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Alan Cooper Reviews: Promenade Concert

In association with ABERDEEN ART GALLERY & MUSEUMS LUNCHBREAK CONCERT SERIES

DARRAGH MORGAN: Violin
BILL THOMPSON: Electroacoustics
ANDY SAUNDERS: Horn
ABERDEEN MARITIME MUSEUM
Saturday, 22 October 2016

The first Saturday of this, the twelfth soundfestival, was a very busy day indeed. It began at 9.30 am in the restaurant of Aberdeen Maritime Museum where we were treated to free coffee and butteries – much appreciated, after which Festival Director Fiona Robertson welcomed us and introduced horn player Andy Saunders. He was to act as our Pied Piper, leading us upstairs to the various landings where three very different performances were to take place. Andy got the many children in the audience, some of them very young indeed, to choose items into which he could put his horn mouthpiece to create a new kind of instrument. The first was a teapot, the sounds of which took us to the second floor where violinist Darragh Morgan was waiting to entertain us.

Darragh’s first piece was one of the Violin Variations by Howard Skempton. One of the founders of the Scratch Orchestra, Skempton has been associated with the English School of Experimental Music. The violin variations however were fairly straightforward and attractive. A slow opening with double stopping and pizzicato led to a livelier conclusion. All the children seemed entranced by the music, some of the smaller ones going right up to Darragh to watch and listen.

The second piece was one of Peter Maxwell Davies’s more easily digested Orcadian inspired pieces, Mrs Linklater’s Tune. It went down well with the younger listeners too.

Having disposed of the teapot, Andy Saunders led us up to the next floor with a hosepipe onto the end of which he fixed a funnel. The children helped him carry this instrument up the stairs. There, at a table, waiting for us, was Bill Thompson with a treasure house of electrical gizmos bearing coloured flashing lights in various looping patterns. With these, a laptop and other mysterious electrical wonders, he was able to generate the sounds that made up his electroacoustic music. I discovered later that these flashing items were for him a series of “objets trouvés” which were originally developed for quite different purposes. The smaller round ones were belt buckles popular with attendees at teenage “raves”. After the concert one boy was quizzing Bill about every aspect of his work – possibly in a few years he will be performing at soundfestival.

To lead us to the top floor of the Maritime Museum, Andy Saunders produced the first of two horns he was to use in his performance – it was a “natural horn” of the type familiar to composers such as Mozart. Andy’s first piece however was Alpine Trail by the Russian composer Arkady Shilkloper. It certainly had an atmospheric quality suggested by its title. Changing to a modern horn, the same was true of Andy’s second piece, Appel Interstellaire by Olivier Messiaen. For the final piece in the Museum, Andy played Horn-Lokk by the Norwegian composer Sigurd Berge. None of the children in the audience seemed bored or distracted and nor I am sure were the adults. It was a very happy occasion which fulfilled everything that was expected of it.

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