Saturday 21 May 2011

Newent Orchestra Spring Concert

Just wanted to make a few comments about the Newent Orchestra's concert last weekend. The orchestra seems to have hit the right level of programming (thanks mainly to conductor, George) and the pieces we played went down exceptionally well. The orchestra is on the cusp of playing beyond its normal compass - concerted effort and a couple more quality players joining will push it into becoming a force to be reckoned with. That step may be small but will require much effort by all the members.  One event that could be a  help in this is the move of rehearsal venue from Upleadon, a couple of miles outside Newent, to the "Newent Centre", right in the town.  This will take place in September. The orchestra is coming home by making this move and it should be an inviting proposition for local talent to come along and show their faces.  Going back to the concert, there is a musical slot for cameo pieces from times gone by and our orchestra is making a speciality of them - from Elgar's minor offerings to Mozart's "music for the people". The orchestra played well to an appreciative community audience. I just want it to make that final, short but difficult step... I know that audience members appreciated the music but it surprised me (always does) how much the players enjoyed their concert. Being part of a musical machine is an adrenalin-pumping experience that brings great life-affirming pleasure.

Sunday 15 May 2011


I heard the Colin Currie Group perform Steve Reich's piece, "Drumming" at the Colston Hall earlier this week and was not disappointed.  It was thunderously great. However, the show began with a little piece by Reich, also worthy of comment, called, "Clapping Music": two performers simply clap away, one repeating the same pattern throughout, the other, under the direction of Reich's gradually shifting phases, moving the pattern along so that complex compelling rhythms are produced. One effect is to make you aware of the lunacy of clapping. At the end, I wanted the audience to stand and take a bow.

Monday 9 May 2011

Live Music - What's Going On?

   I recently enjoyed a concert at the Colston Hall in Bristol which had just two works on the programme, Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 and Mahler's  Fourth Symphony, world famous Mahlerian, Lorin Maazel, conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. The two works sat easily side by side, despite the cavernous difference in style and intent that lies between them. The elegant concerto was played effortlessly and charmingly by Akiko Suwanai on one of the most famous Stradivarius violins, called "The Dolphin", while the symphony expressed transcendent power and depth.

I mused from my seat that the audience was notably almost entirely elderly and white, despite the location of the Colston Hall in the centre of a city which is home to a wide variety of skin colours. This by no means suggests that there is a lack of interest from younger, ethnically broader generations. It means that they don't attend formal classical concerts. The seating was about two-thirds its capacity. It should have been full to overflowing for such an occasion. Why? No one knows. It has been established though that there is a clear phenomenon which I've read described as "culturally aware non-attenders". Those whose job it is to promote classical concerts are all too aware of this potential market and how immovable it seems to be.