Stephanie Hayes, Tampa Bay Times, 25th October 2014

“The concert began with an odd nugget of music in Ives’ Central Park In the Dark, an experimental piece from 1906 that imagines just what the title says. The strings were sequestered off stage, providing distant sounds of night. It all rose into a cacophony of street cars and fire engines before fading with an echo. It was fun once you figured out what was going on…

…It was the final piece that had special significance to Francis, who is moving to Tampa Bay from England. British composer Edward Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 brought a taste of his old home to his new one.

The symphony flips between uplifting hope and worrisome doubt, which is Elgar trying to come to terms with the troubling polarity of his own personality. The violas and woodwinds ushered in the lovely opening theme, followed soon by the discordant tritone, often called the ‘devil’s tone.’ It’s the same thing you hear in Bernstein’s West Side Story when everything gets real complicated. It was forbidden in early church music and to this day imparts an unsettling chill.

Elgar’s attempts to work out his demons brought out the most passion in Francis, who might have galloped off the stage with the military rhythms of the orchestra. A few magic moments had everyone in the theater syncopated, tied together in the sights and sounds. And that felt most significant of all.”