Monday, 2 July 2007

Gig-a-Blog™ (Lunar Saxophone Quartet, St Anne and St Agnes)

I go to lots of lunchtime concerts at St Anne and St Agnes and I should probably sooner or later write a general piece about that and why I like it so much. It's pretty unlikely that I'll ever have the time to mention every concert I attend, but please don't read that as a judgment of some sort. It's just what caught my ear or seemed exceptional in some way, or maybe even just what I had time to write about.

Friday's treat was the Lunar Saxophone Quartet. They've emerged from the RWCMD (update: seems like I should have credited GSMD too, please see Joel's comment below) and were excellent. Saxes never fail to surprise me with their loudness and the sheer thickness of the sound: I still remember the first time I sat in front of a whole sax section in a rehearsal - I really couldn't believe that it wasn't amplified. At St Anne and St Agnes we are perhaps generally used to quieter music, with more gaps, more air almost, in and around and between the sounds, so this made an excellent and very striking change.

Their programme was all new or recent music and was all pretty much mainstream classical contemporary in style: I was relieved that they didn't seem tempted to stick in some big band stuff or a couple of tangos. Not that I object all that violently when that does happen, as it can also be very pleasant to listen to, but in the context of this programme I think it would have been a bit of a cop-out and perhaps seemed a little like talking down. Apart from Michael Nyman (b. 1944) all their composers were born in the 60s (Gabriel Jackson, Eric Schwartz) or the 80s (Ashley John Long, Lucy Pankhurst) which I think is very healthy.

There was great variety in this programme and one thing that added wonderfully to this was the addition of a piano for a couple of pieces. This has an amazing effect, diluting the sound and sharpening up its edges, somehow letting some air in. Sadly I didn't catch the pianist's name (update: Helen Mills, see comment below from Joel) but she was great: indeed all the playing was of a very high standard, incredibly fluent and technical at times as well as very expressive. Oh and there were some pleasantly weird contemporary effects, microtones and breathy, subtone-y will-it-won't-it notes, an ting - all rather wonderful.

I enjoy pretty much everything I go to at St Anne and St Agnes but this lot were so good, so interesting and so different that this concert was a real bonus.


Strawberryyog said...

No, I don't think there is anything wrong with the 70s, thank you for asking. Just an infelicitous bit of writing!

Joel Garthwaite said...

Hi, it's Joel here from the Lunar Saxophone Quartet. Just wanted to say thanks for your kind words about our concert at St. Annes in your blog!

We are performing at The Warehouse, Waterloo on 18th December if you are interested in seeing us play again?! Would be great if you could make it!

P.S. Our pianist from the St. Annes concert was Helen Mills who studied with myself and Hannah (alto) at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2006/2007.

Strawberryyog said...

Thanks for the updates and the gig news Joel.