A blog on gigs, music, art and London.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Steve Reich 'Drumming', Queen Elizabeth Hall, 16/02/10

I was at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last night to see the Colin Currie Group and Synergy Vocals perform ‘Drumming’ the seminal percussion piece by the legendary contemporary composer Steve Reich. I was sitting towards the front of the rear stalls, at the far right of the hall.

Prior to entering the hall I spent an enjoyable hour and a half minutes in the Member’s Bar of the Royal Festival Hall, listening to the magnificent ‘Radio Amor’ by Tim Hecker whilst also catching the first 30 minutes of the Arctic Circle radio show on Resonance FM.

The concert began in stark, almost tribal style as 4 drummers played out slowly shifting, enveloping rhythms on 8 drums. A little different to the other music by Reich that I had previously heard. The drums then segued into another 3 musicians playing out similar rhythms on 3 marimbas. This immediately took us to more familiar Reich terrain with the lustrous, reflective percussion moving gradually in a more ambient, minimal direction. More musicians joined in, until we had 6 in total playing out ever so slightly out of sync rhythms on the marimbas. It was at this stage that 2 female vocalists began to contribute on top of the marimbas, which resulted in irregular pulses of sound emanating from the stage. Again, after some time the musicians started to step away from the marimbas and were replaced by others replicating the rhythms on 3 glockenspiels at the other side of the stage. This took the sound up a level, as the chiming, glistening timbres filled the hall. Another musician stood up to play piccolo which added a sharpness to the sound. Slowly, all musicians gradually reconvened on stage to play all instruments together, resulting in a thrillingly complex tapestry of sound. Steadily, we were brought back to the striking beats that the piece began with, until one of the vocalists ended affairs with a dramatic gesture of the hand.

I loved how throughout the rhythms appeared to periodically stray before being brought back into line. At times single notes seemed to fall away from the main body of sound and signal a subtle change of pace or direction, discreetly reorienting the piece. I loved the sheer physicality of the performance also, the almost robotic precision, the rotating musicians and almost superhuman levels of concentration on display.

At the end Steve Reich appeared from the audience to take to the stage, quite rightly receiving a rapturous reception. Sadly, I wasn’t able to stay around for the post concert talk but it was a brilliant, memorable performance.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice review!

I was there too, and have added my tuppence worth on my blog:


Was a flippin' great gig either way!