The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in full flow. Picture: Aaron Scott Richards.

Concerts in the Park (1)


Sutton Park


Summer is one of my favourite times of the year; a special season where the intoxicating mix of sunny days, beer, barbecues and international football tournaments mean that I while away my summer evenings in blissful contentment.

Thus it really took something special to tempt me away from Portugal v Uruguay on Saturday night - special in this case was the second CBSO Concert in the Park, to which I happily returned after last year’s superb debut.

With an extended programme this year with an early afternoon session with performances of vintage swing and Ex Cathedra left the crowd in good spirits and the site was soon rammed to the gills for the evening session.

Down for the Count, who also performed the vintage swing set, opened the night with their excellent Motown Collective party band taking in all the hits you'd want to hear - the highlight being their Aretha Franklin medley.

With Josie D'arby compering the night, she did a good job of trying the keep the links relevant and interesting - a tough gig when most people are more concerned with their picnic, wine and beer.

On the subject of food. the amount of food and drink vendors has increased since last year with an excellent range which was being sold at reasonable prices.

But for many picnics were the order of the evening, minus glass bottles or metal cutlery, , although to be fair, paper containers which could be sealed were provided to decant drinks, wine and beers and so on.

Staff were all friendly and chatty and the toilets were perhaps the nicest I have ever experienced at an open air event - as good at the end of the night as they were at the start.

The main event was the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, under conductor Dirk Brosse, who were once again excellent. Their strong set list comprised of crowd pleasers such as Prokofiev's Suite No 2 from Romeo and Juliet, Montagues and Capulets - The Prince Gives His Order and Dance of the Knights (The latter AKA The Apprentice  theme - try not singing that now!) and contemporary classics such as Singin' in the Rain and John Barry's main theme from Out of Africa.

Guest vocalist was the excellent Lance Ellington from Strictly Come Dancing whose voice oozes class. For aficionados there was also enough choice to please including Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Mascagni, Brahms, Bizet, Berlin, Bernstein along with Elgar and Parry for a flag-waving Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem finale with an encore of Offenbach's Infernal Gallop from Orpheus in the Underworld . . . that's The Can-Can to you and me.

For anyone interested in seeing more of the CBSO they have an initiative called concerts by coach, which means that they offer coach services from Lichfield and Sutton Coldfield on selected Wednesday evenings, whereby a return coach ticket can be bought for £10 with a concert ticket.

Overall it was a fabulous night, with a lovely community atmosphere and super music and, in times when there are lots of cuts to the arts, it is fabulous to see Royal Sutton Council Town Council, and the CBSO, investing in such an evening. Long may it continue.

Theo Clarke



Concerts in the Park (2)



The woodwind and brass section in the CBSO mini-orchestra in full swing

The sun shining, drink in hand, a family picnic in the shade in the woods and the CBSO playing – what can be better on a Sunday in July.

This is the second concert weekend organised by the Royal Sutton Coldfield Town Council and you suspect there must be a pact with the rain gods with yet another glorious day for their free family concert.

It opened with the CBSO mini orchestra, which still sounds pretty big, who gave us songs about worms, spiders along with The Ugly Bug Ball and The Lion King.

A second set in the afternoon brought in some swing numbers with the likes of Cole Porter and Jungle Book.

In between we had choirs and singers with the likes of Magic Voices, who meet at Sutton Girs Grammar School on Thursday night, and Ex Cathedra Singmakers, a small singing group from the education arm of Birmingham’s internationally renowned choir.

Then there was the Tuneless Choir started by people told they couldn’t sing, or are too frightened to sing in proper choirs with proper singers. They meet at the United Reformed Church in Brassington Avenue, Sutton Coldfield on Tuesdays.

tree man

A walking, talking, living tree branching out among the crowds in Sutton Park

If one was honest they should really be done under trades descriptions as they sounded pretty much in tune to me, no four part harmonies, but they held the tune of some popular songs well, with the added bonus of infectious enthusiasm.

Other performers included the Falcon Lodge Choir (Falcon Lodge Community Hub, Wednesdays), Good Company Singers, Singing Community of Choirs (Arthur Terry School), Access Creative College, Digbeth with a new work, Harmonius Generations, featuring Sutton Coldfield Rock Choir (Bishop Walsh Catholic School, Thursdays). All presented by Radio WM’s Daz Hale.

This year, Glastonbury style, there was a second performance stage in the Acoustic tent erected deep in the woods which had story telling, music and poetry while the site was ringed by a collection of stalls where you could buy street food, ice cream, healthy salads, and, not quite as healthy, sparkling wine, cocktails and beers as well as have your face painted, make models with some strange putty like substance and pipe cleaners, learn about the Woodland Trust, or try gymnastics, and adding to the fun, giant trees and squirrels roamed the site.

An estimated 5,000 people attended what is proving to be a worthwhile community event which brought families and friends together to enjoy the day and listen to some good and varied music. Until the next time.

Roger Clarke



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