Review: CUPO presents Great Adventures

MARK DANCIGER finds that CUPO’s latest offering matches up to its stellar reputation.

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There’s very little that needs to be said about Great Adventures, the latest concert from Cambridge University Pops Orchestra, beyond.

The musicians behind Disney in Trinity never fail to put on an entertaining show, and Great Adventures was no exception. It was perhaps their greatest triumph yet- a magnificent collection of fantasy-themed music, performed with utter precision, energy and charm, and perfectly conducted by the brilliant Ben Glassberg.

The concert began with Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man – one of those pieces that everyone recognises, and yet no one can name. Though I spent most of its duration trying to work out where I’d heard it before, this didn’t stop it from being a rousing start to the evening’s proceedings.

Then the fantasy pieces began. The orchestra, winningly dressed as characters from fairytales and the Lord of the Rings universe, launched into Paul Patterson’s Little Red Riding Hood, a suite of thematic music accompanied by Roald Dahl’s twisted fairy tale. Though I didn’t know the music particularly well, I was still thoroughly engaged. Particular credit has to go to Rhianna Frost, who expertly narrated Dahl’s tale, whilst being careful not to overshadow the instrumental performances.

CUPO excelled on every level.

After a short interval, the orchestra returned for the evening’s main event- extracts from Howard Shaw’s soundtrack to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. To my mind, Shaw’s soundtrack is one of the greatest pieces of music of our time, and, having never seen it performed live, I was getting very excited indeed.

CUPO did an excellent job of tackling Shaw’s difficult score. Tactically picking 5 extracts from the soundtrack, spanning the whole trilogy, the orchestra really captured the epic feel of the film, from the domestic English bliss of the Shire to the vast battlefields of Rohan and Gondor. Drums thundered, strings soared, horns blared, and I was totally engrossed.

The vocalists were also impressive, adding to the orchestral soundtrack in ways both eerie and touching. In particular, Olivia Bell’s soprano solo was magnificent, and left the audience in awe.

CUPO have a daunting reputation to live up with each new concert.

However, the real hero of the evening was conductor Ben Glassberg. It is extraordinarily impressive for a student to be able to conduct an orchestra of this size with such seemingly effortless talent, and his wit and energy when engaging with the audience was also very welcome.

The concert finished with a quick taster of things to come – Elton John’s Circle of Life from the Lion King. They will be playing this, and more tunes like it, at their next ‘Disney in Trinity’ concert, which I highly advise you all to go and see. CUPO have real talent, and have never yet failed to deliver a spectacular evening.

There’s nothing negative to say about this concert whatsoever. It was utterly wonderful.

85%- A decisive, and bloody well deserved, starred first

Photo credits: CUPO