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Stewart Copeland brings the house crashing down

Philharmonic Hall goes out in glory as £14m refit begins

Written by . Published on May 24th 2014.

Stewart Copeland brings the house crashing down

VASILY Petrenko ended the night wearing a hard hat to signal the end of Philharmonic proceedings while the builders are in.

But they ought to have issued crash helmets from the start of an uproarious evening of music that threatened to knock the plaster off the ceiling before a sledgehammer got anywhere near.

Petrenko called on every ounce of his youthful energy (the RLPO's principal conductor since 2006 is still only 37) to carry the orchestra through a thunderous programme on Friday night, aptly entitled Bringing The House Down.

The final concert, before the start of a £13.8m refurbishment, began with Benjamin Britten's Welcome Ode, a suitable showcase for the talented Phil Youth Choir and Blue Coat School boys' choir, and ended with Belshazzar’s Feast, William Walton's oratorio performed by so many singers and musicians that they spilled over into the auditorium.

Vasily wears a hard hat. Pix by Mark McNultyVasily wears a hard hat. Pix by Mark McNulty

The audience, having been rocked back in their seats by the power of the presentation, were on their feet in appreciation at the end.

A world premiere for Stewart Copeland's Poltroons in Paradise, drawing on many inspirations, yet quite unique,  had a similar effect on the full house.  

Copeland, former drummer of The Police turned composer, punched the air in triumph (and probably a dash of relief) after his remarkable percussion concerto drew an electrifying, energising performance from all, but in particular percussionists Graham Johns, Henry Baldwin, Adrian Spillett and Neil Hitt.

The Phil's five-month work programme is to include “significant improvements” to the foyer, bars and catering, toilets and lifts, “rebuilding and improving” the stage and choir performance areas in the auditorium and “an exciting new performance space”. At the same time they will be, lovers of the 1939 art deco treasure are promised, “respecting our history”.

A giant Philharmonic Hall cakeA giant Philharmonic Hall cakeIn the meantime, the orchestra will play at St George's Hall, in Sefton Park (for the Liverpool International Music Festival with Ian Broudie on August 22), in London, Dublin and Shanghai, among others.

The average age of the audience may be a little high (a few managed to doze defiantly despite the tumult) for the Phil's marketing strategists, but if a night of classical music can cause my 10-year-old companion, more attuned to dubstep and hip hop, to declare it “brilliant”, there is reason to be optimistic for the Phil as it prepares for a 175th anniversary.

The 2014/15 concert season kicks off in November, rather later than usual due to that refurbishment. If they start the way they finished, it will be worth the wait.

Drummer takes a trip to the sticks 

STEWART Copeland took time out from a busy rehearsal schedule this week to visit Liverpool Philharmonic's dynamic In Harmony programme in west Everton. 

He joined five children aged 8-11 years from the programme, who are all members of West Everton Children's Orchestra. Stewart watched and listened to the children rehearse on drums and glockenspiel, and then got on the drums himself to play along with them. 

He said: "They play instinctively, and that's what music is all about."

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AnonymousMay 27th 2014.

Fantastic evening. Stewart Copeland so talented.

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