A day at Surrey Hills Festival – May 3rd

From a Percussionist point of view. – Surrey Hills Festival – Rodion Shchedrin, Bizet Carmen Suite

Preparation.

This will be a very long day!  This is a large and complex piece to organise logistically and the percussion parts have been emailed to the percussion players in advance.  Each of the five players have their own individual part with a long list of instruments they will have to play.  The setup for each player is important – how to position the instruments around themselves to be able move from instrument to instrument in the most intuitive way to play everything that’s been written for them.  A percussion stage plan has been drawn which will undoubtedly change on arrival at the venue!

Between Sarah Stuart and myself we have worked out who is to bring which of the 45 or so separate percussion instruments for this work including 5 timpani, Marimba, Vibraphone, 2 pairs of bongos, tubular bells, 5 tuned tom toms, 3 tuned cow bells, Xylophone and copious toys and stands to put everything on.  The percussion equipment completely fills two vans.

In the morning the vans take an hour to load.  We arrive at the venue over two hours before the rehearsal.  This is the minimum amount of time we will need to unload, build all the instruments and work out how to position all the instruments on the stage.  As we work we realise the 5 timpani will have to go behind the double basses on the lower stage and the percussion will have to be staggered as there is not the room for all the percussionists to be in a line on the higher staging.

With just enough time for fine tuning some of the drums we are ready to play at 2pm.

The rehearsal.

With the curtains soaking up much of the sound the percussion players are finding they are having to play up more than usual. Shchedrin creates subtle textures with the Marimba and Vibraphone and even writes chords on the tubular bells using two players and these are important colours not to be lost.  The piece also really shows off the versatility and virtuosity of the LMP strings.

The Concert.

 The first half is Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat major and Mendelssohn’s Double Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra.  These pieces demonstrate superbly the LMP’s deftness and lightness of touch, technical skill and world renound chamber skills in accompanying and supporting the soloists and giving them a perfect canvas and the right atmosphere to shine.  The second half is the Shchedrin Carmen Suite and is the perfect piece to showcase the LMP at their electric and exciting best.  After returning to the stage 5 times during the final applause, Daniel Cohen and Guest Leader Ruth Rogers lead the orchestra from the stage and leave the audience wanting more.

Roughly two and a quarter hours after the end of the concert at 00.10 Sarah and I leave; tired but extremely happy at the end of another fantastic day of music making with the London Mozart Players.

Written by Scott Bywater, Principal Percussion and Co-Principal Timpani of the LMP.

Many thanks go to Sarah Stuart for her help, organisational skills and splendid playing as guest Principal Percussion on this concert. 

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