Century-old Thanet Concert Overture to get isle debut in Ramsgate

Thanet Concert Overture to be performed in Ramsgate

A Thanet Overture last performed 100 years ago will be played at a concert in Ramsgate this July.

The Thanet Light Orchestra will play the piece, which is believed never to have been performed on the isle, at the concert at St Luke’s Church on July 16.

The exuberant Thanet Concert Overture by Alfred Wall will be performed along with other ‘local’ pieces such as the tuneful ‘Broadstairs Suite’ by Bill Worland.

The overture was rediscovered after some long detective work. Back in the 1980s, a young Ben Jones – the current leader of TLO- was presented by his father with a suitcase of music originating from a former mayor of Broadstairs.

The mayor was Winifred Browne an accomplished pianist who gave the first UK broadcast of Rachmaninov’s 4th piano concerto, as well as numerous concerts with members of the illustrious London String Quartet.

Included in the suitcase was a piano quartet by Alfred Wall, but the piano part was fiendishly difficult so Ben waited until he could find more skilled pianists. The first attempt was with Robert Scott, a very skilled musician from the King’s School Canterbury, but the notes were simply too difficult to sight-read, and he ended up ‘slapping’ the keyboard randomly to ensure that at least the *rhythm* was right.

A further attempt was made some years later with concert pianist Mariko Mitsuyu, but even she declared that the piece was not playable without lots of advance practice. Listening to the play-through, Ben’s wife read the composer’s dedication (“To my wife”) and remarked, “What did she do to deserve that?!”

Ben then discovered some new software called Sibelius, and spent over a year typing all the notes into the PC so that at last one could hear at least a mechanical reproduction of what the piece was meant to sound like, as there were no recordings.:

Ben kept looking out for more information on the mysterious “Alfred Wall”, including building up a Wall family tree.

Gradually some titbits emerged from old musical magazines – one of which mentioned the quartet as having won a prize, as a result of which it was included for publication in the Carnegie Collection

In the magazines Ben also spotted a few brief references to a “Thanet” concert overture by Wall. Given the small number of pieces connected with the Isle of Thanet, it seemed ideal as something the Thanet Light Orchestra should play.

However, there were no current references online, and no sign of the sheet music, despite extensive searches.

Peter Cigleris of the UK Amateur Orchestras Facebook group then volunteered to check the Royal College of Music archives and it was listed! Fearing that the RCM might not grant outsiders access, let alone permission to borrow or copy the music, Ben wrote a tentative email mentioning the wish to ‘rediscover’ the piece, in Thanet, in its anniversary year of 2022. The RCM  agreed, and swiftly scanned the entire conductor’s manuscript (there were no individual instrument parts).

Over several months following, Ben, helped by several volunteers inside TLO, typed in the notes, and knitted them together into a cohesive single score.

Other pieces with local connections have been chosen to also feature in the concert and these include the *Broadstairs Suite* by Bill Worland – for which TLO gave the UK première, appropriately in Broadstairs, in 2014, and  “Kentonia”, a march about Deal by Susan Spain-Dunk.

The programme will also contain Sinfonietta by Alan Ridout – a piece full of local and personal connections, as he briefly taught Ben in Canterbury, and dedicated the piece to David Goodes (Ben’s tutor) for use in the Canterbury Orchestra.

Finally, there will be the Kentish Suite by Hubert Clifford, with movements referring to Dover, Canterbury, the bucolic Kentish countryside, Gad’s Hill, and Greenwich.

The concert on July 16 starts at 7pm.  Refreshments available. Tickets £10 on the door. For concessions call the church (St Luke’s Ramsgate) on 01843 592562.

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