For local classical music lovers there’s only one place to be on New Year’s Eve and that’s Dorchester Abbey, where the Orchestra of St John’s will be giving its traditional end-of-year bash.
There’s lots of Strauss on the menu, as might be expected, but a host of other dance-themed music as well, from Tchaikovsky, Gounod, Dvorak and Puccini to Shostakovich and Khachaturian.
Highlights include movements from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance Op.46 No.8, Shostakovich’s Waltz No.2 and Khachaturian’s Galop, as well as lots of lovely Strauss waltzes and polkas to really capture that New Year’s Eve mood.
Joining the orchestra is one of the OSJ’s regular soloists, soprano Hannah Davey, who will be singing Gounod’s ‘Je veux vivre’ from Roméo and Juliette and Puccini’s ‘Si, mi chiamano Mimi’ from La Boheme in the second half of the concert.
“They’re really contrasting, with really different styles, but they’ve both got beautiful melodies,” she says. “They’re both lovely to listen to and have beautiful orchestration.
“The Puccini is one of the most beautiful arias ever – it’s very slow and emotional, and has some wonderful high notes.
“The Gounod is very different – it’s Juliet singing about her excitement about going to the party, and it’s got lots of fast notes and lots of runs – it’s a really fun, bubbly, fizzy aria.”
As in previous years, the orchestra will be performing at St John’s Smith Square in London in the afternoon before hotfooting it to Dorchester to give a repeat performance in the evening. How challenging is this for a singer?
“I did it last year, and it’s actually really nice. So often when you do a concert you have such a great time you wish you could do it again! So actually getting to do this twice is great.
“There’s a different atmosphere in both places, and it builds the excitement. I love singing in Dorchester Abbey – it’s got the most beautiful acoustic.”
A graduate of Birmingham Conservatoire, Hannah studies singing with Christine Cairns, wife of OSJ founder John Lubbock, and so it was through Christine that she began working with the orchestra on a regular basis.
“Christine is just a magician,” Hannah laughs. “Wonderful lady. She’s had an incredible career herself, singing all over the world, and she still teaches. I’ve known her for a long time.
“I’ve been very lucky – I’ve been working with John for quite a few years now in all sorts of different ways. I’ve done work with their Music for Autism charity, and I’ve done lots of different concerts with John as well.”
Hannah came to singing relatively late, having started as a cellist, but she has never regretted making that switch.
“I played the cello for a long time, and was 17 when I started singing,” she says. “But I always had music in me. My dad’s a musician, and so we always had music around the house.
“As soon as I discovered singing that was that, really – I loved it! I did my degree at Birmingham Conservatoire, and I’ve just been performing and building my career since then.
“I particularly love working with interesting people on interesting projects, so that’s what really fires me up!”
Also featuring in the concert is another regular OSJ soloist, the highly-acclaimed virtuoso pianist Maki Sekiya, who was snapped up by John Lubbock shortly after she moved to Oxford a few years ago.
It all adds up to a typically bright, joyous New Year’s Eve concert, OSJ style, ending with the iconic Blue Danube to send you waltzing merrily into 2020.
The OSJ’s New Year’s Eve Concert is at Dorchester Abbey on Tuesday 31st December, 7pm-8.30pm. Tickets: www.osj.org.uk.