IT was a full house at Coleford Baptist Church last Saturday for the Royal Forest of Dean Orchestra Christmas Concert, writes Dave Kent.

The Orchestra were on top form, and the seasonal programme included a couple of intriguing pieces which absorbed echoes of well-known pop and carol pieces.

In the early days of the orchestra, now 30 years ago, they relied on external conductors, mainly from the Birmingham Conservatoire.

These conductors were all highly accomplished and dedicated, and gave the orchestra a great start.

But now the Forest can provide its own conductors, with long serving conductor and flautist Fiona Crawley and, for this concert welcoming the Forest based conductor Caron de Burgh to direct a wonderful finale.

The programme featured seasonal music around the Christmas/winter theme, with Coleridge-Taylor blending Christmas carol melodies into his Christmas Overture fantasy, Delius’ atmospheric Sleigh Ride, and with two topical pieces by Tchaikovsky, ‘Winter Daydreams’ and four movements of his Swan Lake ballet, which were so much appreciated by the audience that it applauded, in glorious defiance of concert etiquette, between two of the movements.

The final piece was the Beatlecracker. The name of the piece and the music itself celebrate this ingenious and amusing mixture of classical and pop themes in a melange of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker suite and Beatles melodies.

The late Arthur Wilkinson, who arranged the composition, also deserves a credit.

It's an exciting and imaginative way to link two different musical genres.

The arrangement seamlessly melded the Beatles’ themes with Tchaikovsky ballet music. Who thought that classical music could be such fun?

The attribution of the piece in the programme to the eclectic trio of ‘Lennon/McCartney/Tchaikovsky’ seemed a little bizarre at first sight.

It was a brave move by the orchestra to introduce such a piece into a concert and it worked very well, under the expressive and genial direction of Caron de Burgh making it the highlight of another great performance by our regional orchestra.