Performing in the Centre Stage concert series

I have recently performed in the Centre Stage concert series. You can find details about this series here. I presented four world premieres, two of which were written especially for the concert. This post serves as a review of the concert, and is also a means of documenting some personal findings about the overall balance of my music and the performance setting.

A brief review of the concert:

The evening started with Tortoise Variations, a light jazz piece composed by Mary-Ellen O Shea and performed by an ensemble of saxophone, guitar, piano, bass, and drums. The piece began with a solo percussion passage that ever so slightly alluded to the non-normative performance techniques of contemporary classical music. From this point the composition grew to a warm enveloping sound world of jazz motifs.

The next act was me. I performed two pieces: one on viola and one on piano. I also played two electroacoustic pieces which gave me some breathing time between live performances. There are a number of things concerning balance I noticed about my music during the soundcheck and performance. First, balance between live instruments and fixed-media electronics, second the subtleties of sounds in acoustic instruments, third the volume levels of the fixed-media backing in the actual concert compared with the soundcheck: the presence of an audience makes a noticeable difference from the performer’s (my) perspective. I started thinking: maybe my viola piece would be better in an intimate setting when played without electronics. I like the natural reverb in the viola that comes from hitting the strings. This was masked somewhat when I performed in the hot concert area with the electronic backing track (or maybe I was too nervous to hear it). When played with electronics, amplifying the reverb in the instrument is tricky (overcoming the electronic backing is an issue), but there must be a way round it. I can easily create a ‘false’ close-mic’d multi-track recording (where I amplify the viola’s reverb in post, basically), but realising this live is difficult.

I was followed by Fran Wyburn, a folk singer and songwriter who performed a selection of songs with her band.

This was followed by Morag Galloway. Her performance was interesting, she really did portray a particular mood. You had to be there. It got me thinking about communicating and how it can be done with more than just words alone, and how sometimes words alone do not do justice to the portraying of an event/mood/situation. It was very effective.

The evening culminated with the headline act You Are Wolf. The use of traditional folk melodies interested me because I’m currently researching material and quotation and allusion for my PhD. I might explore the application of traditional folk music too.

Overall, this was a great experience and I met some lovely people and I’m inspired to write more music.

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