Tuesday, 31 May 2011

'Music on the Edge' perform at Topsham Art Room Sunday 17 April - returning Sunday 12 June

'Music On The Edge' - Flautist Susie Hodder-Williams and Bass Clarinettist Chris Caldwell
photo: Chris Chapman  www.chrischapmanphotography.com
Christopher Caldwell and his wife Susie Hodder-Williams are a musical couple from Throwleigh whose music is charged with the spirit of Dartmoor. Chris plays clarinets and saxaphones, Susie plays flutes, and together they are 'Music on the Edge'.
'Golden Evening' Benedict Rubbra 2010
Whenever I think of 'Music on the Edge' I think of art exhibitions and musical concerts combined. Last year they appeared at Gallery 36 in Exeter on Sunday 21 November to perform 'Time and Distance' with poet James Turner. Poetry and music in the setting of Veronica Gosling's extensive collection of creative work was a very memorable experience. The music was extraordinary, and we hear a little of that music  at the end of each 'Classical Journey' - often going over time, to the annoyance of the Outcast!
More recently Chris and Susie appeared at The Art Room in Topsham with 'cellist and guitarist Rick Bolton. They played a 6pm evening concert surrounded by the newly opened exhibit of works by Benedict Rubbra.

Benedict Rubbra, 'Dawn Unfolding' 1983,
The Art Room gallery owner, Deborah Wood
Benedict makes paintings that appear abstract, but are literal depictions of what he sees - they are paintings of his own paintings of interesting objects or scenes, seen with patterns of light and shadow projected on them. Confused?
'Golden Evening' (above) gives an idea of what people saw as they came in. Wonderfully restful and, in with the addition of the light and shade of an early spring evening in The Art Room, even more beguiling.
Owing to the now familiar problem of overlap between events, certain members of the audience missed the opening pieces of Chris and Susie's concert. (Mary O'Shea was singing Preisner's 'Lacrimosa' at Cathedral evensong - no question of leaving early! If you missed that, she will be performing it again at Buckfast Abbey on Sunday 8 July. Watch this space for details.)
Music and Art
Susie Hodder-Williams, Flute, Early Morning 2010
Rick Bolton, 'Cello, Golden Evening 2010
Chris Caldwell, Soprano Sax, Balcony with Geraniums 2006
The first three pieces had been a Welsh folk song, 'David and the White Rock', then one of Chris's own Dartmoor inspired pieces, 'Dewpoint', which had involved Chris improvising the sound of a babbling brook over the playing of the other players (I wish I'd been there!), finishing with Dave Brubeck's Fujiyama.
With the full audience in attendance Chris introduced us to the pleasure of the Indian 'raga' - on western classical instruments. The raga, as Chris explained, involves a set of notes upon which to improvise - with license to go anywhere - but where, and with whom? Chris began gently on his bass clarinet and was joined by the rich plucking of Rick's 'cello. Susie's powerful flute completed the sound. As the piece closed all that was heard was the tapping of the keys on Chris's mute clarinet.
Chris Caldwell, Bass Clarinet
Now was the moment for Chris to formally introduce Rick. The two men trained together at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. However, it was only recently that Chris discovered Rick's 'secret' specialism - jazz 'cello! The tuning of the 'cello strings does not immediately lend it to jazz playing. It could be retuned but, as Rick says, that would not be a 'cello. To play jazz on a straight classical 'cello is a really special skill. And Chris? Classical saxophone! Strictly speaking the saxophone, having been invented in 1846, was unknown in the classical period (1750-1820), let alone the baroque (1600-1750). However Chris is convinced that the greatest of all baroque composers, Johann Sebastian Bach, would have chosen the saxophone, had it been available. To demonstrate, the three played a piece from 1727, Bach's Trio Sonata BWV 525, originally for organ. The music was beautiful and timeless, and certainly sounded very right for sax, 'cello and flute.
Susie Hodder-Williams, Flute
Then a massive leap of two hundred and fifty years. Gower man Karl Jenkins was an oboist (and saxophonist) who excelled in jazz playing. He won first prize in the 1970 Montreux Jazz Festival and, by 1976 he was playing and writing for the jazz fusion band 'Soft Machine', composing all the pieces for their album 'Softs'. For the opening track, 'Aubade', Rick switched to folk guitar (which he played with beautiful classical technique). Chris, however, chose the bass clarinet whose driving rhythm was the dominant feature of the piece. Immediately the three segued into the folk tune 'River Man' written by Nick Drake for his 1969 album 'Five Leaves Left'. Rick opened on his guitar and it was interesting to see folk music played with classical technique, rolling from major to minor with the clarinet and flute following. There was more flute for Susie in this number with gentle augmentation by Chris's bass clarinet. Susie called the tune conducting with her flute as she launched into each new phrase, right up to the soft and gentle conclusion.
Rick Bolton, 'Cello
Before the interval there was just time to mention the experimental music sessions which have been taking place at the Drewe Arms at Drewsteignton. 'Live in the Long Room' takes place, as one might imagine, in the Long Room in the pub. musicians experiment with combinations of classical, jazz and rock music. There were a very successful series of six sessions 'in the long room' last year.
During the interval we enjoyed generous refreshments laid on by the gallery owner, Deborah Wood, which included some rather excellent wines. The players mixed with the audience and chatted, as did Deborah and her guest artist - Benedict Rubbra! Also in the audience was another clarinettist with a confusingly similar name, Chris Gradwell. Chris and Chris know each other well and have worked together many times. Chris (Gradwell) had recently appeared at Kennaway House in Sidmouth on 27 March to launch his series of six concerts entitled 'Chris Gradwell and Friends' which was a great success. Soon after the Art Room Concert Chris (Gradwell) was to lead the clarinets, with Chris (Caldwell) playing bass clarinet, in one of the most exciting concerts of the year - the East Devon Choral Society/Exeter Chamber Choir performance of Sir Edward Elgar's 'The Dream of Gerontius' at St Paul's in Tiverton on 7 May.
Clarinets at St Paul's:
Lead Clarinet Chris Gradwell
for Sir Edward Elgar's
Second Clarinet Victoria Loram
'The Dream of Gerontius':
Bass Clarinet Chris Caldwell

After the interval we had something with a seaside flavour. In 1941 Kurt Weill wrote an exciting and animated score to Ira Gershwin's song 'My Ship' for the Broadway Musical 'Lady in the Dark'. (Some listeners may have been lucky enough to hear the BTEC students' performance of Weill's collaboration with Bertold Brecht recently - 'The Threepenny Opera' - at the Barnfield from 18-20 May. See 'Coming up in May and June'.) As intended this was lively and uplifting, with a distinct nautical flavour.
Professor Stephen Goss
University of Surrey
Once again the three went straight into another song, another wartime song in fact, Duke Ellington's 'Come Sunday', first performed at Carnegie Hall in 1943 on the same bill as his more major work, the jazz symphony 'Black, Brown and Beige' charting the history of African Americans. This deeply religious prayer for intercession - on behalf of Ellington's 'people' was soft and gentle with a soothing guitar melody. If anything, Susie's flute and Chris's soprano saxophone were even more gentle than Rick's guitar. Rick's final tinkles melted into grace notes on Chris's sax. A very appropriate number for that day, with a title which could easily be mistaken for 'Palm Sunday'. After Mary's 'Lacrimosa' earlier in the evening this was too too perfect!
Finally we had something a little older - and with a real swing. 'You're the Cream in my Coffee' was a compilation by Buddy DeSylva, Lew Brown and Ray Henderson in 1928 for the Broadway show 'Hold Everthing'. Covered many many times by all manner of performers, including Thelonius Monk and Stephane Grapelli, this number really had a swing to it. Rick's strumming supported some amazing playing by Susie and Chris on the flute and saxophone, ending perfectly in a 'drumming' bass growl on the saxophone. 'You give life savor'!
There was just time to mention a concert of music by Steve Goss, from his album 'Northern Lights', planned to take place in Throwleigh (between Chagford and Whiddon Down) in the near future. (We have, of course, heard several tracks from that album on the 'Classical Journey' with Graham Roberts joining Chris and Susie to play guitar.)
Devon Artist Hilary Goddard
And our hostess, Deborah Wood, had time to mention that the exhibition at 'The Art Room' in Topsham changes every eight weeks or so - and maybe 'Music on the Edge' might attend the opening of another exhibition.
They certainly will! Next Saturday, 11 June, Deborah will hold a private view of a new exhibition of work by an artist from Whimple, and Old Maynardian, Hilary Goddard, who is well known for her gorgeous impressionist landscapes. The Exhibition will run until 3 July. And at 6pm on Sunday evening (12 June!) Chris, Susie and Rick will return to provide - 'a tapestry of baroque music interwoven with contemporary threads and colours'. Not to be missed!

Music at The Art Room
Topsham Art Room Sunday 12 June 6pm
Susie Hodder-Williams: Flute
Chris Cladwell: Bass Clarinet/Saxes
Rick Bolton: 'Cello/Guitar
Tickets: £10 - includes wine! (U21 free)
Bring your own folding chair.
Booking Essential!: 07952 923318

To help with catering and seating, please let Deborah know if you intend to go to the concert at the Art Room. You can send her a text on 0795 292 3318.

Would you like to hear Chris Caldwell?
Chris will be appearing on the 'Classical Journey' on Tuesday 7 June to tell us about the great 'Music on the Edge' concert in Topsham Art Room - and to play us some live music in the Phonic FM studio. We'll also hear Chris and Susie playing 'Shadows' from their album 'Mariner's Way'.

Tune in to 106.8 FM (or listen on line at www.phonic.fm) 10-12 am this Tuesday!

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