Sunday 8 July 2012

City of London Festival, Swedish Wind Ensemble and Christian Lindberg

Dawn at Galamanta - photo credit Peter Lloyd
Dawn at Galamanta
(photo credit Peter Lloyd)

The event ‘Dawn at Galamanta’ – a place somewhere close to home – was performed last night (6 July) as part of the 12 week London 2012 Festival. Held in the Guildhall, and sponsored by the Embassy of Sweden in London, the event had more of a feel of a gala than a concert, especially when Ian Richie, director of the City of London Festival explained his personal involvement with Christian Lindberg and the Share Music Sweden Group, before the event began. The design of the whole event was very interconnected emphasising links between Sweden and the UK, links to earlier city of London festivals and family ties.

Christian Lindberg, composer of Arabenne for trombone and strings led the Swedish Wind Ensemble in a lively set of folk tunes from Hugo Alfvén’s ballet Prodigal Son. Old Mountain Hymn, Devil Polka and Marching Tune were a thoughtful introduction to the Swedish sound palette, mournful and stirring by turns, with hints of the links between the Swedish and Scots. Unfortunately, although the Guildhall is magnificent its acoustics were not kind to the orchestra’s sound. In places the secondary themes were lost entirely and whenever the orchestra built up towards forte the reverberation became overwhelming.  

A Song for the Lord Mayor’s Table by Sir William Walton was first performed back in 1962 at the City of London festival by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. This version, arranged by Anders Högstedt, had its world premiere at this event. Lindberg, in a new gold shirt, dashingly performed the solo part and attempted to lead the orchestra through some very difficult changes in tempo, including a very risky accelerando which, due the acoustics, almost fell apart.

The Tribute to Glen Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Jack Teagarden, composed by Lindgerg’s daughter Andrea Tarrodi, was more successful but lacked a depth of ‘swing’. Andrea Tarrodi is the composer in residence for the Swedish Radio Orchestra and composed this piece for her father and his love of trombone playing. There were 11 or 12 separate tunes in there including In the mood and Blue skies and while his playing was superb it was very much solo plus accompaniment and not the co-operative feel and shine of a swing orchestra.

Another shirt, another song. The final piece in the first half was Gershwin’s An American in Paris. Some of the solos were exceptional and there were some lovely moments, especially when the tuned percussion peeked through. But again, the orchestra struggled with shading and emphasising the blues.  All in all a very pleasant first half.

After a glass of wine and canapés the stage (and Mr Lindberg) was redressed for the Dawn of Galamanta. The orchestra had moved towards the back of the stage leaving the front clear for the soloists, chorus and dancers. This made a huge difference to the sound. The orchestra was now clear and measured, moving or stirring, as the occasion demanded. The dynamic range was no longer muddied and the orchestra itself seemed much more relaxed. Lindberg’s score was beautiful and merged seamlessly with Helen Karabuda’s choreography.

Dawn of Galamanta is a tale of love found, love lost, love regained but at a cost. The event is the result of a two year collaboration between composer, choreographer, and Share Music Sweden and was  premiered three years ago in Stockholm station. Unlike Hollywood, Share Music Sweden did not back away from the consequences of murder and the piece finishes in unresolved grief.

There were numerous highlights. The dancers were very expressive each performing as chorus and solo and doubling up as musicians and chorus. The lady in red danced in almost every scene and was the tread which held the piece together.  The male singer sang twice, both times were beautiful, almost haunting, and certainly very moving. The vocal interplay between him and one of the punk ‘devils’ was perfectly timed. The white team, with their caring cowboy theme, tried to pour solace on the distraught female lead and her lovers, and during the crowd scenes both the vocalisations and the dancing were animated and together.

Dawn of Galamanta seemed to ask more questions than it answered. But perhaps that is a part of the ‘level playing field’ ethos. After all there are rarely answers in real life.  The performers’ sheer joy of performing, which couldn’t be held in check after the finals bows, was a delight, and the care with which this event was put together meant that this was a really special evening. Congratulations.

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