Yesterday (Saturday 20th) Mars in Aquarius was joined by a new player, Colin Edwards, in our second public performance (and our home town debut) in St Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral, Aberdeen, playing a 30 minute programme of Intuitive Music by Stockhausen, punctuated by 3 Tierkreis melodies on the cathedral’s 3 manual & pedal organ. This was a significant advance on our very successful debut in the Royal Burgh of St Andrews last month: the spacious acoustic of the venue combined with new instruments and expanded amplification technology allowed us to make significant musical progress. An attentive audience of over 30 responded with interest and enthusiasm. (Thanks to Carla Coulthard for some very fine photos).
Last Sunday afternoon(10th May) the new Intuitive Music ensemble “Mars in Aquarius” made its debut performance in the Cosmos Centre, St Andrews, Fife in a programme of compositions by Stockhausen: several Intuitive Music pieces from “Aus den Sieben Tage” and ” Fur Kommende Zeiten” (Meeting Point, Unanimity, Halt and It) and another complete performance of Tierkreis, this time starting in Taurus as part of my yearlong project marking the 40th anniversary of this work. 2 other founder members of Mars in Aquarius joined me in the Intuitive Music: Haworth Hodgkinson on percussion,recorders and melodica; Mandy Macdonald -voice,recorders and Yamaha keyboard; I played melodica, Stylophone S1, Korg Monotron delay, and in “It” shortwave radio (in fact, SW reception was so poor that I also used other frequencies, as suggested in the explanatory text for Stockhausen’s “Spiral”). Tierkreis was in our now established antiphonal mode, alternating between Casio keyboards and Haworth’s improvised interludes on gongs. The whole event proceeded through set-up to performance with incredible smoothness: the enthusiastic and sustained applause from the attentive audience was an unambiguous vote of confidence and affirmation of what we are doing. We keenly anticipate our next scheduled performance in Aberdeen’ s Episcopal Cathedral at midday on 20th June.
When considering what music to play alongside Tierkreis in my project to mark its 40th anniversary this year, it occurred to me that some of Stockhausen’s Intuitive Music compositions would fit the bill: indeed, having been involved in a couple of improvisatory projects at the Aberdeen-based Sound Festival in recent years, they had been coming into my consciousness with increasing regularity anyway. It was relatively easy to find skilled improvising musicians in NE Scotland: I had already worked with Petra Vergunst (not least in the premiere of her “Family Business” last November as a SoundLab project) and Haworth Hodgkinson who introduced me to Mandy Macdonald at my first Tierkreis performance in January.It turns out that Mandy has previously taken part in a performance of “Stimmung”. Together we form the core membership of Mars in Aquarius, the idea being that we will be joined by other musicians on a more occasional occasional basis.The Intuitive Music texts are included in two volumes: “Aus den Sieben Tagen” and “Fur Kommende Zeiten” and represent a development in Stockhausen’s “process” music of the 60s. Considering the wide variety of performance options permitted in Tierkreis, the Intuitive pieces do in fact have a great deal in common with the later work, while also strongly contrasting. We have already rehearsed with a wide range of instruments including recorders,melodicas, much percussion and even the introduction of some electronic elements such as the stylophone. Readers are invited to visit and “like” the Mars in Aquarius” Facebook page where details of future events and the launch of our website will be announced. At the moment of writing we have 2 confirmed dates upcoming,with others taking shape: afternoon of May10th in the Cosmos Centre St Andrews Fife, time tbc; and 12noon on Sat 20th June at St Andrews Episcopal Cathedral, King St Aberdeen.
At short notice I undertook to play the first Cappucino Concert of the calendar year at Dundee Central Library’s Wighton Centre, choosing as the main item in the programme Stockhausen’s Tierkreis, beginning this performance with the Aquarius melody. For this performance, I invited Aberdeenshire-based poet and musician to add improvised interludes played on his Chinese gongs, a scheme we have gone on to develop further in Inverness; I played the Star melodies on 5 keyboards- Casio & Yamaha keyboards, melodica and the two manuals of the Wighton harpsichord. I also employed this latter instrument in short pieces by Ronald Stevenson and Bartok (excerpts from Mikrokosmos IV). It was great to have in the audience Eddie McGuire, whose organ piece “Ae Fond Kist” I played on the new Casio. I also played his “Farewell” written in memory of writer Tom McGrath and Morris Pert’s “Moon Dances”, the first time I’ve played them in Dundee. Haworth also performed two of his own poetry/music pieces.
In the photo: cowbells belonging to percussionist Haworth Hodgkinson prepared for performance of “Cul Mor” from Morris Pert’s “Mountains” suite in an arrangement for Organ and percussion at yesterday afternoon’s recital in Inverness Old High Church. Haworth also joined me in another performance of Stockhausen’s Tierkreis- the 5th complete public performance I’ve played this year, and the first on an organ, in this case a recently rebuilt Father Willis instrument,not to mention the first starting with the Aries melody. The programme also included Eddie McGuire’s Burns-themed “Ae Fond Kist”, Bach’s Toccata BWV565 (an unintentional marking of his supposed birthday, which in fact took place under the Julian calendar) aswell as shorter pieces by Kurtag, Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies, Schumann and Ronald Stevenson. As a venue,the historic Old High Church proved eminently hospitable and helpful, while the Inverness audience was pleasingly attentive. It was very meaningful to bring Morris Pert’s music back to Inverness where his funeral took place 5 years ago; additionally, the Columban inheritance of this Church resonates with Morris’ settings of texts from Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica in his choral work “The Ancient Rites” from the early 1980s.
A Happy New Year to all readers! Owing to a family illness, among other things, this blog has lain dormant for about half a year- not that it has gone unread! I will presently add a resume of musical events for the latter part of 2014; however, my musical year began this afternoon in Aberdeen with a piano recital at a familiar venue, namely St Andrews Episcopal Cathedral. The opening item was by the relatively local Morris Pert, his 1973 “Moon Dances” being an excellent opening piece; while I did play the first movement,”Io” at Musica Scotica 2014 in Aberdeen University, this was very probably the first complete performance in the Granite City. Next came “Zodiacs” a short piece from 1997 by one of Pert’s numerous erstwhile colleagues, the late Sir John Tavener- comprising three 12 pitch tone rows, it makes an ideal introduction to the principal item on the programme, Stockhausen’s “Tierkreis”(signs of the zodiac) which I performed in celebration of its 40th anniversary. This was the third time I have played the whole sequence in recital and the first on piano, as opposed to organ, and the first beginning with Capricorn. The next performance of Tierkreis in what wiil be a year long project will be at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh on 30th January at 12.15pm, and will begin with Aquarius.
This year, Dundee WestFest was of reduced dimensions- effectively a weekend rather than a whole week. Once again, I am grateful to the festival for having the vision to mount my event, this time a full length organ recital. The programme consisted of 5 “sets” : firstly, pieces of Soviet era organ music by Shostakovich (passacaglia) and two of his pupils: Boris Tishchenko (2 of his “Inventions”) and Alfred Schnittke (2 satellite pieces to his “Faust”). Next, some “historic” pieces- a fantasia by Pachelbel, one of the 14th century Estampies from the Robertsbridge codex and 2 Trumpet Tunes by Purcell. The First half concluded with 2 pieces by contemporary Edinburgh composers: In Orbit II by Michael Bonaventure(I’d noticed the organ in the West Church could match the registration requirements of the score, in particular a very quiet dulciana on the Choir); and “Pipedream” by Iain Matheson, who happily was present in the audience.After the interval, during which the audience could attend the Roseangle Arts cafe downstairs in the kirk,1970s 12 tone composition informed the next set: the shortest organ symphony in the repertoire- Jean Langlais’ Deuxieme Symphonie “Alla Webern” preceeded another complete outing for Stockhausen’s “Tierkreis”, this time beginning with Aries. The final section was Bach-centred; one of the Schumann fugues on BACH preceded my first public performance of the ubiquitous Toccata in Dminor BWV 565…somehow I feel that numerous performances of the Bach/Brahms Chaconne in the same key has helped me decide how I want to play this enigmatic piece.