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Steve Reich
Jono at rehearsal   Charlie Dale-Harris   Freddie Hosken

December 4th 2011


Steve Reich Concert

A week ago yesterday, on 26th November, St. Paul's School put on the most fantastic concert to celebrate Steve Reich's 75th birthday, which was attended by the great man himself. Every single one of the five Steve Reich compositions that was performed was extraordinary.

The concert started with 'Clapping Music', composed in 1972, because of 'a desire to create a piece of music that would need no instruments other than the human body'. It was brilliantly performed by Josh Kellie (from SPS) and Steve Reich.

Charlie Dale-Harris then blew us away (excuse the pun) with his playing of the solo clarinet with a pre-recorded backing tape of ten clarinet and bass clarinet parts in a piece called 'New York Counterpoint'. The standing ovation lasted almost as long as the full eleven minutes of the composition itself!

Joel Sanderson was equally brilliant playing 'Cello Counterpoint', a composition described by Steve Reich as 'one of the most difficult pieces I have ever written, calling for extremely tight, fast moving rhythmic relationships not commonly found in the cello literature.'

'Different Trains', played by the Smith Quartet, held the audience spellbound. It is a piece in which speech recordings generate the musical materials for musical instruments and is played in three parts: America - Before the War; Europe - During the War; After the War. The recorded voices included those of Holocaust survivors Rachella, Paul and Rachel. It is a remarkable piece of music.

The interval was followed by 'Music for Eighteen Musicians' and it was an immense privilege to have Steve Reich there as this was the first time that the piece has been played in his presence by school-aged performers; I do not think that he was disappointed. Although I find it virtually impossible to pick out any one of the pieces played at the concert as being better than the others, I would have to say that this was the one that I enjoyed the most (not just because Jono was playing the vibraphone). It lasted for fifty-five minutes and these turned out to be the quickest fifty-five minutes that I can remember. The instruments include: violin, cello, two clarinets (doubling bass clarinet), four women's voices, four pianos, three marimbas, two xylophones and vibraphone. This is a beautiful piece of music to listen to, but what makes the live performance particularly enjoyable is watching the intense concentration of all performers and subtle nods of heads and waving of percussion sticks to cue the different sections of music.

The evening was rounded off by a twenty minute interview with the composer and Micaela Haslam (the Principal Rehearsal Coach) who both spoke briefly about all five pieces played that evening.

It was a truly remarkable concert and I would like to congratulate all the performers and Ryan Hepburn, whose idea it was to put the whole thing together, for a fantastic evening.

The short video put together by Barney Couch from SPS to advertise the concert, which had part of 'Music for Eighteen Musicians' as the background music, is unfortunately no longer available online and I have not been able to obtain a copy to post here. Three of the above photographs are screen-shots from this video; many thanks to Barney.


  © Copyright Thomas Jackson 2010