Song’s From The 60’s, CBSO, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

THE high quality sound was still there, but the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra took on a very different look for this Friday Night Classics performance.

Getting in the mood for the songs from the Sixties, the musicians drew gasps from the audience as they took the stage in a range of colourful gear – Sgt Pepper costumes, headbands, wigs and flares.

Only conductor Richard Balcombe retained his usual immaculate appearance with bow tie and dinner jacket, though superb vocalists Graham Bickley, Mary Carewe, Abbie Osmon and Alison Jiear were pretty smart, too.

Bickley opened the concert by recalling that the music on the programme was from a time when petrol was about the equivalent of 25p a gallon and a season ticket at Villa Park probably cost £8!

The choice of numbers was ideal, starting with Monday, Monday and California Dreamin’ then moving on with Burt Bacharach’s Always Something There to Remind Me and Dusty Springfield’s I Only Want to be With You, before the first half closed – appropriately on a rain-drenched night – with Let the Sunshine In.

Orchestra clarinetist John Durant impressed with a solo of Acker Bilk’s Stranger on the Shore, and after the interval the orchestra sparkled with Casino Royale and a roaring medley from Thunderbirds, Mission Impossible, The Avengers and Star Trek.

Paul Marston, Birmingham Mail, 21st November 2014

InSuffolk review

What The World Needs Now…The Music Of Burt Bacharach

Snape Proms, Aldeburgh, August 31st 2013


‘The forces on stage worked hard to achieve a slick and fast moving show… as well as Graham Bickley’s assured and stylish singing, vocal duties were also taken by three doyennes of the musical theatre and cabaret world… I was struck by the beautiful precision and warmth that the string players did achieve, especially in the quieter numbers….real hairs on the back of the neck stuff… Favourite moment? Tricky, with so many cracking songs expertly performed… Britten knew a thing or two about writing for the human voice and I feel sure he would have quietly appreciated hearing another master of his art being given this sort of treatment in his concert hall’

David Butcher

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra review

What The World Needs Now…The Music Of Burt Bacharach

Snape Proms, Aldeburgh, August 31st 2013


“the show was a great success, many of the players commented on what a good show it is, how well thought out the arrangements are, and they do love playing it….”

Elsa Tatevossian
Concerts Manager
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

TripAdvisor Review

What The World Needs Now…The Music Of Burt Bacharach

The Hallé, Bridgewater Hall, November 23rd 2012


‘Love this venue. We went to see What The World Needs Now…The Music of Burt Bacharach with the always magnificent Hallé Orchestra. Vocalists were Alison Jiear, Abbie Osmon, Sarah Lark and Graham Bickley, I am ashamed to say we hadn’t heard of any of them, but ohhh what voices. The Hallé was conducted for this concert by Richard Balcombe. It was a nostalgic roller coaster of an evening. Did this man ever right a bad song (with Hal David)? If you get the chance to wallow in the delights of this concert do not waste the opportunity. We would certainly relish the chance to listen to these wonderful songs again, with the Hallé of course, (we are biased)’.


Birmingham Post Review

What The World Needs Now…The Music Of Burt Bacharach

CBSO, Birmingham Symphony Hall November 22nd 2012

Birmingham Post

The CBSO Big Band was out in force to charm a large audience in a wonderfully nostalgic evening of familiar Bacharach arrangements by conductor Richard Balcombe.

Four superb solo vocalists topped the bill and all was set for many well-loved tunes in this all-embracing show.

A galaxy of stars introduced Burt’s music to the unsuspecting world; 21year old Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, Cilla Black . . . revelling in his timeless, imaginative writings.

It was refreshing to realise that the soloists enjoyed singing together as backings or individual voices, smiling and stimulating the delighted audience.

At times the balance between miked-up voices and sweeping strings for instance, was overpowering, but then we enjoyed the pizzazz as our smiling classical musicians willingly left their comfort zones to enter the spirited music of a bossa nova, Mexican-style brass, groovy cowboy style, raunchy film scores, swinging jazz waltzes et al.

Solo gems were there for saxophone, bassoons, bright trumpets, sonorous trombones: everything from rasping guiro to hectic drum kit, piano fill-ins and jazz guitars all adding texture to Balcombe’s ‘easy listening’ transcriptions.

Alison Jiear melted hearts with her passionate rendering of Alfie whilst Graham Bickley contributed clear well balanced vocals plus chatty facts and funnies.

Close to You had a sexy interpretation from glamorous Abbie Osmon with come-hither eyes for the guys and secret smiles from colleagues.

Sarah Lark the fourth lovely lady was a delight in the classic What the World Needs Now. A great evening for all.

Maggie Cotton

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