Jazz Meets Bristol Symphony with Get The Blessing
Review by Film Composer, Alexandra Hamilton-Ayres
Clifton Cathedral 23rd June 2018
By Alexandra Hamilton-Ayres
With a reputation for fresh ideas, Bristol Symphony Orchestra’s most recent collaboration was sure not to disappoint. A packed venue in Clifton Cathedral on a sunny summer evening exposed enthusiastic ears to a fusion of Spanish influenced classical from the Bristol Symphony Orchestra with a rocky jazz twist from Get the Blessing. The Mediterranean rhythms blended well alongside Get the Blessing’s infectious bass lines for an original blend of music genres that was oh so very Bristol.
The evening opened with an elegant jazzy version of Ravel’s Bolero with a notable saxophone melody played by Sophie Stockham singing over the orchestra. Growing more intense towards the end with its head-nodding percussion and bass, the strings increased impact tenfold sweeping in to steal the melody and taking over the cathedral with a wash of powerful expansive sound. Highlights of the evening were an impressive xylophone performance by percussionist Harriet Riley in Alberto Ginastera’s IV. Final Dance (Malambo) from the ballet Estancia just before the interval. This set of 4 dances conjured up images of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis with a strong and impactful timpani performance in III. The Cattle Men.
One of the most attention grabbing pieces of the evening was an atmospheric arrangement of Get The Blessing’s The Unameable by Jean Hasse in the first half of the concert. Opening with some creative percussion—bowed cymbals and a feeling of deep ambience—the piece built with some tense string portamentos sliding into big beat drops by Clive Deamer on drums. An ambient arrangement to the rhythmic pieces that surrounded it: Get The Blessing’s flourishing Tuathal with vast trumpet solos arranged by Ed Watkins and 60s-style, catchy The Word for Moonlight is Moonlight arranged by Will Goodchild.
London composer Ian Gardiner’s arrangement of Piazolla’s Michaelangelo 70 and Soledad had an edge of Turnage about them with great use of harpist Laurette Pope in the opening of Soledad. The reverb might have been a bit too much for Jim Barr’s amplified bass in Get the Blessing’s Sunwise, but after the interval Pete Judge’s trumpet performance resonated beautifully in the cathedral for another elegant opener—Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez: Adagio, reimagined for trumpet over orchestra, in Gil Evans’ arrangement. A moving penultimate piano-centric performance by Jean Hasse of Pete Judge’s Curve, arranged by Will Goodchild, gave a stark minimalist contrast to the orchestral pieces. The air was cooler at this point, the sound more crisp and resonant. This left me craving more stripped-back interludes as dusk turned to night outside before the final punch of Get the Blessing’s Hayk with the full Bristol Symphony Orchestra to end the night.
Seeing so many current musicians in one space collaborating was truly inspirational. Not just performing, but arranging, composing, experimenting and sharing their different musical backgrounds and creating something very original.