DPAS LIVE REVIEW
Usher Hall, Edinburgh,
September 24th 2009
"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 some traditional Scottish Airs, Reels and Jigs. Led by the Phil Cunningham, the mainstay of any Hogmanay television show, the orchestra, joined by some 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 conductors 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.
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 they way they divided the solos between them. The cadenza was written a few days before the event 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 had wanted to use the original 1969 lyrics but was talked out of it. It did not matter, 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.
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 are stunning. He hits the notes, he makes the screams and looks very relieved at the end of the first verse. Now the two guitarist 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 so 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.
So was the evening a success, 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 well with the orchestra. And the Hammond Organ player, rose to the occasion and seemed to 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.
review: Kev Dixon