Trio HLK and Dame Evelyn Glennie at the Devizes Arts Festival; a review

Trio HLK and Dame Evelyn Glennie at the Corn Exchange on Sunday 3rd June 2018

Dame Evelyn Glennie is talking to me about listening.

Devizes Arts Festival have brought some quality acts to Devizes over the years, but to me this really takes the biscuit.  Before I came out I listened to her leading a thousand drummers in a collaboration with Underworld at the Olympic Opening Ceremony in 2012.  This is the image I have in my head of Evelyn, as some wild goddess with drumsticks raised, summoning awesomeness.

There’s nothing grand about her.  She’s quiet, and dignified, and intense.  She unloads her own marimba, a glorious enormous church organ of a xylophone, and the band and sound guys help her unload her drums and shiny ‘What’s that?’ ‘A bell tree.’  I am in awe of her instruments almost as much as I am in awe of her.

She laughs when I tell her about my awe and is happy to answer my questions.  Later in June she’ll be performing with the Scottish Symphony Orchestra in a double concerto for percussion and oboe in honour of Thea Musgrave, and is currently working on a musical score for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Troilus and Cressida.  Other projects include archiving all the musical instruments she has at home in order to establish a listening centre.

She’s all about the listening, is Evelyn.  She’s on a mission to get the world to listen.

This is her fourth gig with Trio HLK, and she’s excited about it.

Trio HLK are an innovative ensemble comprised of Richard Harrold, keyboards, Richard Kass, drums and percussion, and Ant Law, electric guitar.  They’re a pleasant bunch of blokes.  ‘So talented’ says Evelyn, ‘so creative, and shy’.   They tell me that they came together on New Year’s Day, 2015, as a result of an ‘arranged marriage band date’, and that they like to make rhythmic illusions and impossible rhythms.  One of them points out the tiny symbol of the blivet, the Devil’s tuning fork, on their album cover.  ‘Like that’ he says.

Andy the busker playing on the stairs as people filter in excitedly.  Anticipation is high.

The instruments are waiting.

When it comes to words for sound and defining musical genres I am lost.  In the interval and afterwards, people who know about such things talk about interesting textures and marvel at Kass’s polyrhythms.  ‘It’s prog rock, really’, ‘It’s avant-garde in all aspects’, ‘It’s avant-garde jazz’, ‘Is it, though?’  No one seems able to tell me exactly what kind of jazz is being played.  It’s a mystery.

I’m transported from the minute Trio HLK take the stage.  ‘It’s all about them, really’ says Evelyn.  She’s enjoying working with them, developing the music together, seeing what happens, enjoying the ‘unexpected, surprising, unwanted things’ that arise within the structure.

‘It’s far too early to categorise it as jazz’ she says.

Out of the silence comes sound.

Gentle, interlocking, broken and unbroken melodies, ‘refracted through our prism’ say Trio HLK.  How they concentrate on one another as they play.

And then Evelyn comes on.

With the exception of her stunning solo on the halo drum, it quickly becomes clear that Evelyn is ‘just’ one of the band.  It’s all about the collaboration, this.  It’s not just about Evelyn.

Therefore anyone expecting The Evelyn Glennie show is disappointed.

And anyone expecting a night of the kind of music never before heard in these parts is delighted.

I know nothing about jazz, and I’m a poet, so for me it went like this.

Bells in oceans, rocks knocking, windchimes on mountainous heights, stars singing, cool corridors of monasteries, pianos in cathedrals, ribbons of sound and light weaving together and coming apart, weaving together and coming apart again, gongs falling down wells, soft, silvery streams, and the incessant beat of the universal drum.

And all in the Corn Exchange.

It’s moving.  I cry a bit.  It’s strange.  The music has form, and is also formless.  It’s spectacular.  I’m mesmerised by Evelyn and her drumsticks and intensity.

At the back of the stage, in the stairwell, I dance to the drum.

‘I’ll be behind the curtain, taking pictures,’ I had said earlier, ‘in case you hear a sound’.

Later Evelyn said she saw me, out of the corner of her eye, as I took photographs from the floor underneath the marimba.  ‘I thought it was funny’ she said.

(I have taken photographs of Evelyn Glennie.  You may take me now, Lord.)

Evelyn and the guys come out at the end to sign the album ‘Standard Time’ and talk affably with the public.  Martin has brought his drum skin for Evelyn to sign, and she strums her fingers on his bodhrán, listening carefully to the sound that it makes.  She chats to Vicky, who apparently sang with her in a choir decades ago.  For an icon she’s very approachable.

She and the guys are just very serious about sound.

And the verdict of the Festival audience?

Some people loved it all.  Most people loved some of it.  A few people loved it not at all.  Bit progressive and unusual for some folk.  Too edgy.  ‘Interesting’, ‘Bit jangly’, ‘Not my cup of tea’, ‘Would like to have seen more of Evelyn’, ‘What I really loved was the communication between them’, ‘Great sound quality’, ‘Fascinating’, ‘Amazing’.

The serious jazz officianados and poetic types in the audience are blown away.

The Devizes Arts Festival is privileged to have been able to bring an act of this calibre to Devizes.

Dame Evelyn Glennie and Trio HLK.  Thank you so much for coming.

And for letting us listen.

© Gail Foster 5th June 2018

 

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Devizes Town Band; Heroes and Villains

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What do we expect from a Town Band?  Seasonal Oompahs, buckets of enthusiasm, Jerusalem, and the odd dropped note, perhaps?  Not a full on professional sounding wind orchestra, surely.  After all, town bands are an amateur thing, aren’t they?

I went to see Devizes Town Band’s ‘Heroes and Villains’ show at the Corn Exchange on Monday.  Their current Musical Director is Sharon Lindo, a professional violinist and multi-instrumentalist, who came out of the trombone section to take up the baton in 2012.  The night was compered by Ian Pugh, chirpy toastmaster and Fantasy Radio personality, and on this occasion there were forty-four musicians, amateur and professional, wind and percussion, in the band.  Proceeds from the event went to local charity Altzheimer’s Support.

The programme consisted of classic film themes, all introduced with a paragraph about plot, and illustrated with images on a big screen behind the band.  The night started with Superman, then we had The Godfather, Chicago, Les Mis, Gladiator, Bonnie and Clyde, The Magnificent Seven, Schindler’s List, and a bit of Aida.  In the interval we heard about Altzheimer’s Support from Laura Fenson, Community Fundraiser, and in the second half we had The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Mack the Knife, Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, Over The Rainbow, Chicken Run, Skyfall, and Oliver.

What is it about these songs that stirs us so?  The triumphant and melancholic cadences, the nostalgia?  We’ve heard them so often they could be deemed to be corny, but the reason they have endured is because people love them, and most have memories associated with them.  Fun, sorrow, victory, mischief, romance, nights at the movies, Sundays by the television, days gone by… whatever it is that appeals, it brought people out in droves, and on a school night, and not all of them over fifty.

Solo performers were Alan Evans on French horn, playing the poignant ‘Bring Him Home’, Jenni Scott, flautist and vocalist, singing ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ to the tune of gunfire, Sharon Lindo’s sensitive rendition of the Schindler theme on violin, Bruce MacDonald on tenor sax playing ‘Over The Rainbow’ and, my favourite moment of the night (sniff, something in my eye, etc.) Richard Tannasee on trumpet, playing ‘Il Triello’, oh so beautifully, in front of screen images from The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.

Dropped notes?  Maybe a barely perceptible hiccup somewhere in the first half, but that really is nit-picking.  The band had been rehearsing since January, and it showed. The quality of sound was great, the energy levels were high, the conductor was a joy to watch, the kazoos were on point (!), and the tunes were well chosen.  With the exception of one elderly lady, who said that rock bands were more her cup of tea, everyone I spoke to loved it.  ‘Very good’, seemed to be the consensus.  ‘Very enjoyable’ said the man who had come all the way from Bedfordshire to see his daughter play the clarinet.

I must be getting old.  I liked it a lot.

And I got to play with Ian Pugh’s gavel afterwards.

Good times.

© Gail Foster 24th April 2018

PS What is it about Ennio Morricone?

You can catch the really rather wonderful Devizes Town Band at Poulshot Church in June, at the Beer Festival in July, and at Hillworth Park in September.  And if you’re interested in finding out more about the work of Altzheimer’s Support (let’s face it, we all might need them one day), you can contact their Devizes office in Sidmouth Street.

 

 

The Sacrifice of Song

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The Choir of St. John the Baptist, Devizes

sing Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral

4th January 2017

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The Temple of St. Paul’s, at Evensong;

The voices of our little children ring

In tones divine, as through the ages long

Our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters sing

How lofty, lowly, wide, and deep, and high

The mystery, the magnitude, the sound

How thunderous, the whispered gilded sigh

Of doves that fall from dome to holy ground

On altar bright; what sacrifice is this

This mass of light, this sungen density

This quantum quality, this ancient bliss

That renders speechless such a man as me

I fall upon my knees upon the floor

Sing, children, songs as these, for evermore

*

© Gail Foster 6th January 2017

Fiona In The Night

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for Fiona Meyrick, poet and musician; a Petrarchan sonnet

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Fiona, in the silence of the night

Sings songs of sorrow soft in minor key

That sigh above all formal melody

In cadences that dance like birds in flight

She rests within the dark, composing light

In subtle shades of sweet philosophy

Transposing on the stave a mystery

In spills of sound like ink on paper bright

Fiona, at the stroke of midnight blessed

Plays pianissimo the ocean’s rage

Transforming all the sins of man confessed

In gentle rhythms traced upon the page

A modern muse, an ancient truth expressed

In lullabies to sooth our restless age

*

© Gail Foster 2016

The Unbearable Brightness of Beauty

Beauty

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Beauty, your colours

Wash the eye with paint and pain

In rainbow prisms

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Beauty, your music

Astounds the ear to silence

In cadenced rhythm

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Beauty, your raw touch

Stirs the flesh to birth and death

In passion driven

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Beauty, your deep scent

Calls forth sudden memory

In flash unbidden

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Beauty, your rich taste

Licks the tongue to wild delight

In manna given

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Beauty, your glory

Ripples water, shatters stones

In revelation

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by Gail