MIKE WESTBROOK’S GLAD DAY
Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Fri 12 Oct.
Glad Day, Mike Westbrook’s settings of poems by William Blake, has a complicated history, going back to the 1971 production of poet Adrian Mitchell’s musical about the visionary poet, Tyger. Westbrook wrote the music, and began to incorporate material in the repertoire of his Brass Band (and later his full big band). He recorded four songs for his album On The Record in 1975, then issued The Westbrook Blake in 1980, devoted entirely to the Blake settings. It quickly became established as a classic record.
Then, in 1996, The Westbrook Blake was revived for the Greenwich Festival, featuring the original line-up of the band. Westbrook went back into the studio and recorded a new version of the music as Glad Day, a double CD which featured several songs not included on The Westbrook Blake.
This first ever Scottish performance of one of Westbrook’s greatest compositions will take place through the slightly unlikely agency of the Queen’s Hall education programme. This allows the Loretto School Choir to take part in the concert with Westbrook’s Brass Band and the original vocal soloists, his wife, Kate Westbrook and Phil Minton.
He has few peers as a composer working in a jazz idiom, and has been a hugely influential figure in European jazz since the late 608. His work ranges from cabaret-influenced duos and trios with Kate Westbrook and saxophonist Chris Biscoe, through to his magnificent big bands. Never a conventional jazz writer, he approaches the genre on his own terms.
‘My concept of jazz is one that can take on board anything that seems relevant. That is what I think jazz is all about, and always has been. It’s not about a particular style, it’s about an attitude, and I believe that is true right back to the early New Orleans pioneers. After all, they just adapted what was around them, taking material from brass bands, hymns and spirituals, ragtime and the minstrel tradition, and anything else that took their fancy.’
That more expansive view of jazz is reflected throughout his impressive output, which takes in large-scale compositions like The Cortege, London Bridge Is Broken Down or Bar Utopia, as well as his very individual adaptations of the work of Duke Ellington and Rossini.
His visits to Scotland have been scattered enough to count as rarities, although he did make a discovery in one of them which became central to his music. He came upon the famous Smith’s Academy Chord while rehearsing for a concert in Glasgow (the name came from the hotel in Sauchiehall Street he was staying in), and its ramifications undervvrote a great deal of his subsequent
music. (Kenny Mathieson)
CLASSICAL SCOTTISH CHAMBER ORCHESTRA
Winter Season, from Thu 4 Oct.
Whether you're an incurable romantic. a baroque fan or wondering how orchestral music will find its voice in the 21st century the SCO makes it easy this winter season to hear whichever theme you might choose. Breaking their 32 weeks of concerts into clearly identifiable strands of programming. the orchestra hopes that this policy will give audiences a chance to hear the music they are especially interested in. Of the three main themes. the most prominent is The Romantic Century. ‘lt's an opportunity for Joseph Swensen. our Principal Conductor. to concentrate on an area he's particularly good at.‘ explains Managing Director. Roy McEwan. Tracing works from between the times of Beethoven's youth and Brahms' death. it is the latter whose music opens (Symphony No 4) and closes the season. with the orchestra augmented to the size that the composer would have been familiar with. Schubert.
48 THE LIST 4-18 Oct 2001
Schumann and Dvorak are there too. not only with Swensen as conductor. but featuring welcome return guests such as Nicholas McGegan and Frans Bruggen. The closing concert (Symphony No 7‘) with firm favourite. Sir Charles Mackerras. is a highlight. ‘We've recorded the complete Brahms Symphonies with him.‘ says McEwan. ‘but it will be fantastic to hear him live in what should be a very memorable occasion. '
Either side of The Romantic Century. the music is similarly in time bands. baroque at one end and contemporary at the other. The SCO's track record in commissioning and presenting new music is impressive. but it is difficult to fill concert halls with music people don't know. 'The season has got to be about a balance between developing new or unfamiliar music and the core repertoire which brings audiences in. which we've got to do for income generation' says McEwan. adding. ‘and there's nothing more soul (’lestrOying than playing to an empty house.‘
McEwan's own soft spot is
Glad all over
Joseph Swensen conducts for the head, the heart and the future
April's Nordic romance of Sibelius and Nielsen. no doubt justifying his view that 'We should be putting on music that people want to listen to as well as giving them something new that they can take a risk with.“ (Carol Main) I See Classical listings for detai/s of all upcoming concerts.
FOLK THE BATTLEFIELD BAND Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, Fri 5 Oct.
The handle stays the same — keyboard player/ singer Alan Reid — and the group's musical continuity confirms The Battlefield Band as the same brush that swept out of Glasgow in the late 70s. to bring an invigorating. entertaining. wake-up call to staid Scottish music.
The latest head-change is Stornoway fiddler and multi- instrumentalist Alasdair White who. at 18 years old. steps up to join the superb Scots singer Karine Polwan and Edinburgh—domiciled. hirsute Californian piper-extraordinaire Mike Katz in what must be one of Battlefields strongest-ever line-ups.
White thanks his parents for an early indoctrination. He remembers ‘They didn‘t play anything. but they listened to music — they had a Battlefield Band album, I think it was Threads — and l used to love that sound. that fiddle- and-pipes whammy.‘
Inspired to play the fiddle on childhood Visits to his mother's musical family on Iona. White has since learned the pipes. whistle. bodhran and bouzouki - but not LeWis's national instrument: ‘No' he says wrny ‘we're already riddled with accordions up here.‘
New kind of fiddle for Alasdair White
Unable. now. to take up a place at Edinburgh University's School of Scottish Studies. White's academic education might be on hold. but his musical knowledge and ability are obvious. A yOung veteran of fiddle virtuoso Alasdair Fraser's Summer classes at Skye's Gaelic College (I remember him arriving once. on a small high-speed open boat. all the way from Lewis). White has already developed an astonishingly mature. unique touch. ‘I do have a few lrish things in my style.’ he admits ‘and that's from the playing of fiddlers I really admire like Sean Smyth (Lunasa) and Cathal Hayden (FOur Men and a Dog). And John McCusker (his predecessor in Battlefield). he was an influence. He too is pretty lrishy. at least on his first album — but rather than do what he was dOing in the band. and be compared. I'd rather — and I'm not being bolshy — put my own stamp on it.‘ (Norman Chalmers)