Callum Foad Column: Festival Week
Reviews of two of last week’s Lunch Time Concerts
Our budding student journalist and blogger, Callum, took the opportunity to attend a couple of the concerts offered by the School of Music and Performing Arts as part of the Canterbury Festival last week. He chose the full-house performance of local legends, Kentish Piano Trio, on Tuesday 24th October and the smooth and distinguished sound of Thursday 26th’s recital for piano and saxophone by David Knotts and Sam Corkin.
In association with the Canterbury Festival, and as their principal sponser, Canterbury Christ Church University have held a multitude of free, hour long concerts within their purpose-built music venue, St. Gregory’s Centre for Music. These concerts consist of a range of styles and performers, with the great diversity of the university’s music programme effectively showcased.
The first of these concerts that I attended was a performance by a local three piece, fittingly named ‘the Kentish piano trio’. This small group is composed of three premier musicians, each with varied musical backgrounds and experiences, and each bringing their extended knowledge into the ensemble. Upon arrival it is explained that the three musicians now also all teach their respective instruments to the students of Christ Church, many of whom were in attendance and looking forward to this opportunity to gauge the ability of their tutors.
After a short delay, the trio arrive on stage, arranging themselves around a black grand piano of veritable beauty. This large instrument fills the majority of available space upon the small stage, and therefore provides the centre point for the performance, both musically and physically. A short introduction is made before the set is begun.
Despite their small size, the set played by the trio consists, rather daringly, of music written for full and sizeable orchestras. For many this would prove a great problem and it would be near impossible to accurately re-create the grand stature of these pieces, however it soon becomes apparent that this is not evident in this scenario, and that nothing of the original score is lost in the trio’s rendition. The sound carries through the ancient church and floats listlessly around the heads of the audience, who remain clearly captivated by the music that they are hearing.
The trio make great use of a varied range of classical music, that which composes the set ranging from throughout the latter half of history. The importance of a collection of these pieces to the trio is explained in a break between songs, where it is told that the groups celebrated pianist, Helen Crayford, studied under the original performer Nadia Boulanger in Paris. This homage to her late mentor is obviously one that is most heartfelt, and is well received by the audience, of which many could only imagine such an honour as to study under one of the most celebrated French tutors of the twentieth century. The Trio also play a piece by the university’s own David Knotts, who arrives on stage to proudly introduce his work.
Upon the end of the concert, I spoke with a handful of the music students in attendance, those who will soon have the pleasure of the immense knowledge of the three performers imparted upon them. The weight of today’s performance for these students was instantly clear, as they all described themselves as feeling ‘star struck’.
The next concert of the week, which i attended, was that of David Knotts and Sam Corkin, playing duet pieces on the piano and saxophone. Billed as ‘a breath-taking recital of music, from two of Kent’s most distinguished practitioners’, this performance was the first to demonstrate the ability of David Knotts behind his instrument, as his compositional talents had been showcased earlier in the week by the piano trio.
This concert was one consisting of great parallels, displaying a unique blend of the classic music both performers are praised for and ventures into the Avant-garde, and moments of great melancholy that soon evolve into phrases denoting great joy.
The performance also showcased the two performers great knowledge of dynamics. Beginning with both musicians on stage the music begins slowly and quietly, before establishing itself into a great cacophony of sound, one which would betray any notion that a duo would struggle to fill a room of this size. Indeed, the first piece of the concert is very much lead by saxophone, which dictates the peaks and valleys of the overall sound, being at its quietest barely audible, and at its most vociferous easily capable of filling the whole room on its own merit. To conclude the ‘shout’, the most emphatic portion of the set, the saxophone was played inside the lid of the piano producing a sympathetic vibration upon its strings, this is a rare trick and one that never fails to impress.
In a further exploration of dynamics Sam Corkin and his dominant instrument would leave the stage before the next piece, allowing Knotts to display his own abilities. This opportunity is fully seized and after a short introduction he launches into one of the most celebrated etudes from the great composer Claude Debussy, playing with great force and vim, matching that which is required by the piece.
Upon the return of Corkin to the stage the performance is once again lead by his instrument, with the last piece of the performance displaying amply his proficiency in his craft. It is instantly obvious to anyone watching that these two musicians are well accomplished in performing with one-another, as they weave intricately in and out of each other’s playing, displaying an instinctive knowledge of counterpoint and phrasing. It is this that demonstrates best the proficiency of the two musicians, as these are skills only learned through countless hours of musical experience.
It is therefore clear that the talent of the musicians on display in these lunch time concerts belies greatly the free entrance, and demonstrates greatly not only that which the university has to offer, but the city as a whole.
– Callum Foad
Many thanks, as always, to Callum for his fantastic articles; we look forward to his next piece!