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What exactly is a 'Concert Glennie Aluphone' or a 'Trongo'? Dame Evelyn Glennie shed some light on the fascinating world of percussion performance in our online web chat.
Playing at the Olympics opening ceremony, collecting percussion instruments, and reshaping the world of percussion music, Dame Evelyn Glennie is the first full-time solo percussionist to make a living from playing professionally. She is currently gearing up for her performance at King's Place in London, in the Not So Silent Movies concert series, where performers create a soundtrack to a silent film through improvising. She took some time out of her rehearsal schedule to respond to your questions, and chat with Tim Lihoreau after his More Music Breakfast show.
Tim Lihoreau: Evelyn, thanks ever so much for sparing the time. The first thing I wanted to do is a few questions in one, really, and to take you back to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, 2012. There you were, playing Caliban's Dream? How was that whole EXPERIENCE? What was the instrument you were playing? And was that environment more challenging to play within?
Hi Tim, Fantastic and memorable experience, great team work. The instrument was the Concert Glennie Aluphone, the first ever made. The technical crew made the environment really good to work in.
Tim Lihoreau: The Concert Glennie Aluphone looks fantastic. Like a sort of gamelan one-woman band. Could you tell me more about it? Presumably, you commissioned it?
I didn't commission it but the idea was put to me. I could quickly see the immense possibilities of the instrument. Caliban's Dream used the Glennie Aluphone which I hope Classic FM will play today! 'And I Will Kiss' was the piece that brilliantly employed 1000 drummers. Many of those drummers have continued to form drum groups throughout the country.
Dave Smith: Many American orchestras are experiencing financial and labour difficulties, resulting in shortened seasons, lockouts, and reduced pay and benefits. What is your advice to young players hoping to make it as an orchestral musician?
Create as many opportunities as possible to perform with as many ensembles, orchestras etc. It's crucial to get as much experience performing with others and to delve into as varied a repertoire as possible. As a student I tried to source out as many amateur and semi-professional orchestras to perform with in order to gain as much performing experience as possible even though I knew I wanted to be a soloist.
Endre Szasz-Revai: How and when did you decide that all you really wanted is to be a percussionist?
At the age of 15 I decided to go in to music full time on the basis that I would aim to be a solo percussionist. At school we all played little solos and so I thought the world was full of solo percussionists.
Tim Lihoreau: Who were your inspirations back then?
My school percussion teacher Ron Forbes and my school classroom music teachers. We were not exposed to people giving masterclasses or workshops at that time so all the inspiration was within the school.
Tim Lihoreau: Could I possibly ask about some of the works that have been written especially for you. MacMillan, Muldowney, RRB, etc. How many pieces are there now, exactly? And could you possibly pick a favourite?
Approximately 170 pieces but please check on the commissions page on our website www.evelyn.co.uk My philosophy is whichever piece is in front of me is my favourite.
Tim Lihoreau: Fabulous philosophy. Which one is on your music stand at the moment?
Two new pieces are on my stands at the moment. From Darkness to Light by Vincent Ho and Hikoi by Gareth Farr. Both are new percussion concerti to be premierred in Canada at the beginning of February 2013.
Tim Lihoreau: Dame Evelyn, can I talk about the concert coming up in London (the glorious King's Place) on Sunday. It is a combination of on-screen classics, and improvisation. Does that involve you literally reacting, musically, in real time to cinematic events? Could you explain more?
It is totally improvised with a small group of musicians. We see the films in real time and have to react immediately. It's a fantastic experience and would recommend all music institutions to put their students through this environment. It's fantastic entertainment for the whole family and very educational.
Massimo de Majo: How do you deal with your technical and artistic development in your day-to-day life? Do you ever give master classes on Skype? What do you think of using the new media in education? You are one of my heroes (and I was a teenager in 1977!)
There is no routine in my life so it is a constant challenge to prepare for performances. However I rehearse as opposed to practise in my mind. Psychologically there is a big difference between practice and rehearsing. Therefore I do not need instruments at my disposal all of the time. I have given one masterclass via skype. interesting experience but not wholly convincing due to being unable to pick up the subtleties in the students playing due to technology. Thank you for your kind comments.
Massimo de Majo: Thank you! any personal, heart-to-heart, advice for music students to cherish?
Really listen to the body. It will determine how much time to prepare physically, be flexible and open minded with your thinking and create your own opportunities!
Tim Lihoreau: And my final question, Dame Evelyn: When I interviewed you a few years ago, it was in your 'Aladdin's Cave' of percussion instruments. I seem to remember you collect interesting ones on your travels. What is the latest?
The latest addition to my collection which now reaches over 1800 instruments are Trongos, which are aluminium typre barrel shaped drums each with a hole in order to put water in. They tilt backwards and forwards on their stand in order for the sound to vary due to the water. Thank you Tim and to everyone this morning, have a great day!