Around the world in 20 concerts: Jon Lord remembers 2009

Jon Lord in St. Petersburg, October 2009. Photo: Elena Blednykh

In this part of’s new year interview, Jon Lord takes stock on 2009.

Last year took Jon Lord out on the road around the world and into the recording studio. He composed and recorded an album of new music (read previous articles – links below), performed 20 solo concerts and appeared at a handful of special guest appearances.

From Edinburgh and Dublin to more remote stages in South Korea, Brazil and Russia (to name but a few) – Jon Lord performed in countries he’s never before visited as a solo artist.

– Yes, this has been an incredibly busy year. We did all those shows, and especially getting the Lichfield show ready, finishing To Notice Such Things, recording it, then arranging all the stuff for the show with the college up in Edinburgh; the 40th anniversary Concerto show in Dublin, and then Russia and Bucharest and so on. So it’s been quite a busy time.

Rehearsing in Yekaterinburg, Russia, October 2009. Photo: Ilya Galkov

Edinburgh master class
One extraordinary show was in Edinburgh where Scottish music students performed Concerto of Group and Orchestra and Child in Time with Jon Lord.

– Edinburgh was an amazing thing, and very much the sort of thing that absolutely fills up your soul. To work with young musicians who are right at the beginning of their careers and their ideas about what life as a musician might be and what they’re going to do with their lives as musicians; to actually get to work with them at that age – 18, 19, 20 – is a pure joy. An astonishingly fulfilling experience.

– I was just bowled over by the quality of the musicians from both sides of the coin; the young musicians from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama were in their first term and this was the first time over 90% of them had played together in an orchestra. They were all obviously highly talented and brilliant on their instruments. That’s why they were accepted into the college of course.

– And this is what was lovely. This old war horse of a piece that created such a fuss in the orchestral world 40 years ago, was now being used as the first piece that most of these young people would play as an orchestra.

Onstage with music students in Edinburgh, Scotland, October 2009.

In a sense, Concerto for Group and Orchestra was as much an initiation piece for the Scottish music students in 2009 as it had been for Jon back in 1969.

– That’s the rather lovely synchronicity of it all: that this piece – the first I had written for orchestra, so really like learning to swim whilst drowning – well, to hear it used as an initiation piece for young musicians 40 years later was not only massively enjoyable but somewhat of a feather in my cap, I feel. It was a huge pleasure to do.

– As for the young guys from Stevenson College in Edinburgh who played the rock instruments, they were marvelous. Great young guys with lots of thoughts about what they want to do and how they want to do it. And they weren’t afraid to make suggestions as to how they might play a certain part. Well, at first they were very nervous I think, but as we became friends… I went up to Edinburgh four or five times to work with them all, and occasionally just to sit and talk with them and have a pint of beer with them.

– The reviews spoke for themselves as far as the public were concerned. It was a big success – two five-star reviews from the big Scottish papers. I was pleased and thrilled with that. The kind of thing I would love to try again.

– It also made me feel very humble as well, just to realize how far things have moved on, and if I’ve had anything to do with that in the tiniest, slightest way then I shall smile for the next twenty years or more.

More on Jon Lord in Edinburgh:
‘Proggers only’ – behind the scenes in Edinburgh
Outstanding: 10 stars for Edinburgh
Breathtaking freshness in Edinburgh
– This is gonna be fun!
Concerto veteran to oversee Scottish premiere
Concerto for students and ‘rock giant’

The Russian shows
In October, Jon Lord did three Russian shows in Yekaterinburg, St. Petersburg and Moscow. This meant huge amounts of preparations between the shows.

– Because of the distances involved I had to use separate orchestras and conductors. It’s not been as challenging as that before. Three concerts in nine days; on arrival day the orchestra rehearsed with the conductor. The next day it was orchestra and band together. The third day, the concert. And then I did this three times with three different orchestras and three different conductors.

– It’s also why I used a band that I knew – Cry Free from Hungary. I’d previously done well with them in Budapest and in Bratislava. I enjoyed working with them. They’re good lads and they make a good sound.

– In St. Petersburg I worked with a wonderful conductor – Fabio Mastrangelo –  and a lovely orchestra. We had a marvelous concert. And likewise in Moscow, the Moscow Symphony Orchestra were terrific – down to the last man they came to play. And the conductor also was wonderful, Vladimir Ziva. He was quite a traditional, one might say slightly old-fashioned but none the worst for that, but a real task master. A lot of shouting at his orchestra during rehearsals. Quite old school.

– I made a couple of good friends. Certainly with Fabio in St. Petersburg; I genuinely expect to be playing with him again. Much enjoyable music was made there I think. I was having a blast, and I must say the concerts themselves were terrific – even in Yekaterinburg, which was the most challenging. The audience was on their feet and it was standing ovation city. In fact, we’re getting standing o’s all over the place, mate, and it’s lovely. Generally speaking, I don’t think I can honestly put my finger on any one concert this year and say that it wasn’t enjoyable in at least 95% of it.

More on Jon Lord in Russia:
Live from Russia – videos.
Pictured in Yekaterinburg. NEW
Yekaterin: images from the road.
Russian TV embraces Jon Lord.
Skt. Petersburg: images from the road.
Pictured in St. Petersburg. NEW

Roman amphitheatre in Bulgaria

In September Jon Lord performed a show at the antique Roman amphitheatre in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

– The Roman amphitheater was a marvelous concert – under the stars and with amazing acoustics. 2.000 or 3.000 years ago it seems the Romans knew more about acoustics than we do now. Absolutely amazing acoustics, we hardly had to amplify anything. The amplification was there just to level the playing field between the band and the orchestra.

– And a fabulous crowd, singing along, applauding in the middle, whenever they heard something they liked they just applauded. Yeah, it was marvelous, very, very exciting. – The conductor was Nayden Todorov. A marvelous young man. I also worked with him in Bucharest, which was also absolutely wonderful.

– Again, that’s what’s been wonderful. Every night I played this year, each of the 20 concerts, it’s been something different – different feelings and a different way. One of the great joys of orchestral music is that difference every time –  you’ve got 70 or 80 people playing together and all trying to give a performance. So there’s this wonderful feeling of electricity in the air during these concerts.

– I’m sitting there listening to the good old Concerto again and again and hearing it played differently – slower, softer, Iouder, quieter in various places. It’s fascinating. It’s marvelous. It doesn’t get any better. I’m incredibly blessed to be doing this. It’s a marvelous experience, absolutely fabulous.

More on Jon Lord in Plovdiv:
Doogie White confirmed for Jon Lord concert.
‘Legendary Jon Lord rocks Bulgaria’s Plovdiv’.
Pictured in Plovdiv.
Join Jon Lord on Facebook.
Charismatic modesty in Bucharest.

Purple ballad?

– I’m having a ball, and I really know now that I made the right choice seven years ago when I left Deep Purple. It’s become more and more apparent as the time has gone on.

– It was probably also the right thing for the band. I hope it wasn’t apparent to too many people but I was not all there in the last few months or year. I always had a level below which I tried not to ever drop, but my body was still in Deep Purple while my mind had already left – it was moving onwards – and that was not fair to the band or to the public.

– But the knowledge that I have now makes it easier for me to see why I left, and I’m thrilled to bits.

– And there they are, still enjoying themselves. Long may they continue. I’m very interested to see what they’re doing with the set lists lately. That’s interesting and cool, and it’s what they should keep doing.

Watch Jon Lord onstage with Deep Purple in Tokyo, April 15, 2009:

– I think most people out there are either old fans who are going back for a fix of something they haven’t had for 20 years – or they’re new fans who think “Oh yeah, I’d like to hear the band that wrote Smoke on the Water play it,” and Highway Star and Woman From Tokyo and yadda, yadda, yadda. (more below)

– It’s quite difficult for the band to make those choices as to who’s playing for who, so I think they’re doing a terrific job. I also hope Ian looks after his voice because he’s the only one who can’t buy a new instrument. Ian Paice once said about his drum set “I bought it so I’ll boot it.” Unfortunately, Ian Gillan can’t say that. So I hope he can sing for as long as he wants to sing, and I wish them huge success.

– I hope they go back into the studio quite soon and just give themselves another boost with some more material. I’m really interested to hear what a new album would sound like. Maybe they’ll even ask me to write them a song. It’s time they had a ballad. A good ballad.

Read previous parts of this new year interview with Jon Lord:
Jon Lord: New album in memory of Sir John Mortimer.
Interview: To Notice Such Music.
To Notice Such Things, track-by-track.

Come back to to read the next part of this interview – about Jon Lord’s future plans, project and loose ideas.


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