Review: CUPO Presents Disney in Trinity 3; Be Our Guest

Will Popplewell put CUPO’s ‘service to the test’ and was completely blown away. He really cannot ‘let it go’.

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A well-deserved 5 STARS for this incredible performance

Another notch in CUPO’s long line of unrivalled triumphs, Disney in Trinity 3 completely astounds.

I have sat in front of my laptop for almost an hour trying to think of how to write this review. I want to be balanced and coherent, but it’s quite hard when all that’s running through my head is ‘AAAAAAAHHHHH’. Professional, I know.

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Approximately 100 people came together for this sensational night of music – Image credit: Johannes Hjorth

Cambridge University Pops Orchestra (CUPO) have built up a reputation second to none over the past few years, with a slew of 5-star concerts and ticket sell-outs in under 30 minutes. This was my first CUPO concert and I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype.

It did. It so bloody did.

For those who don’t know the format, the Disney in Trinity concerts are in Trinity College Chapel (shocker), and feature an orchestra, soloists, and choir of over 100 musicians and singers, all performing an array of Disney songs. It’s quite literally the earthly manifestation of joy.

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Zak Ghazi-Torbati in rehearsals – Image credit – Johannes Hjorth

Yet, CUPO don’t rely upon the magic of Disney, or superlative scores from the likes of Alan Menken, to make the night special. These concerts are where you will find the best musicians and voices in Cambridge, and they’re all whipped into shape by a, quite honestly, virtuosic conductor.

Ben Glassberg (Conductor and Musical Director) produced music of the very highest standard tonight. It is surely to Glassberg that the greatest praise of the night must go. Eliciting an ‘aww’ from the audience when he told us that tonight was his last time conducting in Cambridge, Glassberg gave us his heart and soul, and there could have been no better swan song for this monumental talent.

The orchestra was an utter triumph. From the fairytale strings in ‘Just Around the Riverbend’ (Pocahontas) to the flaring brass in ‘Out There (Hunchback of Notre Dame), the instrumentalists executed some of my favourite childhood scores with precision and passion. Of particular note was the percussion section, which lent gravitas and real power to some of the most awe-inspiring parts of the score.

Ben Glassberg and the orchestra – Image credit – Johannes Hjorth

The absolute highlight of the evening (and quite possibly the very best moment of live music I have ever experienced) was the swell and key-change that blasted out the climax of ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ (The Lion King). Joe Pitts and Lucy Pendergast’s vocals were sublime and transformed a familiar and ‘fuzzy’ ballad into a showstopper. My heart still hasn’t quite recovered from that particular moment.

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The Choir Image Credit – Johannes Hjorth

Similarly, the ‘final’ song of the night, Finale (Beauty and the Beast), left me with goosebumps – as the orchestra played minutes of magical music, only to finish with a stunning wave of sound as the ensemble belted out “Tale as old as time”, I actually dropped my pen in awe. Simon Nathan, Declan Corr, James Bartlett and Paul Callender have earned massive respect and very enthusiastic praise for their unparalleled work as orchestrators for the music of this concert.

As a rule the soloists were stunning. The talent on display defied belief, and to mention some is in no way to diminish the accomplishment of each and every singer tonight. One of my personal highlights had to be Joe Beighton and Benedict KearnsOut There– their two voices suited their respective parts of the song perfectly, and the raw vocal power coming from Beighton towards the end of the song was unbelievable. Similarly, Olivia Gaunt and Emily Murray’s ‘For the First Time in Forever (Frozen – as if you didn’t know) left me with nothing but a nervous giggle as their sensational last notes faded from the chapel.

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Megan Henson and Amy Reddington – Image Credit – Johannes Hjorth

The smallest of quibbles was that, perhaps as a result of limited rehearsal time and the inability to see the conductor, soloists were sometimes (very rarely) left a little out of time with the choir and orchestra.

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Yes the performance really was this good! Image Credit – Johannes Hjorth

Each song put across its own tone flawlessly – from the hilariously manic This is Halloween (The Nightmare Before Christmas) to Georgina Skinner’s spellbinding Some Day My Prince Will Come (Cinderella), the setlist was varied, dynamic, and altogether far too short!

(It wasn’t really but we all wanted it to go on forever, sleep and noise curfews be damned.)

When the end did come, Glassberg spent well over a minute trying, and failing, to calm down the rapturous standing ovation. The audience (myself included) just would. not. stop. clapping. After this, he handed over the conductor’s baton to James Bartlett who is taking over as the new conductor for CUPO, and who will lead them in their next concert (Broadway in Trinity 2 – I can’t wait). Bartlett then led the orchestra in an encore of ‘I Wanna Be Like You’ – it was a touching but wildly fun tribute to Glassberg, and a lovely way to end an evening of utter brilliance.

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CUPO’s next conductor James Bartlett – Image credit: Johannes Hjorth

Each time CUPO pull something like this out of the bag, I’m left wondering how they’ll do it again. But this time I’m not worried. Under Bartlett, using the phenomenal pool of talent in Cambridge, and with the professionalism and artistry displayed tonight, CUPO are going to be just fine.

Take me back. I want it again, and I want it now. Broadway in Trinity can’t come quickly enough.

5 stars.

For more images taken by Johannes Hjorth at the dress rehearsal of CUPO’s Disney in Trinity 3, please see: http://photo.johanneshjorth.se/disney-in-trinity/