Monday, 19 December 2011

'Nonclassical' returns - Rebecca Willson & Ruth Avis Exeter Bikeshed Theatre Sunday 11 December

The stars of 'Nonclassical'
Flute: Ruth Avis - Piano: Rebecca Willson
(Photography: Cecil Hatfield)
Two months ago Rebecca Willson, working in conjunction with Gabriel Prokofiev's 'Joined Up Thinking Projects', presented Exeter's very first 'Nonclassical' concert at the Bikeshed Theatre (3 Oct). Since then Rebecca has been preparing a return to the Bikeshed stage, with another 'Nonclassical' concert featuring her own solo piano performance, and solo playing by another local musician - flautist Ruth Avis!

Rebecca Willson totally focussed
playing Gabriel Prokofiev's
'Cold Wooden Window'

(photo: Luch Càise-Dearg)
Rebecca opened the concert with piano music by Graham Fitkin - 'Blue'. Originally written for the theatre production 'Skating for many Scars' in 1994, 'Blue' works well as a solo piece - sombre and brooding with an escalating sense of impending menace. Then came music by Rebecca's mentor and co-creator of the 'Nonclassical' series, Gabriel Prokofiev - from his Piano Book No 1: 'Cold Wooden Window' and 'Black Sauce'.

Then, reproducing her talented performance in the Exeter Central Library Music Room (14 March), Rebecca played Graham Fitkin's 'The Cone Gatherers' - just as beautiful and moving as ever.

During the interval Devon's 'Young Composer of the Year', Michael Brailey, played out recorded tracks on the computer. However, more live music was soon to follow.

Michael Brailey's DJ set
attracts a lot of attention

(photo: LCD)
Ruth Avis took the stage with her flute, to perform Michael Nyman's 'Yamamoto Perpetuo'. Ruth explained succinctly the rather complicated play on words here. Japanese fashion designer, Yohji Yamamoto originally commissioned Michael Nyman to provide music for his second album in the series 'The Show'. The musical form 'perpetuum mobile' is called 'moto perpetuo' in Italian. Simple.

The original violin piece has since been developed by Nyman as his 'String Quartet No 4' which we heard at the end of Ruth's interview on Phonic FM (6 Dec - were you listening?), from the album 'The Suit and the Photograph'.

Andrew Findon, who plays flute with 'The Michael Nyman Band' (formerly the 'Campiello Band'), has subsequently developed a flute version - in eleven movements. The whole composition takes about half an hour to play. Ruth selected the lyrical opening movement and the contrastingly leisurely third, concluding with the last two movements.

Ruth Avis brings life to Andrew Findon's flute arrangement
of Michael Nyman's 'Yamamoto Perpetuo'
(Photography: Cecil Hatfield)
As complete contrast to the 'perpetuum' of Nyman, Ruth played 'Framing the Silence'. Michael Colquhoun created this piece in 2006 to challenge the player - and audience - with a series of introductory grace notes leading to - silence. Although it is tempting for the listener to count the beats before the next note, there is no point. Colquhoun's score does not indicate rests, but allows the player to hold the silence as long as seems appropriate to the situation. Ruth did that beautifully, creating a very intriguing sound experience.

The audience called for more, but sadly Ruth was not able to stay and play any further. However, Rebecca Willson stepped into the breach and provided a wonderful musical bonus - Somei Satoh's 'Incarnation II'. Also familiar from her Music Room concert (14 March), this is a piece of recording history. Michael Gluyas caught a perfect audio track of this piece in the music room and we have heard it on Phonic FM many times.

Rebecca plays 'Incarnation II' with utter concentration and attention to detail. The theme changes by very small increments while being repeated insistently and relentless. The sound confuses the ear, just as the eye is confused by the coherent light from a laser. Extra beats and resonances swim in and out of focus. Fascinating - both to hear, and to watch Rebecca's total absorption in the music.

Rebecca Willson's trademark look of total concentration
performing Somei Satoh's mesmeric 'Incarnation II'

(photo: LCD)
Grateful thanks to both soloists for a really special - and certainly unique - recital.

'Nonclassical' continues next year with plans for a full performance of Michael Brailey's sextet, plus more solo performances. Watch this space for further details - and Nonclassical bulletins on facebook.

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