Review: Saxophone Massive, Millennium Plain Norwich

This opening event made early Cultural Olympiad links last evening as some 200 saxophonists, led by one of the instrument's acclaimed vituosos, Andy Sheppard,entertained a large crowd.

But the main reason for the fanfare from musicians from all over the county was to open the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. Professionals and learners, youngsters (and I declare a vested interest in an eight-year old grandson getting to grips with the keys) and older experienced players heralded the start of 16 days of music, theatre, dance, circus and visual arts.

This opening performance rang out against the background of the Forum after the players emerged from St Peter Mancroft church to an introductory saxophone solo from the top of the BBC building. A small group of soprano and alto instruments then picked up the theme followed by the whole ensemble in a catchy number echoing in fine harmony –and, true to swing band style,moving rhythmically onto the staging.

Enter maestro Sheppard to lead a solo quartet before a final reprise of the initial theme before what appeared to be a competition between the two halves of instrumentalists. Sounds galore and a rousing start to the Festival.

The launch began with a collage of Sounds of the City recorded by local schoolchildren and UEA students to enhance the anticipation of the thousand or more people gathered in the evening sunshine.

• NNF11 runs from May 6 to 21. You can book online at, by phone on 01603 766400 or at the Norwich Theatre Royal box office.