: ‘Charles’s work is an attractive, light and atmospheric piece featuring themes recognisable from his film scores.
‘JE Quayle was the probably the foremost Manx-born composer of the first part of the 20th century and his On Maughold Head work is a very fine piece that also draws on Manx folk song themes.
‘All in all the concert promises to be a memorable evening that celebrates links between the Isle of Man and Slaithwaite, Manx music and the enduring appeal of Holst’s one-of-a-kind work The Planets.’
For bookings visit www.villagaiety.com