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Music review: Red Note Ensemble

Written by Neil Jones, The Scotsman

Reproduced by kind permission of the author

article | The Scotsman


THE Sound Festival - north-east Scotland's contemporary music festival, now in its sixth year - made a propitious start with an outstanding opening concert by the Red Note Ensemble.

The concert's headline piece was the world premiere of Gabriel Jackson's Doonies Hill Antiphon, which celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain and, in particular, the role of the radar station on Doonies Hill on the outskirts of Aberdeen. Jackson's music was utterly absorbing, evoking the long periods of concentration required by the radar operators, with sharp bursts of excitement, all of it delightfully melodic and, in one violin solo, downright sensual.

John Adams is one of the best known contemporary American composers and his Shaker Loops is both minimal and yet imposingly vibrant, requiring - and in this instance getting - an urgency and sheer virtuoso effort from the musicians. It's a fantastically rounded and complex piece of music, with a massive range of colours and shades and a fierce rhythmic central section that fades away to a repeat of the opening line.

Gavin Bryars's Jesus's Blood Never Failed Me Yet - based on a recording he made of a London tramp singing a religious song - was the last piece of the night; for it Red Note were joined by additional musicians from Aberdeen University.

It starts with a repeating recording of the tramp singing; then one by one the musicians enter, quietly adding their instruments to the vocal line, not in direct support but more in contrast, until gradually the music becomes the dominant force before eventually the voice dies away and, one by one, the musicians - sadly, because Bryars' music is, quite simply, beautiful - leave.

This article has been reproduced by kind permission of the author.

relevant events
  Date Day Time Location Event Details
20Wed 7.30 pmBanchoryRed Note Ensemble