Breathtaking freshness in EdinburghOctober 6, 2009
‘The Edinburgh concert was fantastic, the kids were really impressive, very cohesive and obviously they enjoyed it as much as the audience.’
Thus writes David Fergusson on Jon Lord’s Facebook page about the concert at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall on Monday night.
For this website, Kevin Dixon reports indepth about the evening.
‘The first thing that struck me was how young the musicians looked. The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama provided the orchestra. Taken mostly from the first year inductees, they were almost all around 18 years of age. Stevenson College Edinburgh provided the folk musicians and the rock band. These students were 18-24 years old.
The first section of the evening was a selection of traditional Scottish Airs, Reels and Jigs. Led by Phil Cunningham, with the orchestra joined by traditional folk musicians, played a lively toe tapping set. It was probably just the thing to relax the musicians into the spirit of the evening.
Paul Mann took over the conductor’s baton following the interval, and Jon introduced ‘his baby’, including a lovely tribute to the sadly departed Tony Ashton. And so began the journey that is the Concerto for Group and Orchestra.
The divided cadenza
Straight away you could feel the enthusiasm and the enjoyment coming from the stage. There were smiles all round, and the standard of the music being played was exceptional.
The rock band kicked in and proved they were also of a high standard of musicianship. Joined by Jon on the Hammond, the band got into that wonderfully funky late 60’s rhythm. With two guitarists in the band it was quite interesting to see the way they divided the solos between them.
The cadenza was new and was wonderfully thought out, ending with the guitarists harmonizing together joined briefly by Jon, before the whole ensemble finished the movement with a glorious flourish.
The rapturous applause seemed to shock some of the orchestra, almost like they had forgotten an audience was even there. Paul Mann just beamed his widest smile at them all and the second movement commenced.
How would the 18 year old Grant Barclay cope with the singing? With incredible ease as it turned out. A really wonderful vocal delivery of the 1999 lyrics, he was excellent.
The third movement, and the honours went to Oscar Mannoni on the drums. The crowd cheered, the orchestra turned to watch, Jon stood back from the Hammond for a better view, and even Paul Mann stood with his mouth open.
Quickly the Concerto came to a close and the venue rose to its feet in appreciation. The band was brought out to the front of the stage to yet more wild applause, and finally people started to leave the stage. Just as the first violinist rose and bowed as if to leave, Jon and Paul came back onto the stage.
Time for Child
Jon introduced a song from the same era as the Concerto, inducing a huge cheer as the familiar opening chords of Child in Time were played. Now came the most stunning version of the song I have heard in years.
First came the vocals, and they were stunning. He hit the notes, he made the screams and looked very relieved at the end of the first verse. Now the two guitarists again split the solo spot, and ended with harmonies, joined again by Jon.
The orchestration of this version is wonderful, and dovetails neatly into the song. The second verse is better than the first, and this time the screams are just as good. The song drives to a conclusion, and the cheer at the end probably took the sky off.
Paul Mann took the microphone and hailed the song as the best version he had heard since the original, and hugged the singer. Jon thanked everyone for coming and must have shaken hands with everyone onstage.
Conductor’s high praise
The evening was more than a success in my opinion. The musicians really excelled themselves, and approached the Concerto with a breathtaking freshness. The Orchestra was a revelation, having only had five days rehearsals, something that caused Paul Mann to praise them highly.
The rock band really did rock, and yet blended nicely well with the orchestra. And the hammond organ player rose to the occasion and seemed to be genuinely having a huge amount of fun. However the billing may have read, the real stars tonight were the magnificent young musicians, something I am sure Jon would agree with.
Did you also see the show? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.