Monday, 21 March 2011

Rebecca Willson, Modern Piano, Monday 14 March

Champion of new music Rebecca Willson
With the threat of funding cuts hanging over the future of live music concerts in the Music Room, it was a wonderful treat to see one of Exeter's most talented musicians giving a lunchtime concert on Monday last week.
Anyone visiting the library at around midday, or working nearby, could go up to the superb purpose-built music room and enjoy an hour of incredible music - and pay only £4 for the privilege.
Rebecca was one of the last few to graduate from Dartington College of Arts.  She was awarded a first in music in 2007.  Her study and collaboration with contemporary composer Graham Fitkin ignited her passion for new music, and she now works with an equally exciting new composer, Gabriel Prokofiev.  (Yes, that's the grandson of the even more famous Sergei Prokofiev.)
Rebecca's programme was full of exciting music very enthusiastically played.  The music was exclusively late twentieth and early twenty-first century.  The playlist was a roll-call of the greatest modern composers: John Adams, Somei Satoh, Rodesik De Man, Joyce Beetuan Koh, Permagnus Lindborg, and Caleb Burhans.  Every piece was played with incredible energy and a clear demonstration of Rebecca's detailed understanding of the music.  Most exciting was the music of her former mentor, Graham Fitkin - 'The Cone Gatherers' from 1978 and, to finish the concert, 'Fervent' from 1994.
The whole recital was not only very well balanced but very precisely and engagingly played.  Rebecca also solved that perennial problem of page-turning which often disrupts the music and can make a terrible noise.  Electronic displays which change page automatically are available, but expensive.  Rebecca solved that by inventing her own system by using a normal laptop PC and changing the page on the screen with the mouse - operated by her left foot.  This small innovation made a huge difference to the enjoyment of the music.  I hope the idea catches on.
The whole concert was recorded by that technical wizard, Mike Gluyas, who will provide the edited recordings of each piece for play-out on 'The Classical Journey' in the near future.  You really have to hear Rebecca playing to realise the extraordinary complexity and beauty of this music - and why she is so passionate about it.
Rebecca is currently working with 'Joined Up Thinking Projects' who showcase young musicians in Devon.  She will also be working on a series of performances of new music at the Bikeshed Theatre in Exeter.  (Many will remember Rebecca's playing from the Exeter Fringe Festival last year.  She took the 10pm-midnight slot two Thursdays running on 24 June and 1 July with her own amazing 'Journey' across three centuries and three continents.)
This Monday's concert was a wonderful opportunity to see a wonderful new musician.  If you didn't manage to see it, don't worry.  Rebecca Willson is a name we shall be hearing more often in the future.  To find out more about Rebecca's music teaching in Exeter go to

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