Concerts in the Park

Sutton Park


What could be more relaxing than sitting in glorious sunshine, glass in hand, not a care in the world (up yours Brexit) listening to fine music . . . until, of course, you realise that faint aroma of roast pork and crackling is coming from you.

Time to find some shade and a cooling breeze helped by one of the remarkably helpful security staff, unsung heroes of the weekend, to settle down to an evening of music at the third Concerts in the Park event organised by Sutton Coldfield Town Council.

The evening opened with singer songwriter Ben Drummond who could have walked to the stage from his home in Boldmere just outside the park gate He gave us an acoustic set, a mix of his own and popular material.

Next up were The Jive Aces, the only live band to reach the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent, talent being something they have in spades, or, in this case aces. They are widely regarded as the best jive and swing band in Britain and one of the best in the world, and it is easy to see why.

Their YouTube Bring Me Sunshine video has almost 3.4 million views and was one of the highlights of their set, an appropriate song as the sun poured down, as was Too Darned Hot sung by Australia’s Kara Lane.

big screen

An innovation this year was a big screen to give the audience to see more, as her with Louise Dearman

Star turn though was pianist Vince Hurley, classically trained, who turned Flight of the Bumble Bee into a boogie. Classy stuff.

Then came the headliners, The CBSO under conductor Michael Seal with West End musical theatre star Louse Dearman, last seen in these parts two years ago as Miss Adelaide in the superb Guys and Dolls.

The orchestra had a mixed bag of musical goodies with something for everyone with themes from Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Magnificent Seven and Jurassic Park mixed in with Greig’s Morning  and In The Hall of The Mountain King from Peer Gynt, Williams’ Fantasia on Greensleeves and Ketèlbey’s In a Monastry Garden.

While Miss Dearman gave is a stirring Goldfinger with a last note that went on forever, along with two emotive songs from musicals, I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables and Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from Evita.

All cracking stuff leading up to that last night of the proms trio Elgar’s Enigma Variations Nimrod and Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 to lead into a union flag waving Parry’s Jerusalem. And if that wasn’t enough, an encore of Jacques Offenbach’s Galop Infernal from Orpheus in the Underworld  - that’s the Can-Can to you and me.

The sun had drifted away into twilight, the evening was still warm with a welcome cooling breeze and the 5,000 or so audience members set off home with smile and a tune or two to remember.


The sun still shone on day two, making a spot in the shade a premium, for what has become as much a community event as a concert for the Sunday programme.

It opened with the CBSO, not the full blown symphony orchestra, but a small group with a programme, like the day, themed around Alice in Wonderland and aimed squarely at children.

A new innovation this year was a large screen, which worked splendidly on Saturday – in the past whoever has been on stage have been rather like Subuteo figures for many in the audience, but for Sunday it came into its own even more, allowing the CBSO to have words on screen for simple songs.

It also meant community choirs were highlighted on the big screen to delight mums, dads, grans, grandads, friends, cousins, second cousins once removed . . . you get the idea.

The CBSO tale was not just Alice, presented by Jane Wright, it also introduced the audience to the instruments of the orchestra with oboe and clarinet in the woodwind, violin, viola, cello and bass in the strings, trombone in the brass and a piano in the . . . piano section – ten members in all.


Ludwig Szczylik as the Caterpillar in the Enter EdEM storytelling in the woods and below Georgina Elsom as the Doormouse enthralling her listeners


Entertaining and educational – the CBSO mini-orchestra, incidentally, are performing A Small Person’s Guide to the Orchestra on Friday and Saturday, 12-13 July. Click here for details.

The event gives Sutton Coldfield choirs a chance to perform on a big stage to a large audience, with Magic Voices first up, part of a national movement with their own choral arrangements and a selling point that members do not have to read music.

Two more national schemes added their voices. The Tuneless Choir pride themselves on being for people who enjoy singing . . . even if they can’t sing. While individual members might sound like cats in a mangle in a solo, collectively they are far from Tuneless while the Sutton Coldfield Rock Choir, as the name suggests, aim for contemporary pieces – with some energetic choreography to boot.

Most accomplished of the community choirs was the Sutton Coldfield Community of Choirs which runs four choirs in age groups four to 18 and then an adult choir.

Music ranged from Disney to Les Misèrables, The Greatest Showman to Ralph McTell’s Streets of London and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Sutton Coldfield Musical Youth Theatre performed songs from their upcoming Peter Pan, ending the afternoon on a high.

Intermixed was a children’s opera, Alice and The Library Tree from B’Opera, Baby Opera, which was cleverly done around the closing of the library tree while Let’s All Dance provided a 40 minute ballet of Alice in Wonderland, sadly, neither was a great success – which is not the fault of the performers I add quickly.


Sadly, Alice, not an ideal stage for ballet

The opera was beautifully sung and performed, cleverly constructed and well told while the dancing in the ballet was more than competent – from the waist up, and there is the rub.

The stage is suited to big choirs and orchestras, rock bands even, the baby opera needed a smaller, more intimate stage, being lost in the high, deep, minimalist arena setting.

Much the same with ballet, which is about movement and footwork and if you cannot see feet much of the effect is lost. Even close by the stage, a dancer's calves were as low as you got, and that only when a speaker was not in the away, and when Alice sat down she vanished from sight - and that from a viewing in a standing position.

A pity. The music was lovely and the dancing professional, just a little lost and hidden in the vastness of a stage not designed for dance.

Around the site there was plenty to entertain children, with storytelling, animated and entertaining from the brilliant Enter Edem, there were giant games, croquet  - with pink flamingos of course – bee hives and birds of prey, face painting and food and drink outlets.

In three years it has become a part of Sutton life, and a chance for families to come together with friends, picnic and enjoy a day in the sunshine with music thrown in. Long may it continue.

Roger Clarke


Index page Reviews A-Z