Gig Review:
Vessels of Sound
A pre-concert programme in the main foyer
Royal Festival Hall, South Bank Centre, London SE1, Wednesday, 25th February 2004
Photo of Vivienne Bellos directing the Jewish Youth Choir in the RFH Foyer
Vivienne Bellos directing the Jewish Youth Choir in the RFH Foyer
All photos this page by Richard A. Sharma and Copyright © Richard A. Sharma 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction, copying, or storage by any means whatsoever including but not limited to electronic/digital means without written prior permission prohibited. Linking to individual photographs on this page prohibited.


The BBC Concert Orchestra Presents as part of Concert Connections/BBC CO Learning

Vessels of Sound

A pre-concert programme in the main foyer
Royal Festival Hall, South Bank Centre, London SE1
Wednesday, 25th February 2004 5.30 pm to 7pm
 

Feat.

Trinity College of Music Student Ensemble
Detta Danford, Helen Murray and Claire Overbury (flute),
Jenni Britton (oboe), Sarah Scutt and Lizzie Stutters (clarinet),
Tomasz Gniatkowski (bassoon),
Jason Diaz-Lerin and Aquiles Casana (violin),
Ursula Czarnecka (viola),
Roz Gladstone and Caroline Taylor (cello),
George Hdjineophytou (mandolin)

JFS School (Jewish Free School)
Lee Freeman, Daniel Orelowitz, Michael Silverstone, Adam Caplan, Ella Goschalk, Sydney Leaman, Daniella Waterman-Collins, Zoe Robinson, Elliot Stanley

Jewish Youth Choir
Dir. by Vivienne Bellos, accomp. Julian Dawes

Leah Thorn, performance poetess




 Programme
 
  Trinity College of Music Student Ensemble - New arrangements of traditional klezmer melodies

 JFS School - Three songs from Year 10 GCSE students at JFS with music and lyrics composed by the students themselves

 
Jewish Youth Choir - Traditional Yiddish and Israeli folk songs and some contemporary Jewish numbers

 
Leah Thorn - Spoken word poetry about issues of contemporary Jewish identity

 
Trinity College of Music Student Ensemble - More klezmer arrangements









Date of Review: 2004/02/26

Please also see the review of the associated BBC Concert Orchestra's concert with The Burning Bush.


Jewish Pride - A Foyer Celebration of Jewish Culture

Matinee and pre-concert main foyer events at the Royal Festival Hall (and, incidentally, a number of other venues) are a well-established tradition and present an exquisite variety of music and related performance art, affording anyone a superb opportunity to explore a wealth of often perhaps unfamiliar styles and material entirely for free. It is therefore all the more a huge pity that these splendid events are not always as well attended as they might be. However, this chill February evening's pre-concert series of events under the title of Vessels of Sound, presented by the BBC Concert Orchestra as part of Concert Connections, the BBC Concert Orchestra's Learning programme, was gratifyingly well attended indeed. So much so, it proved quite difficult to find a good vantage point from which to observe the proceedings after rushing to the foyer following rehearsals for the main concert of the evening, missing out on the first appearance of the Trinity College of Music Student Ensemble and part of the performance by JFS School students.

The Vessels of Sound foyer performances arose out of the BBC Concert Orchestra's learning project of the same title, the latter being derived from the Yiddish word "klezmer", a contraction of the Hebrew words "kle" - vessel - and "zemir" - sound -, a term originally used to describe an instrumental musician and in recent decades applied to the traditional instrumental music of Eastern European Ashkenazi Jewry. The BBC Concert Orchestra's learning project introduced students to traditional Jewish music from the Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions through a series of workshops, led by groups of players from both the BBC CO and The Burning Bush, with further workshops also by Jewish performance poetess Leah Thorn and The Andrusier Ensemble which specialises in the music of Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp. Schools and colleges that benefited included JFS, Queen Elizabeth's Girls' and Southgate schools and Trinity College of Music. The Royal Festival Hall foyer performance highlighted some of the TCM students' work as well as newly composed songs by Year 10 pupils from JFS, traditional Yiddish and Israeli and contemporary songs sung by the Jewish Youth Choir, and Leah Thorn performing some of her acutely observed poetry.

Sadly, as already observed, I missed the first performance of the Trinity College of Music Student Ensemble and the opening of the performance by JFS School students. What remained of the JFS School students' performance were certainly splendid efforts for which I can only whole-heartedly congratulate these young performers and songwriters. One sincerely hopes that their talents and the insights, knowledge and experience they gained through the BBC CO workshops will continue to be furthered as well as fostered and encouraged to the fullest.

The Jewish Youth Choir, directed by Vivienne Bellos and accompanied by Julian Dawes on keyboard, gave a very spirited and enchanting performance of traditional Yiddish, Israeli, and contemporary songs. The very capable Ms. Bellos had very evidently succeeded in imparting her own enthusiasm and a sense of pride to her charges. This made their splendid performance an even more delightful experience. Parent or not, it would have been difficult for anybody to not feel uplifted and take pride in Jewish culture.

Photo of Performance poetess Leah Thorn, accompanied by Nigel Pinkett on viola da gamba
Performance poetess Leah Thorn, accompanied by Nigel Pinkett on viola da gamba

Timed perfectly to coincide with some much-needed liquid refreshment, Leah Thorn followed to provide more than a little food for thought with some of her acutely and astutely observed spoken word poetry, accompanied on viola da gamba by BBC CO cellist Nigel Pinkett. Ms. Thorn's poetry about contemporary Jewish life proved a touching and insightful delight, striking many a chord very close to home. What Jew could fail to recognize him- or herself in Leah Thorn's observations on "Jew Watching", trying to guess at a social gathering who may or may not be Jewish, and of course getting it so wrong so often! Ms. Thorn's equally astute observations on the reticence in relation to the use of the "J-word" likewise struck home. Although things seem to be getting a bit better in this respect in recent years, much remains to overcome the old "Mosaic means never having to say you're Jewish" mentality and replace it with something like "Say it loud, I'm Jewish and I'm proud!" Leah Thorn certainly inspired a sense of this spirit with her wonderful poems.

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Photo of Trinity College of Music Student Ensemble
Trinity College of Music Student Ensemble

The pre-concert Vessels of Sound programme concluded with another performance by the Trinity College of Music Student Ensemble. This splendid thirteen-piece ensemble, consisting of two violins, mandolin, viola, two celli, three flutes, oboe, two clarinets and bassoon, presented a number of outstanding and imaginative arrangements of their own of traditional klezmer melodies. The instrumentation proved charming and irresistible, the performance spirited and an absolute delight. Particularly noteworthy was a superb interpretation and arrangement of Der Heyser Bulgar, one of the best known of klezmer tunes and one of the most versatile, its principal theme so reminiscent of the Arabic maqam Hijaz, which indeed is the mode it is in, generally referred to as the Freygish mode in klezmer circles and also known as the liturgical Ahovo Rava mode. The Trinity College of Music Student Ensemble amply demonstrated an original and inventive approach throughout their performance which would have been worthy of a full concert in a proper concert hall in itself.

Photo of Trinity College of Music Student Ensemble
Trinity College of Music Student Ensemble

Taken as a whole, the BBC Concert Orchestra's pre-concert presentation of Vessels of Sound was a wonderful celebration of Jewish culture and an occasion deserving of and inspiring Jewish pride. The overall contribution to Jewish culture in Britain that the BBC CO has made with its learning project Vessels of Sound is impressive and richly deserving of acknowledgement and praise, and the management, staff and members, not least Learning Manager Peter Hayward, are to be congratulated on their vision and outstanding effort.

 

© 2004 Rainlore's World of Music/Rainlore. All rights reserved.



To BBC Concert Orchestra and The Burning Bush Concert Review

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