Monday, 22 November 2010

Time and Distance

Time and Distance at Gallery 36
Poet James Turner, Saxophonist Chris Caldwell,
Flautist Susie Hodder-Williams
What could follow an oboe concerto from the UEA symphony orchestra?  How about an evening of transcendent flute and clarinet (and saxophone) with the addition of the poetry of James Turner in the very inspiring setting of Gallery 36 in Denmark Road.  Saturday night's concert was called 'Time and Distance' and it was a very unusual and moving experience.
The Gallery is owned and run by Veronica Gosling whose previous gallery was in the Forest of Dean.  Gallery 36 is a former nursing home where all the rooms are filled with art equipment and materials and many, many works of art.  The art work extends into the garden where various sculptures are visible from Western Way.  (Many people have wondered what white painted bicycles are doing in the trees!)
Recently Veronica discovered a couple of musicians calling themselves 'Music on the Edge' playing in the Long Room at the Drewe Arms in Drewsteighnton.  Cris Caldwell is a clarinettist with a deep love of the saxophone.  Susie Hodder-Williams is wonderful flautist.  They both also play the Javanese gamelan.  Veronica managed to convince them to come to Exeter to play at Gallery 36 with the additional element of the poetry and poetry reading of James Turner.
After a lot of shuffling around as a large and expectant audience squeezed themselves into one room of the gallery, the concert opened with 'Timelessness for Bass Flute and Bass Clarinet'.  Chris sat silently with his very large, old and beautiful bass clarinet to his lips, strangely reminiscent of a garden gnome with a giant tobacco pipe.  However, it was Susie who made the first sounds, on her bass flute.  The first sound was no more than a breath, slowly building into a recognisable note, before giving way to multiple harmonics.  As the mood built, a series of squeaks and gasps started to proceed from Chris's clarinet.  The entire piece was beautifully composed and played.
But the plan was not simply to have an evening of modern compositions.  Next came three baroque pieces by Bach - but played on the saxophone which wasn't invented until 100 years after he died.  Chris explained that he thinks the saxophone is ideal for the music of Bach.  And, after his playing, we had to agree.
Then 'Minimal Time and Equal Distance' was represented by Philip Glass's 'Piece in the Shape of a Square', a minimalist work gently coaxing more and more life into a very simple musical phrase.  This 25 minute piece was sadly cut down to only five minutes to allow time for more music and poetry.
James' poems about time and distance were accompanied by Susie on the gamelan and Chris on his beloved saxophone - again reduced to the gentlest gasps and squeaks, accompanied by the tapping of the brass keys.
Chris and Susie sent us to the interval with Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - and Chris called us back with Mussorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition' on the clarinet.
James read us some poetry by Henry Reed and T S Eliot in the second half with accompaniment from various flutes, clarinets and saxophones.  We also enjoyed more classical music: Sarabande from Bach's Partita No 2 - on saxophone of course, Elgar, Debussy and - Thelonius Monk.  Chris's jazz playing was quite amazing, and when he and Susie finished with 6 Roumanian folk dances by Bartok, Chris treated us to an amazing and unpredictable jazz imrovisation ending with exhausted wheezing through the reed.
Just to bring us back to some semblance of reality they finished with Steve Goss's arrangement of the Welsh folk tale 'Hela'r Sgyfarnog' (Hunting the Hare).  We were pleased to hear that it is possible that Steve will get together with Chris and Susie in the near future to form a trio to play at Dillington Hall.  That's definitely something to look out for!

The next event at Gallery 36 is 'Beautiful Pots'.  Seven ceramicists will exhibit their work from 3-12 December.  There will also be a 'music event' on Thursday 9 Dec.

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