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Thursday, 16 April 2009

Some words on watching classical music

So I went to see Lord Of The Rings (the first movie) at the Royal Albert Hall the other night. Now, admittedly, that’s a pretty geeky thing to do but I am a big fan of the movie and this was a screening with a difference.

On the stage were an enormous orchestra and choir, all conducted by Howard Shore, the man who composed the score for the LOTR movies, and they performed the score live the entire way through the movie - quite a gruelling task on the seats that were no more comfortable than those on the average bus.

But I’m not really writing specifically about that performance, excellent though it was. It made me think about classical music and so I wanted to put a few thoughts down on that.

Like a lot of people, I’ve never really looked into classical music in any serious way – I own the odd “Favourite Classics” cd, but beyond that, and a visit to the Handel Museum in London (which I only went to because my friend was working there, and next door to Handel’s old house is Jimi Hendrix’s old house, so my friend’s desk was in Hendrix’s bedroom, which is pretty fricking awesome), I’ve never delved any deeper.

I have been to a few classical music performances over the years, and every time I’ve been in awe of the sheer complexity of an orchestra, versus the typical band of four people with drums, bass, guitar and vocals, and this was the first one I'd been to in a few years.

The amount of working parts was staggering. There were well over 100 people performing, obviously rarely all at once, but all co-ordinated by one guy (Howard Shore), whose elaborate hand gestures were lost on me, but I’m sure meant a lot to the performers (I should have paid more attention to the BBC’s Maestro).

Of course, there’s something equally beautiful about the noise made by a basic trio (or duo, or individual) of musicians with no formal training, and that has its own power and importance. But speaking as someone who doesn’t see or listen to much classical music, I was blown away by the magnificence of it all. And in a sense, that wasn’t necessarily to do with the amount of bodies on stage because I took my Mum to Vienna a couple of years ago and we went to a Mozart recital with only about 7 people performing and that was stunning too (except for when the Austrian interpretive dancers started up – could have done without that).

So if you haven’t seen an orchestra perform lately, and you at all appreciate watching good musicians ply their trade, then I’d definitely recommend it, if only to see what the other half (whoever they might be) get up to - it's a refreshing experience.

And no, I wasn’t dressed as an elf or wearing Hobbit feet.

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