The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is in the middle of a ‘mad busy’ Summer Pops and CD recording frenzy. We are also slotting in some Education, Family and some Blockbuster programmes; both within and outside Liverpool. Yesterday was spent with Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko painstakingly rehearsing Shostakovitch’s Fifth Symphony and Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto; with international piano virtuoso Simon Trpceski as soloist.
Both pieces have recently been released on CD to extremely favourable reviews. The Orchestra and Petrenko have received numerous awards recently, largely, but not exclusively, because of our interpretation of Russian composers. Vasily was also awarded ‘Male Artist of the Year’ at the prestigious Brit Awards this year. We are currently about halfway through recording a massive output of both composers’ works. The Shostakovich cycle is being processed by Naxos and the Rachmaninov series is Avie Records. More information can be found via the Royal Liverpool Phil’s Web Site. Petrenko is currently embarking on a complete Mahler Cycle with the RLPO. We are performing them in chronological order. Symphony number four is to be performed soon.
Tomorrow we see RLPO stalwart conductor Carl Davis take up the baton to rehearse two of his forthcoming programmes. In the morning Carl is rehearsing his Battle of Britain 70th anniversary material and the afternoon is concerned with his Last Night of the Proms show. The soloist for both of Carl’s shows is the talented Claire Sweeney. During my eleven years with the RLPO Carl has impressed me with his versatility and his all encompassing knowledge of repertoire. I sometimes wonder if there is any music he does not know. We have recorded and performed extensively with Carl over the years. He is perhaps best known for his film and Telivision scores. I am sure Carl won’t mind me saying that my favourite collaboration with him was performing his original scores for the twelve ‘Chaplin Shorts’. I think writing this original music was a tremendous achievement and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience performing the music live to accompany the silent movies.
The RLPO has been a recording orchestra of note since well before my time and is continuing to add to the portfolio at an impressive rate to this day. Check out our catalogue on the RLPO Web Site to see our output. In addition to recording for outside companies, the orchestra has been adding to its own ‘in house’ label for some years now, the ‘RLPO Live series’. We are touring extensively at the moment too. We have recently been to Switzerland and will shortly be returning to Spain and performing concerts in China later this year. The RLPO has also launched it’s own Phil Channel on Youtube.
Saturday sees Petrenko back in charge for his ‘White Nights’ concert: the aforementioned Rachmaninov and Shostakovich. Sunday sees us performing Carl’s Battle of Britain concert. Both weekend concerts are preceded by detailed rehearsals. I must admit that I feel ‘knackered’ just now!
Today has provided the orchestra with a very different schedule. Kirkby is situated just north of Liverpool, in the Borough of Knowsley. The town was purpose built to provide housing to alleviate the slum clearance in the city of Liverpool. It is a down to earth place. A colleague of mine in the orchestra is a keen golfer. He partners a retired judge who was involved in Lord Derby’s planning application to build the now world famous Knowsley Safari Park. During the hearing a Councillor from Kirkby spoke up, “…What if one of them there lions gets out onto Kirkby High Street?” One ‘wag’ was heard to reply, “…It will have to take it’s chances like everyone else!”
Those who have read my previous missives know that I am an ardent supporter of the RLPO reaching out to the masses and that I will oppose any suggestion that we are elitist in any way. Therefore, I would like to state how refreshing it was to work with the students at Kirkby’s ‘Academy Status’, All Saints Catholic Centre for Learning. This High School is a modern, purpose built, state of the art academy. The enthusiasm of the pupils was a constant delight. The standard of the school Samba Band was excellent and the Soccer Display Team led by Tyson was impressive. However, it troubles me to see a school emblazon the entrance with a slogan such as ‘Attendance Target 91.7%’. I wonder what the current attendance stands at!
The audience was to consist of politicians, business types, parents and school children. Our collaboration with the school began with a whirlwind rehearsal which had us sight reading an entire pad of music. Also, we had to coordinate music with the school samba band and the school soccer display team in three hours! Thankfully, everything was devised and presented by Alistair Malloy. Alistair is not only a consumate percussionist but is also a presenter and educator with extraordinary gifts. His extensive material can enthuse any type of audience and leave them knowing an awful lot more than they came in with!
The theme was football. Merseyside is particularly enthusiastic about this sport and the performance was entitled ‘GOAL’! Of course, we are in the middle of the soccer World Cup. The programme took place just a few days after England were eliminated from the tournament. The students decorated the hall throughout, with international banners. The artwork was brilliant and attracted very high praise from the mayor and accompanying dignitaries. Many in the audience considered that is was encouraging, for the national game, to see the soccer skills of the display team demonstrated to our music. Those ball control exercises must demand a high standard of skill and timing. The enthusiastic samba band were equally impressive during numbers such as ‘Carnavale’.
One aspect of the Soccer World Cup has been driving me mad: the employment of the dreadful Vuvuzela. It can be best described as a cheap plastic trumpet. Sounds like the kind of score Bernard Hermann may have written in a hurry for a film about a worldwide war of bees against mankind. The sound is simply appalling! Not being an enthusiast for this type of mass hysteria event anyway, I thought I had done a good job avoiding any contact with these infernal vuvuzelas when Alistair announced we had to play them as a feature during the show. It is with a feeling of dread that I foresee composers writing for this dreadful instrument for our Contemporary Music Ensemble. Still, it’s a living!!!
The ending sequence of the programme began with a piece by David Lyon entitled ‘Game’. This piece split the audience and orchestra into two opposing sides: Philharmonic Rovers and Philharmonic United. The music ‘is’ a match between two sides of the auditorium. We had two ‘choirs’ of Vuvuzelas, cheer leaders etc. The audience went crazy during the piece. Fifteen of us had to go the the front of the stage to play cowbells for the solo line in Faure’s ‘Berceuse’. The coming together of the evening happened during the encore when all concert participants came together for a rousing version Alistair Malloy’s treatment of Celia Cruz’s ‘Yo Vivire’.
Watch Celia Cruz: ‘Yo Vivire’ – Arturo Sandoval makes an appearance with his trumpet towards the end. o-iii<O