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Interview: Music is communication

February 20, 2009

haken-interviewJon Lord and the Philharmonic Orchestra Hagen: Concerto for Group and Orchestra

Hits like “Smoke on the water” and “Here I go again” made him and his band famous all over the world: Jon Lord, founding member and ex-keyboardplayer with Deep Purple.

Already in 2008 he worked with the Philharmonic Orchestra Hagen. The outcome was a sold-out concert. Even the dress rehearsal was open to the public, due to high demand, and was sold out as well.

Now the rock-legend comes to Germany again for an extraordinary crossover concert with the Philharmonic Orchestra Hagen. On January 21, Renessa Punt had the golden opportunity to talk to Jon Lord on the phone.

HAKEN: Mr. Lord, surely many of our readers would like to know how the collaboration with the Philharmonic Orchestra Hagen came about.
JL: About six years ago I met some musicians of the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen from Gelsenkirchen and got to know Ralf Breitenbach. I found it great that the musicians were playing in a rock band in their free time. Their dream was to play my “concerto for group and orchestra”. I lost contact with them. In the end of 2007, Ralf called me again and said ‘I’ve found a symphony orchestra for this project”. So the concerts in 2008 came about. After that, Antje Haury from the orchestra asked me to repeat the concert in another city in the region.

And now you play in Essen.
JL: Yes, the Grugahalle has fairly complicated acoustics. The difficulty with my piece is that you cannot play as a rock band and amplify the orchestra in the hope that everything will sound fantastic. I wrote it 40 years ago. Back then I already was aware that an orchestra doesn’t sound like an orchestra anymore when you point many microphones at it. So it is easier to let the rock band not play too powerful. I have to talk a lot to the technicians and that worked out extremely well in Hagen. Everything has to fit, be powerful, that piece is supposed to convey its message.

Has your taste in music changed through the work with orchestras?
JL: Not necessarily through the work with orchestras, but because I’m growing older. The longer I am a musician, the more I am conscious of how little I know and how much I would like to know. My taste has expanded. I wrote the concerto in 1969 and worked with orchestras until 1995. Then I didn’t do anything with orchestras for long, but my interest in the fusion of popular and classical music came back. The concerto I played about fifty times and now it has found its audience. Now orchestras value this piece… In the end it doesn’t matter whether the musician plays electric guitar or a violin. If he believes in what he does, with joy in his heart and a smile on his face, he can conquer the world. That I believe in. I love the power of music, I love it that it improves life and influences moods. I adore the world of music.

So music has a deeper meaning for you and you do not only play for the audience?
JL: In the 90s I was very touched by the death of my parents and that I expressed in the record with the title “Pictured Within”. This changed my style of composing drastically and so I also wrote for my parents. In the end, however, I also compose for myself, because I don’t want to play something in the public that doesn’t make me happy. It’s very difficult to play in front of an audience. The whole meaning of music is communication. On the paper, music is only a line of black dots. Music does not exist before a musician blows life into it, and then it exists only the moment it is played. Then it is only on the paper again. But now it exists in your mind, in your memories. Music is able to transport emotions. Therefore I like to play a song like “Wait a while” alone with an explosive piece.

This song touched me mostly at a concert.
JL: Yes, sometimes you have to write something that hurts. This song was painful because I had the idea of a song about the loss of someone.

Do you feel freer since you are not playing with a band anymore?
JL: Now that I’m my own boss? Travelling in a rock band is awesome, like in a family. I left the band because during that time I couldn’t write the music I wanted to write. I needed tranquillity. Now I am part of a bigger group for a certain time. It’s different.

How do you explain that strangers suddenly held hands during the concert?
JL: Then I manage to evoke an emotion I had in another person. The greatest gift for a musician.

Mr. Lord, thank you for taking your time for this conversation.
JL: Thanks for listening. And come to Essen!

© Haken magazine
Translated from German by Annika Jobski

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