Review: Currie and Reich – The Colin Currie Quartet Norwich Playhouse Monday 20 May NNFestival 2019

Colin Currie Group at Kings Place 2018Currie and Reich – The Colin Currie Quartet
Norwich Playhouse Monday 20 May NNFestival 2019
a review by Marion de Mello Catlin

The Colin Currie Quartet played a blinder last night in Norwich Playhouse. I didn’t know about them before the concert and was interested to go to a performance that was all percussion based as the percussion section rarely gets the glory in an orchestra, and I also like the music of Steve Reich. The Playhouse was packed with not a spare seat in the house – great to see such a turnout – obviously many people better informed than me!

The Quartet was formed fairly recently in 2018 by Colin Currie who is clearly completely passionate about percussion and the Quartet. After the first piece (Mallet Quartet by Joseph Perreira) he introduced the Quartet and explained that the composer Steve Reich was very important to the raison d’être of the quartet and that the works pivot around his compositions, with two pieces in the programme by Reich.

It was really helpful to have an in-depth but concise explanation of the basis of each piece, especially for those if us who are not familiar with this kind of music. I wish that more musicians would do that – Currie was good at it. The stage was full with instruments I hadn’t seen before – marimbas it turns out – two with long pipes and two with shorter, 4 musicians each with two ‘lollipop’ drumsticks in each hand, four per person. At times, the playing was so complex and blended that it was hard to discern the source of the sound. The marimbas’ deep tones flowed together, especially the bass instruments and sounded almost electronic.

Colin played a couple of numbers on his own Xenakis’ Rebonds B for solo percussion and Stockhausen’s Vibra-Elufa. Together they played Kevin Volans Four Marimbas and Reich’s Mallet Quartet before the last piece Reich’s Drumming Part 1.

The speed rhythm and energy was impressive throughout the evening, though none of the first 5 pieces could come near the finale piece Drumming Part 1 composed by Steve Reich. It was like the Olympics of percussion in its performance and virtuosity. Colin explained the basis of the piece, a simple (on its own) basic rhythm underpinning the whole piece beaten out on 8 tuned drums, again 4 musicians working together and in relays. The same 12 notes as a single rhythm repeated which, as an audience member was a godsend at times as it enabled me to find a point to return to and steady path throughout. Colin explained phasing and how the notes interlock and rotate around each other which really helped the appreciation of the piece.

Musically it was interesting, visually it was fascinating – watching the percussionists work in waves, first all together then periodically standing back, their arms working at blurring speed throughout. Physically, it was a feat of musicianship, almost unbelievable and breathtaking technical skill rivalling the most extreme of acrobats, daredevil motorcyclists or   demanding magical coordination and muscular energy. I can’t tell you exactly that it was a lovely piece of music as I was bewitched and hypnotised by the technical skill. After what seemed an eaon of blurred arms and drumsticks, they reached a crescendo and then instantly stopped with a resounding and precise ‘crack’, absolutely as one. In the drumming Olympics, then there is absolutely no doubt that they ran away with the Gold.

If you missed it, or want to listen to a sample there’s a YouTube link below but I would recommend catching a live performance if you ever get the chance. The Quartet is new and this is their debut programme so it is worth watching out for more as they add to their repertoire – they have an amazing future I am sure and hopefully will be back in Norwich before too long.

https://youtu.be/KmlbuRGubrI
https://www.colincurrie.com/news/2018/8/3/colin-currie-quartet

Suffolk Singers

suffolk-singers-photo-2018_orig

Saturday 25 May 2019, 7.30pm
Norwich Cathedral, The Close, Norwich

SUFFOLK SINGERS sing music by Palastrina, Finzi, Hutchings, Tavener and Stainer

This concert is a lovely way to spend an evening in May: set in wonderful Norwich Cathedral, this out-standing SATB choir brings you beautiful well-loved anthems and magical modern choir pieces. It will be a treat for anyone who appreciates great choir singing and a delightful surprise for anyone who thinks ‘this is not my cup of tea’!

​Under the musical direction of former English National Opera Principal Artist, Claire Weston, the programme will include music specially written for Suffolk Singers by composer and organist Jamie John Hutchings, who will also perform solo on the organ. John is a highly accomplished organist; don’t miss this opportunity to hear the superb cathedral organ played to the full, both in recital and accompanying the choir.

Tickets: £15, available from:
https://www.wegottickets.com/event/462231
or Alma Gower (almagower@btinternet.com or
tel. 01379 788143),
or Mike Gregory (gregory.hintlesham@tiscali.co.uk or  tel. 01449 711139)

Suffolk Singers logo

Suffolk Singers is an award-winning choir which has sung to hugely appreciative audiences in many prestigious venues in the UK, including the nearby cathedrals of Bury St. Edmunds and Ely and also abroad, including the cathedrals of Ypres and Ghent last year.

In 2017, Suffolk Singers were proud to feature in the summer concert series at Binham Priory. They have also performed alongside the group G4 and recorded for SkyArts with Richard. E. Grant for Tate Britain.

They are returning to Norfolk for this special concert in Norwich Cathedral in May.