Mary Elizabeth Brown
Associate Concert Master for Orchestra London

Alain Trudel Conducting at the Grand Theatre
From the Spring 2011 Gala that Introduced him as their Music Director



Orchestra London: Their Legacy

The organization that was Orchestra London is gone now but what they epitomized still thrives. This group was far more than just people "doing their jobs". They injected immense vitality into whatever they played. Versatility was their watchword. Their concerts included show tunes, classical repertoire from many periods, new music, and even … Rock and Roll … a la symphony of course. Imagine hearing variations on famous guitar solos rolling off Joe Lanza's violin and sounding like they belonged to him, and the picture becomes a clear one. His comment on it, "Who knew?", said with a twinkle in his eyes, defined it even more.

Orchestra London wasn't just a group that performed work by old dead writers; they were an ensemble committed to exploring the world of music, discovering the heart beating within and bringing that facet to a public looking to share the experience. Their Music Directors were men of vision. With Tim Vernon at the helm fully staged operas were brought to London. It was made possible by sharing productions with Pacific Opera Victoria, which he also directed. Alain Trudel reportedly had the goal of getting them to record. That never came about but the three years under his baton made them into what Kevin Mallon described as a "Rolls Royce" to drive. The programs in his three years were a blend of delicious extremes that usually combined the most loved pieces from the repertoire with works that even the musicians hadn't heard of. They loved the challenge though and responded to it enthusiastically. Shows during his tenure bristled with a charge that would be expected at rock concerts.

For myself, the five years I was involved with them were a gift, one the people who thought I should be getting paid for those articles never understood. The two fully staged operas I saw performed by them are still high water marks among productions I've seen. Handel's 'Guilio Cesare' which they did in the spring of 2010, was a masterpiece of interpretation and casting. Thinking about Lucia Cesaroni's rendition of 'V'adoro pupille' soaring through the Grand Theatre still brings out chills. I watched the dress rehearsal and the opening night performance of that and can only say that, not only was it phenomenal, it was even more engaging the second time around. Their reading of Mozart's 'Magic Flute' in 2009 answered all the questions about why that opera endures as it does. Vernon had it defined so clearly the spoken dialogue which was done in English ran into the music that was sung in German so fluidly the texts used for translation weren't needed.

Over the years their work broadened an appreciation for all forms of music. Newer pieces, which are often more difficult for casual listeners to approach, were always presented in a way that revealed something about them. Old favourites, which can grow stale with too many hearings, became objects of rediscovery. Pop music, which I'd personally gotten tired of thanks to the limitations of centrally generated playlists heard on radio these days, came alive again. The arrangements done with Peter Brennan's 'Jeans 'N Classics' ensemble not only respected the original material, they resurrected what had been made dead (or at least put in suspended animation) by the repetitiousness dictated by accountants' pens.

Away from the stage they were open to questions and always willing to give informative comments about the music they'd played and their roles in it. They enjoyed hearing comments about their interpretations because it showed that what they'd done had affected someone deeply enough to stimulate that person's thought process. Having that was something they never took for granted and undoubtedly played a role in why they worked so hard. At one point during Alain's tenure they played five shows in two weeks with the Red Hot Weekend symphony/blend being the only program that was duplicated. That meant rehearsing and learning four different programs and they did it under the batons of three different conductors. Their playing during that stretch was magnificent. If they were tired it didn't show.

Orchestra London made music that illustrated why the art endures and even thrives through assorted various regimes, different fashion crazes and assorted hierarchies (good, bad and abominable) that people around it come up with. The organization collapsed late in 2014 but the musicians involved still work, and still organize concerts.

Most importantly, they still bring the life that's in music to people wanting to find out about it.

Brian Hay © March 4, 2016

The section will be indexed fully as the pages are being updated. For now however linking to the previous is the most direct way to go.

The articles and site design are my own. Promotional materials were mostly supplied by Orchestra London but some are from other sources. Credits have been given as accurately as possible.

Brian Hay © 2016