“It's one great tune after another”

Ahead of his appearance with us on 7 June, we asked conductor Richard Balcombe about conducting the CBSO in Songs from the 60s...

You may be too young to remember to original songs from the 60s! However, do you have any particular favourites?

Unfortunately, I’m not too young to remember! And I do have that sixties sound in my memory. My favourites from this programme would have to be MacArthur Park (such an epic song on a huge scale), What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life (in this particular arrangement which has such a rhapsodic quality to it), At Last (in this Etta James version it is so full of passion and emotion), Alfie (one of the most hauntingly beautiful of songs) and the two Tony Hatch songs; Downtown and The Other Man’s Grass (Tony Hatch had such a gift for melody and these are two great examples from his extensive catalogue, both of course huge hits for Petula Clark).

What first drew you to conducting the music from the 60s?

The idea of a Sixties programme was always in our mind. Most of the songs we’ve chosen already had some form of orchestral backing – with Bacharach for example he nearly always used strings and some kind of “horn” section (trumpets, trombones and saxes) and in orchestrating these pieces “up” for a symphony orchestra it’s relatively easy to enhance that original sound world and make it even more lush and romantic. The TV themes medley was great fun to stitch together as the original material was already scored for large forces which translates to symphony orchestra very easily. The bottom line is of course that they all have wonderful melodies – the programme is a succession of one great tune after another.

Read Richard's full Q+A in your concert programme for Songs from the 60s on 7 June.

Richard Balcombe conducts The Hallé orchestra. Credit: Tom Bangbala.
Richard Balcombe conducts The Hallé orchestra. Credit: Tom Bangbala.