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Musical evangelism

Piers Adams' group Red Priest


I must report the shocking news, discovered in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, UK on Thursday 22 May 2003, that the macabre and fantastic image of the British early music group Red Priest, along with a certain reputation for 'messing' with serious music and belonging to 'the funny brigade', is all a clever subterfuge -- nothing but a thin veil of disguise -- behind which hides a brilliant, knowledgable, passionate and dedicated period instrument chamber group.

It took a while to make this discovery, however, as the four members of Red Priest won the undivided attention of and drew laughter from this (mostly elderly) Roses Theatre audience before playing a single note, appearing on the stage one by one, in near darkness, with deliberately exaggerated angular movements, and complete anonymity, each covered from head to foot in dark clothing.

In just enough faint steely blue light for crisp coordination, came La Notte (Vivaldi's Concerto in G minor, RV349), fantastic in itself, anything but 'authentic' in Red Priest's own arrangement, notable for its success under such difficult conditions, hoods and face masks all still firmly in place, and played (as with most of the evening's music) without printed music. But already these magicians could have played anything they wished, for this spellbound audience (completely quiet and still, apart from one reviewer's clumsy attempts to scribble notes in the darkness, for which many apologies) was already theirs for the entire concert.

Red Priest
Red Priest

Angular visual pointing was a feature of much of the concert, with normally subtle gestures, movements and pauses magnified deliberately, often to great comic effect. It takes great skill, courage and confidence to make these effects succeed, and this appears to come naturally to these musicians (each a superstar soloist who can afford to treat him or herself less than seriously).

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Copyright © 1 June 2003 Keith Bramich, Worcestershire, UK


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