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Friday 6 August 2021 11am & 1pm
Gwilym Simcock Barber Blues
Joe Locke Her Sanctuary
Steve Reich Music for Pieces of Wood
Gwilym Simcock Holding
Makoto Ozone arr Simon Carrington Kato’s Revenge
LSO Percussion Ensemble
Neil Percy, David Jackson, Sam Walton, Jacob Brown, Gwilym Simcock
With thanks to Yamaha Music Europe, for their support of today’s concert.
This series of Summer Shorts concerts is made possible by the kind support of the Huo Family Foundation.
Today's 1pm concert will be live streamed at youtube.com/lso.
Gwilym Simcock originally composed Barber Blues (2012) for his Anglo-American jazz supergroup The Impossible Gentlemen. It features on their 2013 album Internationally Recognised Aliens. The title refers not to hairdressing but to the composer Samuel Barber, whose piano work Excursions – a fusion of classical forms and American folk idioms – inspired Simcock’s merging of jazz and classical styles here.
The piece combines a 16-bar repeated bass-line structure associated with the Blues with intricate counterpoint reminiscent of the keyboard music of Bach. As it progresses the textures become increasingly elaborate, until the final bars return to the opening’s relative simplicity.
Barber Blues exists in several versions, including ones for piano, percussion, electric guitar and electric bass, and for two pianos. Today’s version received its premiere in 2019. It was recorded by the LSO Percussion Ensemble in 2020 and released on LSO Live in May earlier this year.
Note by Kate Hopkins
Keep scrolling for Gwilym Simcock's biography
A beautiful composition from the great American vibraphone maestro Joe Locke, the composer created this arrangement specially for the LSO Percussion Ensemble. The haunting melody floats over a 13/8 figure, and is a tour de force of keyboard virtuosity.
Note by Neil Percy
Known for many years as a master of the vibraphone, Joe Locke has emerged over the last decade as a leading composer, and bandleader. Locke is a five-time recipient of the Jazz Journalists Association’s ‘Mallet Instrumentalist of the Year’ Award, has received two Earshot Golden Ear Awards for ‘Concert of the Year’, the 2013 Hot House NYC Jazz Awards for Best Vibes Player, and continues to top critics' and readers’ polls. In 2016 he was honoured with the induction into the Music Hall of Fame of his hometown Rochester, NY.
This work is scored for the concentrated forces of five performers playing wood-blocks or claves. Though the wood-blocks are tuned, the main focus is firmly on the interplay of rhythmic patterns.
The piece opens with the highest wood-block on its own, setting out a regular beat or pulse which continues all the way to the end of the piece, and acts as the backbone around which the music grows. The remaining four performers enter, gradually revealing a dense weaving grid of rhythms, with each new entry emphasising a different overlying pulse. It sounds like sudden gear-changes where the music appears to shift between rhythms. The piece comes to an abrupt end, as though the composer has simply hit the stop button on a tape player.
Note by Neil Percy
Steve Reich was recently called ‘our greatest living composer’ (The New York Times), and ‘the most original musical thinker of our time’ (The New Yorker). From his early taped speech pieces in the 1960s, his path has embraced not only aspects of Western classical music, but the structures, harmonies and rhythms of non-Western and American vernacular music, particularly jazz.
Steve Reich Quartet, I. Fast
This performance of my piece Holding is a world premiere, although I've actually performed it dozens of times before! To explain, my son Rowan was born 3 months ago, and part of the daily routine is for me to take him for a walk round our local park in Berlin. This can take up to 2 hours – depending on how successfully I can get him to sleep! – so I started thinking about how to use that time creatively, getting into the habit of trying to invent melodies and various musical things in my head, and then writing them down when I get back home.
One of the routes in the park is a circular running track. Whilst on this I thought I'd write the most incredibly simple thing I could, something that would seem like it had a constant cycle – going round and round – with the connections being disguised by the piece having an irregular length. Each bar has exactly the same rhythm, and I realised that this never-ending cycle would hopefully be most useful in the (considerable!) efforts to put little Rowan to sleep each night … so I have sung this to him dozens of times, but never actually played it on an instrument – hence a world premiere but not a first performance!
Usually I like the pieces I write to have an arc and a clear narrative journey, but this one is just meant to exist and hopefully be pleasing to listen to. I hope you enjoy it, but please do try to remain awake!
Note by Gwilym Simcock
Winner of many awards for his playing and composition Gwilym Simcock moves effortlessly between jazz and classical, creating a sound that is very much his own. He works with orchestras, choirs, big bands, small ensembles and musicians from all areas of music including jazz, folk, pop and classical combining through-composed elements with improvisation.
Gwilym Simcock Suite for Percussion Quintet: IV
Pianist Makoto Ozone is equally at home in jazz and classical idioms. Kato’s Revenge dates from the jazz-focused early part of Makoto Ozone's career. Ozone first recorded the work in 1986 for his album After. It later featured on his 1995 album with vibraphonist Gary Burton, Face to Face.
‘Kato’ is an abbreviation of the composer’s first name. The piece is notable for its catchy melodies, its rhythmic ingenuity and energy and – despite the title’s mention of revenge – its playful mood. Simon Carrington’s arrangement makes inventive use of the shimmering timbre of marimbas and vibraphones. It can be heard on the LSO Percussion Ensemble’s 2020 album Quartet Quintet (LSO Live).
Note by Kate Hopkins
Majoring in jazz composition and arrangement, Makoto Ozone graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1983. The same year, he gave a solo recital at Carnegie Hall and released his first album OZONE. His album with Gary Burton, Virtuosi, was nominated for a Grammy in 2003. He was awarded the Shiju-HouShyou (The Medal of Honor with Purple Ribbon) in 2018.
LSO Percussion Ensemble
On stage today: Neil Percy, David Jackson, Sam Walton, Jacob Brown, Gwilym Simcock
The LSO Percussion Ensemble comprises members of the London Symphony Orchestra’s percussion section as well as distinguished orchestral players with enviable reputations. If you are a classical music lover you will have heard them on countless LSO recordings as well as in the concert hall. The Ensemble enjoys an international following and embarked on a tour of Japan in 2018.
Their highly successful recording of music by Steve Reich for LSO Live has become the best-selling physical product on the label in the United States. Critics have been quick to praise this album with rave reviews.
‘The LSO percussion’s performance of Sextet builds up in energy and momentum to a quite thrilling climax.’ (Gramophone)
‘A wonderfully transparent weave through which the bowed vibe notes shine like rays of light through water.’ (BBC Music Magazine)
‘The performances and the recorded sound are so outstanding … unreservedly recommended.’ (HR Audio)
If you are a film buff, you will have heard these same players on the soundtracks of Star Wars, Harry Potter, Braveheart, Notting Hill, The Shape of Water and hundreds more movies for which the LSO has provided the music.
The LSO Percussion Ensemble’s live performance of Music for Pieces of Wood has also been licensed for use in season eight of AMC’s Walking Dead. All this takes place within the context of performing numerous concerts a year at the Barbican Centre as members of the London Symphony Orchestra, plus touring with the LSO around the world, with eminent conductors such as Bernard Haitink, Sir Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra’s Music Director Sir Simon Rattle.
Thank You for Watching
The London Symphony Orchestra was established in 1904. Through inspiring music, educational programmes and technological innovations, the LSO’s reach extends far beyond the concert hall.
Still to Come this Summer
BMW Classics 2021
Sunday 15 August 6.30pm, Trafalgar Square
After a year away, BMW Classics is back, transforming one of London's most iconic landmarks into a giant, open-air music hall. Free for everyone to enjoy, in person or online.
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