Turning Point Ensemble’s Firebird 2011 - Part IIIThursday, March 03, 2011
|Vern Griffiths, percussion
Consider that Stravinsky wrote his 45-minute (Bushnell’s version was a tad shorter) ballet for a very large orchestra including quadruple woodwind and three harps, as well as a piano.
Last night’s ensemble featured one harp and one piano but the sonic ballistics I am used to were all there. For one thing the Cultch’s small theatre is small so I was close, intimately so, to the orchestra. Unlike being at a performance at the Orpheum every instrument here was directional in sound. I could immediately discern when each instrument was “on”. In a world that is increasingly becoming used to the enveloping sound of ear buds it was a pleasure to listen to (and watch) music as it should be listened to.
The work, as orchestrated by Bushnell, had the four movements of the original. The smaller ensemble gave me the opportunity to listen to stuff from the Firebird I was not aware was there. There were many moments of delicate intimacy particularly from François Houle’s clarinet.
But I was ready and waiting for the ballistics of the fourth movement. The more I watch and listen to pianist Jane Haynes the more I enjoy her affirmation of the piano as a percussion instrument. She seems to demolish the piano but the piano holds on! On the other hand it is fun to watch percussionist Vern Griffiths who I must describe as a man who moves in complete quiet and grace (not that anybody could possibly hear any noises he would make with his tiptoes). There is an elegance in the way he wields his xylophone mallets (it may have been a marimba as I saw wood).
|François Houle, clarinet
Because it was a dress rehearsal I could look to the side and watch arranger Michael Bushnell’s involvement as he nodded his head and smiled. Bushnell is most watchable as he resembles a cross of the faces of Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut!
Bushnell has had a musical history of working together with TPE conductor Owen Underhill and it showed here. Underhill, with that ever present smile of his, enjoyed himself, as I did.
My only disappointment is that my granddaughter was too sick to accompany me. I know she would have enjoyed it.