Thursday, 8 March 2012

Red Note Bow to the Might of Vile

I am not trying to say that I am hugely important in the world of contemporary classical music. However, only yesterday, I was bemoaning the absence of a Glasgow date on Red Note's latest tour. I was especially upset because it features a collaboration with tabla maestro Kuljit Bhamra. 

Just to be clear, Bhamra isn't just some drummer. He worked on the scores for Bend it Like Beckham and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He was the first British Indian to compose for a west end musical (The Far Pavilions). Okay, he did help Andrew Lloyd Webber on some percussion arrangements, but I can forgive that, because he pretty much kicked off UK Bhangra back in the 1980s.  

Yet it seems my blog of anger was read in Red Note's Edinburgh HQ. A new date has been added to the tour. 

Red Note are to be congratulated for this additional date. First of all, they have  remembered how powerful I am, and accordingly shown respect. I suppose some people might be pleased that this sort of musical fusion is getting to reach another audience, and adding to the Cottiers' programme of classical music (which is just gearing up for the West End Festival). 

Flattery aside, I am excited by From Reels to Ragas  - not so much the reels as the range. Composer Giles Swayne's cello solo is influenced by African music, there's Judith Weir's string trio that plays tribute to a man who was executed for carrying an offensive weapon (some bagpipes), Chinese folk and a world premier from Bhamra, Lost Temples. Since I grew up in the 1980s, I like some pan-cultural musical mash-ups, and now I am getting old, I don't need it to be amplified. In fact, it is perfect: it's a really cool programme, but there will be seating for my old bones. 

Red Note Ensemble + Kuljit Bhamra 
Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow 
Monday 18th June 2012 6:30pm    

‘The Bagpipers String Trio’ by Judith Weir.
'Lost Temples' world premier by Kuljit Bhamra
'Billy Bhangra & His Bolly Bongos!' by Kuljit Bhamra
‘Canto’ for solo cello by Giles Swayne.
‘The Stream Flows’ for solo violin by Bright Sheng
‘Machair to Myrrh’ by Jackie Shave
‘Bucolics’ for viola & cello by Witold Lutoslawski

Programme Notes:
‘The Bagpiper’s String Trio’ – Judith Weir
These three pieces form a very short instrumental opera, based on the life of James Reid, a bagpiper in Prince Charlie's Jacobite army, who was captured by the English in 1746 and executed after a judge had classified the bagpipes as a weapon. This piece is a string trio version of Sketches from a Bagpiper's Album (1984) for clarinet and piano, scored for Violin, Cello, and Viola.
‘Canto’ for solo cello – Giles Swayne
Canto for solo cello (1981) is a full-on response to Swayne’s experience of African musics. Minimalist in some ways, quite complex in others, it projects positive tone and enquiring spirit which represent this composer at his considerable best.

‘The Stream Flows’ - Bright Sheng
The first part of "The Stream Flows" is based on a famous Chinese folk song from the southern part of China. The freshness and the richness of the tune deeply touched Bright Sheng when he first heard it. Since then he has used it as basic material in several of his works and he hopes that the resemblance of the timbre and the tone quality of a female folk singer is evoked by the solo violin. The second part is a fast country dance based on a three-note motive.
‘Machair to Myrrh’ - Jacqueline Shave
Written on the Isle of Harris in May 2011 for tabla, guitar and violin ‘Machair to Myrrh’ describes a journey on a magic carpet from the wild and beautiful Machair on the West Coast of Harris, across the Atlantic to the West Coast of Africa; Morocco's ancient walled medina of Essaouira. A central improvised section for guitar over violin rhapsodic broken chords forms the central journey and then the tabla signals the arrival in Morocco. We then proceed into a wild improvised frenzied dance. You will hear insistent rhythmic patterns interspersed with witch doctoresque crazy stuff inspired by Gnaoua music around the fires in Essaouira. There is no guitar with us on this tour so the piece has been arranged to include Cello in its place.
‘Bucolics’ – Witold Lutoslawaski
This is an attractive and melodic piece, in five movements and lasting just over five minutes. Folk music is indeed in evidence here: the melodies are based on some of those collected by Father Wladyslaw Skierkowski in the Kurpie region of Poland. The direction of Lutoslawski's future musical development is evident in the chromatic use of successive minor thirds and minor seconds. In the faster sections, Lutoslawski also uses superimposed passages in distinctly different meters.

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