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Annual Viennese Whirl At Scarborough Spa
Andrew Liddle, Features Writer
The old year is no more. Its last hour has chimed. The new one has been toasted. Midnight revellers have awoken, bleary-eyed, remembering the fizz and sparkle of champagne and fireworks. It’s time to take the waters of the spa and begin again, strong in resolution. But one more special festive day remains - to recuperate and restore harmony, and the Strauss family have given it its own mood music.

In Scarborough, the Spa Orchestra always rings in the new in joyous style, before a full house in the Spa’s Grand Hall. The New Year’s Day Viennese concert is now an established tradition here - as in many parts of the world. A thousand people come to be royally entertained in elegant surroundings, participating in something that began in the Austrian capital back in the 1830s and which in recent years has become an integral part of the season, maybe its culminating point.

The afternoon concert began with a particularly rousing version of the sparkling overture from Die Fledermaus, the first of eight pieces by Johann Strauss, the younger. Of course, these included the incomparably lovely Blue Danube waltz and the Tritsch Tratsch Polka, both great Spa favourites.

The second half came in with another piece by the same composer, the Thunder and Lighning Polka, the most rowdily elemental of all his compositions and the perfect vehicle for percussionist, Michael Harper, to showcase his timpani rolls and cymbal clashes. Hardly had the applause died away than he was popping corks for the heady Champagne Polka and the audience was full on in party mood.

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Just to remind us that Vienna has other composers, we were treated to that lovely melody Wie Wird Bei Nacht Erst Schön, by the most modern of the composers, Robert Stolz, re-popularised in recent years by Andre Rieu. Rudolf Sieczyński’s fame today rests almost entirely on a beautiful song synonymous with Richard Tauber, Vienna, City of My Dreams. It was a fitting way to pay homage to the eternally melodic metropolis, before the final fling, a selection of well-known songs from Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow, hummed along to by one and all.

Called back for an encore, the orchestra responded in the best possible way with the Radetsky March, by the elder Strauss, which as always these days was all the encouragement the audience needed to clap riotously along to the meter, last night of the proms' style. They didn't do that sort of thing in Max Jaffa's day!

It was a joy to see the Spa players, under the direction of leader, pianist and compère, Paul Laidlaw, reassembled for the occasion. It is difficult to pick out individuals from the ensemble for praise, but surely a special word is due for debutante violinist, Rebecca Smith, who enjoys the distinction of having studied under the great Maciej Rakowski. Clearly, she is destined to become a firm favourite with regulars.

They will all be back in early June for a fifteen-week season. Those who can’t wait till then to hear them again can always buy a copy of their latest CD, available at a price of £10 from the Spa.

Happy New Year.

Annual Viennese Whirl At Scarborough Spa, 2nd January 2018, 11:15 AM