Friday 6 May 2022

An ensemble like no other: Peter Wiegold and The Third Orchestra at Grand Junction

Peter Wiegold and The Third Orchestra at Grand Junction
Peter Wiegold and The Third Orchestra at Grand Junction

Peter Wiegold and the late John Cumming founded The Third Orchestra in 2019, when the ensemble made its debut at the Barbican. Since then there has been extensive crowd-funding, and last night Wiegold and the ensemble gave a triumphant concert to a near capacity audience at Grand Junction. Grand Junction is a community arts space in St Mary Magdalene Church, a G.E. Street designed, gloriously Gothic Church in Little Venice. The Third Orchestra is an extension and development of Wiegold's work with Notes Inégales at Club Inégales. 

Here there were 15 musicians from a variety of countries, traditions, styles and genres, stretching from Western classical and jazz right across the world to China, taking in the Middle East, India and beyond. The aim wasn't so much synthesis as something more syncretic, to make music together and too see what happened, to use dialogue and creative difference for artistic purposes. Each is a significant musician in their own right, and here they were coming together for something new. Wiegold presided over everything, guiding, controlling and enabling.

The music wasn't simply a free-for-all, nor was it one extended free-jazz jam. Whilst the programme listed six pieces, each with a variety of creators, Wiegold explained that each was the result of creative discussion amongst the players. There were highly detailed notate passages, moments of individual improvisation and sections of more free group improvisation, guided by Wiegold whose series of hand gestures were a thing to behold. Different individuals would come to the fore at different times, and each of the six pieces seemed to move between creative flow and sections where everyone came together in a particular groove, moving between control and freedom.

The pieces were inspired by the haiku of Ursula Rucker (written for the orchestra's 2019 debut) and passages from T.S. Eliot's Little Gidding. Technically we heard Time quantum leaps (Bernhard Schimpesberger, Sri Sriram, Max Baillie, Rouhangeze, Peter Wiegold), I will write my blues into submission (Soren Birke, Rouhangeze, Peter Wiegold), Oh to be a hawk (Cheng Yu, Peter Wiegold), Between two waves of the sea (Rouhangeze, Peter Wiegold), To God's ear (Rihab Azar, Peter Wiegold), and Time quantum leaps, but often the music seemed to flow continuously.

The result was an evening like no other, a transformative and transporting evening which managed to transcend the limitations of playing in a church (stunning though it is, St Mary Magdalene does not have anything like the atmosphere of the original Club Inégales. But the musicians rose about this, and refashioned the venue to their own image as they came together in a rather amazing way.

The performers were Alice Zawadski (voice, violin), Rouhangeze (voice), Max Baillie (violin), Colin Alexander (cello), Cheng Yu (pipa),Wang Xiao (erhu), Rihab Azar (oud), Byron Wallen (trumpet), Anoushka Naguy (trombone), Alina Bzhezhinska (harp), Matthew Bourne (keyboards), Fiona Troon (bassoon, contra-bassoon), Soren Birke (harmonica, jew's harp, duduk), Shri Sriram (bass, tablas, flute), Bernhard Schimpelsberger (percussion), Peter Wiegold (artistic director, conductor, keyboards).

A Third Orchestra Foundation is being set up to support Peter Wiegold and John Cumming's vision for a diverse, multi-cultural ensemble without boundaries. The concert was recorded for future broadcast by the BBC and also to be issued in the NMC label.

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