Review: Isca Ensemble concert at Sidmouth Parish Church

A departure from the ensemble’s usual classical programming; the concert included light orchestral music, jazz, and a new work by a young Exeter composer

In the presence of a capacity audience at Sidmouth Parish Church on Saturday, February 2, the Isca Ensemble, under its musical director Roger Hendy presented a very special light orchestral concert with jazz.

This departure from the orchestra’s standard classical programming incorporated a wonderful selection of music by such composers as Eric Coates, Robert Farnon, Leroy Anderson, Ronald Binge, Johann Strauss and others.

Playing with absolute assuredness and obvious enjoyment, the orchestra was exceptional, creating a warm and rich ensemble. The choice of music was great fun and included such favourites as Herod’s Clog Dance, Anderson’s Waltzing Cat and the enjoyable Sandpaper Ballet, with contributions from three brilliant percussionists. Other highlights were the first-class contribution by three trumpeters in Anderson’s Bugler’s Holiday and the most exquisite oboe playing by Joe Sharp in Ennio Morricone’s magical Gabriel’s Oboe. In presenting extracts from Shostakovich’s most refreshing Second Jazz Suite, the orchestra really showed us what a fine bunch of players they are. It was also an indication of the work that Roger Hendy must have put in to bring such infectious music to Sidmouth.

A most interesting and highly original new work Journey of the Feline Mind by Exeter composer Alfie Pugh also featured.

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Directed by the composer, the work was scored for tenor saxophone (Chris Gradwell), piano (Andrew Daldorph), double bass (Jim Rintoul), drums (Steve Douglas) and string orchestra. The high-quality string playing was matched by exceptional contributions from all four soloists, particularly Chris Gradwell, and richly deserved the rapturous applause from an enthusiastic audience. The concert finished with a fast and joyous rendition of Anderson’s Fiddle-Faddle which prompted Roger Hendy to offer us a few dance routines! This was a most enjoyable concert of high quality. More please!

The next concert by the Isca Ensemble in Sidmouth Parish Church with the brilliant young clarinettist James Gilbert is on Saturday 16 March. Music is by Wagner, Weber, Walton and Shostakovich. Details can be found at Tickets are available online at or at Paragon Books, Sidmouth (01395 514516).

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James Bowerman

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