Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, May 24, 2013

Music, music, music

Fun musical times for the Saunders family. Working backwards:

1) Last night our son Ruairidh had his degree recital (his last performance at Edinburgh College before he moves up to the University of the Highlands and Islands in Perth for his honours year. He's a drummer, and had put together a 45-minute programm of five pieces, all linked by a theme of fusion and all showcasing various aspects of his drumming skill. I don't have recordings of the lad himself available, but here is one of the pieces he did, to give you an idea of the level of technique we're talking about:

Here is another.

And he finished the set with Franz Zappa's The Black Page, whose first couple of minutes is this drum solo (all completely notated, not improvised at all):

Ruairidh's performance, it's fair to say, was a triumph. I kept having two thoughts. One, remembering back to when I used to sit with him (when he was about eight or so) working through his book of rudiments with him, both of us learning to go taffa-tiffy-taffa-tiffy on the snare drum: and look at him now. And the second was like, namely this: "Congratulations, Mr & Mrs Saunders: it's a drummer!" I used to be proud of my daughter when she played in the violas in NYOS, but this was a whole different order (and she knows, she was there too). There are no certainties in the music industry, but if he doesn't make it it will be neither through lack of talent nor through an insufficient work ethic.

2) Last Saturday Hilary and I played in an Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra concert comprising Weber's overture to Der Freischutz, Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Weber, and Beethoven's Eroica Symphony. Hilary was only involved in the Hindemith, but as a violinist I was in everything. That too was a very successful concert, with more people than usual coming up to me afterwards to say how much they enjoyed it. Here is a clip of a different orchestra doing the last movement of the Hindemith, which takes some beating for hummability:

It was also a satisfying organisational success for me, as one of my duties with ESO is to arrange for percussionists (and percussion instruments). The Hindemith required six players (not counting the one on timpani) hitting something like ten different instruments, half of which we had to borrow. That's a lot of players to find, and I was very pleased to have fixed six people about four weeks before the concert: not so much when two of them had to pull out, however. Still, after much telephoning, texting and emailing I eventually got my six guys (OK, one was a girl called Sam). Not only that, but five of them could make a rehearsal before the one on the day of the concert. Now that really IS unusual.

3) And before that, back on the Tuesday of last week, the string quartet I founded a few years ago played a concert. (I was about to say I formed the quartet about five years ago, but then I realised it was actually almost eight years old - just like this blog). How time flies.) The lineup has changed a couple of times over the eight years: my left-hand woman is still the lovely Emma (who still resembles Calista Flockhart in my opinion at least, though with more feminine curves), but there is now another lovely Emma sitting on my other side playing cello, and a third beauty named Rebecca sitting directly opposite armed with a viola.

The concert was actually a slot in an evening at Edinburgh Music Club. We'd played there twice before (well, all except cello Emma). The first time we chose to do Hindemith's Minimax, an acerbic set of parodies of various kinds of Germanic music named after a popular brand of fire extinguisher: we played them pretty well, but the audience was divided over whether to find them amusing or not. The next time we stayed with unusual repertoire but played it a bit safer by doing Schoenberg's Chriostmas carol arrangement Weihnachtsmusik (abetted by my wife Hilary on piano). That seemed to go down a bit better. So, third time lucky, and we did a piece we imagined quite a few of the (pretty knowledgeable) audience would know, Fratres by Arvo Part. As it turned out nobody did know it, or very much about its composer, so I had the pleasure of introducing one of my favourite pieces of music to a whole new audience. I explained beforehand that although it was tonal, it was derived just as much from the operation of formulas as any tewlve-tine piece; that Rebecca and I had to tune down some of our strings for it; that we (and cello Emma) started out playing artificial harmonics (a kind of high-pitched whistling effect); and that poor old violin Emma got to play nothing but a two-note drone throughout the piece. As we started playing, one of the audience later told us she hadnlt been at all sure what they were about to get, but as the piece unfolded itself before them they all loved it. And I mean loved: we were surrounded afterwards by people wanting to know more about the music, and asking why we didn't come and play at the Music Club more often. We were given firm instructions to come back next season (we have an obscure Schoenberg quartet already under development for them....)

Oh, I forgot to mention that while the music club isn't at all formal or dressy, we decided to adopt a uniform colour scheme or "black with a dash of red". Cue much joking about how I'd be fantasizing wildly of any of the ladies showed uo with no red visible. Anyway, as well as various scarves, ties, jewellery etc someone pointed out that the three women had red shoes and I had red socks. Perhaps if we ever want a name we should become the Rossoneri Quartet: red and black, with fancy footwork.

Anyway, here is a different quartet (with a name, and the same gender balance as ours) showing how it's done.

Actually, I think we did nearly as well, which would be strange had we not been working on the piece intermittently for a year and a half. It was deeply satisfying in all kinds of ways. I got to share an underexposed piece of music; we pushed the boat out technically in what we could do in public; and we pulled off a real success with the audience.

Phew. Now there's just the concert of light music on Saturday and the Bach B minor mass in a couple of weeks' time.....


At 24 May, 2013 16:11, Blogger JoeinVegas said...

Strange how you would surround yourself with three attractive women like that. No other males on strings available?

At 26 May, 2013 15:12, Blogger Rob said...

When we started out the cellist was a man, but he retired sick. But hey, it's an ill wind....


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