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Story of the Fair Field at Fairfield Halls

In medieval times, Croydon was famous for its funfair with people coming from far and wide to enjoy the entertainment in the area that became known as the Fair Field. This went on for many years until like everything, things changed and the area went through various incarnations. Now in 2023 with Croydon, the London Borough of Culture, the London Mozart Players, one of the country’s oldest chamber orchestras decided to celebrate the Fair Field in the building that now occupies the space and provides a place for entertainment in Croydon, Fairfield Halls.

Story of the Fair Field (c) LMP.
Story of the Fair Field (c) LMP.

The evening begins with Malcolm Arnold’s “The Fair Field” which is a bright and breezy piece for the full orchestra of over forty musicians. The music is reminiscent of a huge rollercoaster at a fun fair with the main tune expanding to a grandiose finale which produces a hurdy-gurdy effect. This was followed by a piece of music that ties the whole programme together, “Four Novelletten For Strings” by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. The composer was of mixed race who spent most of his life in Croydon and is buried nearby in Bandon Hill Cemetery in Wallington. He had an incredibly interesting life suffering from extreme prejudice and had his copyrights stolen from him. Recently his fascinating life story was told in another part of Fairfield Halls by the Talawa Theatre Company in their remarkable piece of theatre “Recognition”. The four parts of Coleridge-Taylor’s are delightful with various moods and colours keeping the listener enthralled throughout.

Next came Haydn’s ‘Trumpet Concerto in E Flat” with soloist Matilda Lloyd who played superbly. The final piece of the evening was the orchestra getting back to its roots with some Mozart – in the case it was the ever popular ‘Symphony No. 40”. The orchestra was superbly conducted by the flamboyant Jonathan Bloxham and the leader of the orchestra was Simon Blendis.

The one minor disappointment is that the evening was billed as “The Story Of The Fair Field” with music and narration. Whilst there was of course music, there was very little narration with Lloyd and Bloxam saying a few words about the history of the area whilst a couple of dull slides were projected on the back wall. However, that’s just a small criticism as it’s always a joy to listen to a full orchestra at the top of its game with its shimmering strings, brilliant brass and wonderful woodwind filling the “Fair Field” with marvellous music.

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

London Mozart Players (LMP), who are celebrating their 75th birthday year, open their 23/24 season at Fairfield Halls with Story of the Fair Field; a concert on Saturday 7 October at Fairfield Halls, which tells the story of the venue’s development and classical music’s place in its history. LMP, who have been Resident Orchestra at Fairfield Halls since 1988, will present this concert with live narration and insights about the music.


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