Physical and Spiritual
Music on the theme of journeys,
reviewed by MIKE WHEELER
Every year about this time, musicians from Viva go into schools in the Derby area to work with students on projects which are then showcased in a special concert at the Derby Assembly Rooms. This year's project [on 30 January 2006] took journeys as its theme -- physical, in the case of Britten's Night Mail, and both physical and spiritual, in Stravinsky's The Soldier's Tale.
Britten's classic film score was given a lively performance, with a screening of the relevant clip from the 1936 documentary, and with W H Auden's words expertly delivered by Stephen Ashfield (taking time out from the current London production of Fame).
Ashfield returned to narrate an abbreviated version of The Soldier's Tale, vividly taking on all three spoken roles which, for the most part, he successfully differentiated. The playing was rhythmically alert but tonally rather soft-grained, lacking an ounce or two of bite. Michael Young, a finalist in the 2005 Leeds Conductors' Competition, and recently appointed Viva's first Associate Conductor, directed both works effectively.
Experiencing the commercial working environment as Phil Higgins (top) from Katapult Studios and University of Derby student Nick Dacey prepare video and sound for the Journeys project.
The evening opened with Journeys, an entertaining work by Andrew Williams, who also led the schools' workshop which produced the piece in the second half (billed simply as 'New piece'). Work with students from Derby College and Sinfin Community and Primary Schools produced a fascinatingly varied score, though some effects, such as the close-miked paper-tearing sounds, did not quite come off. Nevertheless the involvement of all concerned was a joy to watch. The sight and sound of six junior school kids clustered round a marimba producing some quite complex harmonies is one of the evening's abiding memories.
Using multimedia approaches to convey a message exercised skills beyond those needed for the technical side - collaborative working, negotiation and cooperation were essential too.
Both this and Williams's own piece had accompanying video footage devised by students from Derby University and St Benedict's Catholic School and 'played' live via a computer link. They presented a fascinating mixture of concrete and abstract images, though there often didn't seem to be much direct correlation between music and visuals, especially as several sequences were repeated a number of times.
Copyright © 8 February 2006
Mike Wheeler, Derby UK
VIVA - THE ORCHESTRA OF THE EAST MIDLANDS