When Jon Lord talks about his Concerto, there is a lot of warmth, passion and conviction in his words. He is calling it ‘my baby’ and he doesn’t hide that he is very proud of it.
– It is the love letter of a young musician directed at the two musical worlds in my life, says the 68 years old Englishman in an exclusive interview with the arts section of the Siegener Zeitung.
The symphony orchestra is one of those worlds, the rock band is the other. In the meantime his declaration of love is 40 years old and has remained valid right to this day. On 24. September 1969 Jon Lord wrote musical history with his Concerto for Group and Orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall, together with British rock-legends Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Nowadays the piece, which was one of those innovative attempts of its time creating a composition especially for orchestra and band, is experiencing a true renaissance. Lord is performing it time and again – on Friday, 23 October also in Siegen, together with the Philharmonie Südwestfalen and Deep Purple tribute band Demon’s Eye.
– The piece has found it’s time, Jon Lord is convinced – it touches the ‘zeitgeist’.
Did Jon Lord realise then, after the premiere, that he had done by all means something with historical relevance?
– Not really, says the Hammond virtuoso. But the conductor was convinced of it. When Malcolm Arnold noticed during rehearsals that the musicians in the orchestra were kind of lacklustre, he told them, Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to write history with what we will do here.
To himself and his bandmates from Deep Purple, the whole Concerto-matter had seemed ‘quite radical and dangerous’ says Lord. I thought it was a good experiment. I didn’t think it would endure. How wrong you can be…
Even though the life of the Concerto became quite bumpy, as pretty soon after the second performance in the USA in 1970 the score went lost. It wasn’t until 30 years after ist London premiere that the piece would be performed again, after young Dutch composer Marco de Goeij reconstructed the score.
Nowadays, cooperations with classical musicians are lesscomplicated than 40 years ago. In 1969 there were prejudices towards rock bands. Nowadays orchestras are more open minded, states Lord. Also, people have recognised in the meantime that the Concerto is better than its reputation. They see that it’s even ‘quite a good opus’.
– The piece has gained a certain reputation. Jon Lord doesn’t want to sound presumtuous, he expresses very clearly. But he is looking at his composition with a healthy self-confidence.
– For a musical experiment it is well-written. It is difficult to play for the orchestra. It’s not easy! But it also held a lot of pleasure for the orchestra to play.
Asked about the lasting merits of the three movement piece, Jon Lord says: I am not a teacher but an entertainer. The Concerto was not an educational piece, but it absolutely had such an effect.
He has received letters from people over the years who had never listened to an orchestra before, or vice versa, never listened to a rock band, but who had opened themselves to the respective unknown. A merit the creator of it can certainly live well with.
Jon Lord speaks rather deliberately and softly, adding authority to his words that makes you automatically listen attentively. Asked if he was ever feeling regrets that Deep Purple had taken another musical direction after the Concerto at the beginning of the seventies, he replies with a firm No, no.
– I didn’t regret this, not for a single moment.
It had never been his intention to bring Deep Purple to that particular musical direction. In fact at that time the band was very much into the direction which would later appear on Deep Purple In Rock.
For Jon Lord this is all history now. In 2002, after more than 30 years, he bid farewell to Deep Purple. He misses the rock stage a bit, after all it was a big piece of his life.
– But I still perform, I still play the Hammond. I get my rock’n’roll medicine.
Lord is happy with his new life. And he still has big plans: to perform his Concerto a couple of times over the next year, to play his Sarabande, first recorded in 1975, in its entirety over the next years, for which he would like to obtain the original guitarist, Andy Summers (yes, he from The Police); furthermore Lord is writing a concerto for Hammond and orchestra. In addition to this he is assembling solo material, more in crossover the direction, with organ and band; not the least he has just finished recordings of music for piano and strings with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
– In short, I want to be as productive as I can be.
The ‘little rock’n’roll ache’ now and then he will be well able to get over with. Maybe the guys from Demon’s Eye can help him a little bit with that, after all in Siegen he will perform the main opus along with further solo pieces from his records Sarabande, Beyond The Notes and Pictured Within as well as three songs from Deep Purple – all of them with band and orchestra.
Jon Lord remembers how he was contacted by Demon’s Eye last year in Hagen about a joint performance of the Concerto. He had heard about the high class of the local band from competent people: his former Deep Purple band mates Roger Glover and Ian Paice. Jon Lord will perform his composition with Demon’s Eye again, on 23. January 2010: in Potsdam, together with the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg.
The fact that Russell N. Harris, main conductor of the Philharmonie Südwestfalen, is English, doesn’t neccessarily make the Siegen project easier for Jon Lord – other than, of course, they can speak without language barriers. An advantage, but not really a necessity, because ‘music is a language of its own’. Besides, says Jon Lord, did he also speak a bit of German.
Great, how about an interview in German then? It appears we would only speak about beer and bockwurst, so we stick amicably to English…
Translated by Monika Schwarz.