Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The John Bennett Big Band/The Macbeth, Hoxton

So there I was propped up at the bar wondering how I was going to make my pint of lager last all evening. I'd come to see The John Bennett Big Band, a semi-pro outfit that regularly gigs at a Hoxton boozer called The Macbeth. About ten minutes in to the set its lead trumpeter strolls over and tells me they're a man down, would I like to play? If I'd thought about it I probably would have given a big fat naaaaaah but the request was so sudden I just went for it. In my haste I played the first two numbers with a jet tone mouthpiece which is one of the tools of the trade favoured by lead trumpeters who play really high. It was no wonder I split so many notes on the flugelhorn I'd been handed. I'd forgotten too the speed a big band moves at, notes passing me like an express train. Luckily there was other stuff I knew like Take Me To The River and Sunshine of Your Love, all of which were arranged by John Bennett. Big and juicy they were too, particularly his version of Aretha Franklin's Rock Steady - God that was good. Anyway, loved the evening, I hope Mr Bennett asks me back. As I was leaving he handed me a crumpled piece of paper. It was my £5 admission fee. Nice.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Imagine Children's Festival/The Southbank Centre

A welcome half term distraction for middle class parents who can't afford a skiing holiday, the Imagine Festival at the Southbank Centre bursts with children's activities from music, storytelling and magic, much of it free of charge. We caught the Beatbox Concerto for Kids that featured 'beatboxer extraordinaire' Shlomo. Wondering on to the QEH stage with all the poise of a filleted fish, he gave the audience a brief masterclass in the fine art of beatboxing - those percussive noises you make with a microphone - which comes down to the following sounds: Boo, Tee, Kat and Puff. Take away the vowels and voila , you have the basics of beatboxing. It's pretty impressive stuff too. A pity then that Shlomo's collaboration with an orchestra didn't quite come off. Anna Meredith's score was fine but a tad fussy for the occasion, never quite finding the right, well groove I suppose, for Shlomo and his talented team of beatboxers to really come alive. Mind you, most of the young audience loved it.

Friday, 19 February 2010

The Errollyn Wallen Song Club

A very short snippet of A Song About Emotional Denial performed at Errollyn's Song Club in Soho last night. Frighteningly high standard.

And here's an interview with Errollyn Wallen on the subject of song writing.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Sixteen/Music and the City

Spent the early afternoon filming an interview with Harry Christophers, the music director of the fabulous Sixteen. Sheppard, Tallis and Byrd are on the menu for this year's Choral Pilgrimage. As an off shoot, members of the Sixteen will march across the North Downs to raise money for charity and Canterbury Cathedral which, appropriately, is the final stop on this nine day walk. I'll put the interview up on site as soon as I've edited it. Sheppard's false relations, Byrd's yearning for his beloved Catholicism...hear it here first folks!

Evening, the splendidly ornate 1901 Club in Waterloo was hosting Simon Hewitt Jones' Music in the City soiree. I'd missed most of the music making by the time I arrived but there were still plenty of bright young things to chat to and an enormous chocolate cake to eat. Good old Simon, God knows how he finds the energy to run this and play the fiddle and keep Musbook.com bobbing along. He should get an award. I left just as he launched into Mendelssohn's Octet, a fine way to complete an extremely rewarding day of gadding about.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Britten Sinfonia/QEH

Great concert at the QEH with the Britten Sinfonia who are on a real roll at the moment. They were directed by Pekka Kuusisto, a young Finnish violinist who clearly enjoys talking as much as he likes performing, playing his fiddle with all the ease of a folk musician. Two works by Purcell (the second of which had been arranged by Nico Muhly) merged beautifully with a movement from Tippett's 'Sellinger's Round'. I know the Tippett from the time I played with an amateur orchestra about twenty years ago. We performed it on a tour of Romania which included a trip to Brasov in Transylvania. It was snowing so only three people turned up (two English tourists and our coach driver). Happy days. Anyway, great to hear it again. So too was it to experience Mark Padmore's Les Illuminations that was full of drama and colour I hadn't heard before. It was certainly more Gallic than the Peter Pears version I was brought up with.

The very English first half was followed by three American offerings, Duet by Reich (whose music never sounds as convincing when performed along side other people's stuff), Nico Muhly's Impossible Things, a very assured piece that added some dark dimensions to poems by C.P Cavafy and carried off beautifully by Mark Padmore again, and finally John Adams Shaker Loops, that worked itself into a stunning frenzy. A 21st century classic. .