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Live Music Review: Symphonic Queen & The Beatles

31 March 19 words: Dom Henry

The classic tunage got the full orchestral treatment in this sellout show

The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra & The NTU Choir

Cruising along to the back catalogues of Queen and the Beatles is a guilty drivetime pleasure for me, so to hear their hits played live by a full orchestra such as the acclaimed Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra with a huwge choir was going to be special. No surprise this was a sellout.

We have Nottingham Trent University to thank for this one, the concert was put together as part of their Curated & Created cultural programme and hooked up the 70+ members of the Royal Philharmonic’s touring Concert Orchestra with Trent’s own choir, all 150+ of them.

Now, the Royal Philharmonic have form for this sort of thing, with albums out serving up lush symphonic servings of greatest hits from the two bands, albeit separately. However, no lyrics on that there Spotify album, booo. Enter the massed ranks of the NTU choir to lend their lungs, where we would otherwise be discreetly mouthing the words.

The show kicked off all instruments blazing with an immersive blast of Bohemian Rhapsody which had the audience grinning knowingly, the choir nailing the operatic highs and lows with powerful aplomb. A thoughtful Eleanor Rigby followed which has a fair bit of pace on it’s spoken narrative, but the choir handled it well. This Queen vs Beatles alternation then hustled through a bunch of hits including Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Help! before culminating in a roof raising rendition of We Are The Champions to send us all joyfully off to the bar.

It’s fair to say our familiar lyrical expectations have to be eased a little, as getting 150+ singers to hang crisply on every word just like Freddie in the studio is nigh impossible, but what you lack in precision with a large choir you make up in power and range and the overall effect was impressive, NTU’s choir did us proud.

Part two was very different. After luring us into a false sense of obvious version security in part one, Tolga Kashif’s The Queen Symphony took us down something of a Queen rabbit hole. Tolga reinvents elements of the Queen catalogue, blending familiar riffs and melodies into somewhat dreamy compositions. You find yourself listening hard to see which song you are currently referencing, sometimes that 'aaah' moment is obvious, sometimes not. We catch snippets and glimpses of the familiar Queen themes as we give chase through the movements and sometimes stumble into more obvious set pieces from memorable tunes such as Radio Ga Ga or We Will Rock You. Good to see less common Queen numbers in there such as Love of My Life too. Interesting material, albeit not at the same level of familiar feel good fun as part one.

This was a rare treat of a show for Queen and Beatles fans and classical music goers alike, hats off to NTU for arranging. To shamelessly pinch the summary words from the ladies we followed out as they ran for their bus: “It were proper good that.” “Ooh, yer not wrong there Duck.”

Symphonic Queen & The Beatles was performed at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and The Nottingham Trent University Choir on Saturday 30 March 2019.

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