– Child In Time will blow people away. This is truly something special I am a part of.
Thomas Temple is one of two young guitarists playing with Jon Lord for Monday night’s performance of the Concerto for Group and Orchestra in Edinburgh.
Together with six other students from Edinburgh’s Stevenson College – and the orchestra of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) – Thomas Temple is gearing up for the musical experience of a lifetime.
In this interview, Thomas Temple, guitarist Grant Kilpatrick and saxophone player Christopher Hartles, all 19, talk about their experiences and expectations as young music students getting ready to do a concert with Jon Lord.
The first meeting
– The first time we met Jon Lord we were all really nervous. We played at a very formal dinner and we were wondering what he might think of us and what kind of guy he was, says Thomas Temple.
– We played an 11-minute medley of band parts from the Concerto including the main part from the 1st movement and the bluesy vocal parts from the 2nd. We’d written some little links in between to make it all fit together.
– Afterwards when we met him, we knew instantly that he was a great guy. Just something about him and being around him was really cool. He said he loved us as players and as a band and was really looking forward to working more closely with us. What an honour!
– This was in June of 2008, and over the next few months he came up to Edinburgh to rehearse with us in the band. This was when he really came out and we got to know him better. Jon Lord is an absolute gentleman and very polite. He has time for anyone and wouldn’t like to let anyone down. Absolutely humble in every way, says Thomas Temple.
Too many guitars?
The seven piece band of saxophone, keyboards, bass, drums, vocals and two guitarists offers new ways of looking at the Concerto.
– The big thing for both Grant Kilpatrick and me was the worry Jon would turn around and say ‘two guitarists? I don’t know guys.’ But he was 100% great about it and really enjoyed what we where doing.
– People tell us that we’re great guitarists but none of us have ever contemplated doing a cadenza before. [The solo piece in the 1st movement of the Concerto. Ed.] It’s a really hard thing, playing completely on your own in front of huge amounts of people without mucking up.
Grant Kilpatrick agrees this has been one of the biggest learning curves of the whole project.
– We had to really balance taste and musicality without dragging it out.
– We all know the legendary story of Ritchie doing the 7-minute guitar solo in 1969, notes Thomas Temple.
– Yeah, and the last we would want to do is bore the audience with double that, laughs Grant Kilpatrick.
– So what we’ve done is, we both play separately for a little while and then join up at the end for a nice harmonized part. We tried to really structure it. Because we had never done anything like a cadenza before, our guitar tutor at college, Robin Robertson, helped us put it together, so it’s not so improvised.
– We end on the same note as where the orchestra starts their next part. I think it’s a D. Am I right, Thomas?
– Yes, the orchestra can fade in from us ringing out our last note. We actually joked about that; ‘if everything fucks up, go for D’, he laughs.
Big band Concerto
Monday will also mark the first time Jon Lord’s Concerto for Group and Orchestra has been performed with a saxophone player. Christopher Hartles explains how he and the extra keyboard player adds a big band sound to the band.
– Frazier Mitchell, who is the second keys player, is using a lot of Fender Rhodes sounds, and with me on the sax doubling a lot of keys lines and adding a couple of new harmonies as well, it’s quite nice as it gives the band a lot of tone.
– I’d say 70% of my parts are doubled with the guitars and keys, and the rest are harmonies, explains Christopher Hartles.
– In Child in Time I have a lot more freedom during the aahh section. I am using the chord tones to rise with the voice, so I am trying to be wailing just as much as the voice by the end! It creates a great effect.
– These are probably the best moments for the sax and in fact, when we played it the other day, that bit was an extremely special moment. I think we all felt a tingling…
The mention of Child in Time reminds Grant Kilpatrick of the band’s singer, Grant Barclay:
– The first time we played Child in Time with Jon Lord, he was really impressed. Our singer Grant can hit every note in it. And when we first played it with the orchestra, everyone turned round like ‘what is going on? What the hell is he doing?’, remembers Grant Kilpatrick.
The first rehearsals with Jon Lord last year came off to a good start.
– The first time he came into the room we were having a little groove going, and he just sat at the keys and played along. It was like, ‘wow! We are jamming with Jon Lord.’ It was a bizarre experience in a great way, remembers Thomas Temple.
– During rehearsals he has everyone’s attention 100%, and he seems really pleased with us. He’s said we are ‘an amazing band’ and he even said ‘I want to be in YOUR band, not you to be in mine.’
– He gets right in there and plays along. Afterwards he gives us tips on little things – ‘the dynamics should be quieter’ – or louder, or ‘that should be a Bb there’ – suggestions here and there for different parts and how they should be played. Stuff like that. But the freedom he gives us is really cool. He is very free with things such as solo sections, who plays where and making our own sound fit the piece.
– Jon is very clear with instructions in terms of entries and certain passages of music, says Grant Kilpatrick.
– I really like the way he puts his point across – not just with musical theory but also with the basic elements of feel within the music. He will say ‘this needs a shuffle feel’… It’s nice and easy to work with.
Grant Kilpatrick is particularly thrilled with Jon Lord’s approach to rehearsals.
– He works at a very relaxed pace. It’s a pleasant atmosphere to work in.
– This was a surprise at first because you have this perception that Jon Lord, being a very seasoned musician, is going be much more intense than the tutors you get at college. But he was the opposite. Completely laid back and very, very inspiring. Even just sitting and talking to him you feel he has a lot of wisdom.
– And he is so humble. He didn’t come in and say ‘I am the main man’ or whatever. To have the success he has had and just let us lead the sound was very inspiring for me.
Going to the pub with Jon Lord
– Between rehearsals with Jon Lord, we’ve worked really hard on our own. Then every few months he’d come up for a day or something, which was great. It made it fresh after we had been rehearsing for so long – like a breath of fresh air and everything lifted, explains Grant Kilpatrick.
– When he came up to rehearse with us, we always got a little press with the papers and some TV, etc, says Thomas Temple
– But sometimes you can tell Jon just wants to sit and play music and doesn’t want to think about interviews and photos. He has made us feel like the highlight of his day was rehearsing with us and getting to know us a bit more. This makes us feel honoured.
– One night after a long rehearsal he turned around and said to us, ‘fancy going to the pub?’ So we ended up just sitting round a small table in the local pub drinking a pint and chatting to him. What a cool experience that was!
– He bought all of us drinks and we just chatted for a few hours about all kinds of things; music, playing, going abroad, touring. As well as the music side of things, we also talked about TV, his family, other experiences of his, comedy. He also liked to listen to us talk about our view on things and us in general.
– In fact, I think Jon could write a book of just his experiences on the road, with other musicians and little stories about being in such an influential band for more than 30 years. It would be so interesting.
– This evening at the pub made us feel really excited, and for days afterwards we couldn’t stop talking about what a great guy he is. Also, little things like him sitting at the piano pulling out great blues licks… We all just turn and look at each other like ‘wow’.
– Other little things – like him just telling us stories of playing the Concerto in different countries and his time in Deep Purple – make us feel like he is more a friend than someone we are just playing with. He is such a super friendly guy, says Thomas Temple.
Working with a full orchestra and a conductor is also a new experience for the music students.
– The orchestra rehearsals are really exciting and a completely new learning curve for all of us in the band. It’s a really exciting time. After every rehearsal, we are all buzzing about it. This is gonna be fun, says Thomas Temple.
– Paul Mann – the conductor who toured the Concerto with Deep Purple and is a good close friend of Jon’s – keeps on saying how great we sound. His exact words were ‘if only Purple could hear you now, they’d love it’. He even said about one of my guitar solos ‘Steve Morse would be proud.’ I mean, there is no higher honour for me.
– I think we are extremely lucky that our first experience with a conductor is with Paul Mann. Like Jon, he works in a very nice way. He’s calm and pleasant the whole time. When he first came in, he got us to just play the Concerto through with us and the orchestra which was extremely scary.
– It was quite a moment. We had never played a single note with an orchestra before as a band, says Thomas Temple.
– Fortunately he made us feel at ease with the whole thing.
Nervous before show time
Thomas Temple sums up his feeling about the whole experience.
– We are all just young musicians from a small country, and we have the utmost respect for Jon and his career. It’s really cool how he cares about playing with us. Paul Mann even told us that HE is excited about it.
– This is truly one of the most incredible times of my life, and I hope that people enjoy the concert. We have never done a show on this scale – nor with an orchestra – and we are all pumped up and excited to play this.
– Naturally on the night we’ll be a little nervous, but once we’re onstage it will be fine. We have a lot of people behind us. The encouragement has been very nice, and I’m sure all our parents and siblings are very excited about the show.
Christopher Hartles also admits to a bit of nerves, and Thomas Temple says:
– Right now I get a little nervous when I think how close it is. I don’t know how I will feel right before we go on stage, but I have confidence in the band and I know Jon will keep us right. He’s done it hundreds of times.
– I was at our college on Friday and there is a good buzz with people asking questions about rehearsals and things. Everyone from our college gets to see the concert for free. We were lucky to be given the chance to do this and it’s nice that everyone else gets something back, he says.
Grant Barclay – vocals (18)
Thomas Temple – guitar (19)
Grant Kilpatrick – guitar (19)
Fraser Mitchell – keyboards (18)
Christopher Hartles – saxophone (19)
Ryan Anderson – bass (19)
Oscar Mannoni – drums (24)
Monday October 5 – Usher Hall, Edinburgh – get tickets.
Jon Lord with students from Stevenson College Edinburgh, The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and The City of Edinburgh schools.