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  • Miles Hedley


Frank Zappa can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. But I was forced to think again after seeing a marvellous recital by Trinity Laban Percussion Ensemble at St Alfege’s.

The moustachioed genius declared that no human would be able to play G Spot Tornado, a piece he composed on and programmed into a synclaviar, an early form of sampler which was really just a huge box of electronic trickery.

But the Trinity students simply substituted marimbas, vibes, glockenspiels and various kinds of drums and shakers for Zappa’s repeating electronic pulses – and they gave what was already a superlative composition a whole new life.

What a great way to start yet another dazzling display of virtuosity by a group of 13 youngsters under the direction of percussion maestro Mick Doran.

What followed were three works by TL composition students, the first two of which were world premieres.

Kieron Smith’s Momentum included two huge bass drums and four thunderous timpani as he took us on a journey that deliberately diced with disaster, threatening to descend into chaos.

In fact it did the opposite, ascending brilliantly into swirling clouds of pure sound beyond the scope of more traditional melodic instruments.

By contrast, Toby Carswell gave us the altogether softer (though no less brilliant) piece Sextet For One Marimba which was both a musical and logistical triumph.

The in-house section ended with Hollie Harding’s Mixed Messages, an eight-handed piece played on cowbells, claves and cymbals which required considerable theatrics, one musician kneeling throughout and all of them making lightning interceptions of one another’s cymbal-work.

Doran then raised the tempo for a fine arrangement of Beat 70 by jazz-fusion guitar legend Pat Methany before turning to the classical canon for a beautiful selection of Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances.

The ensemble - Gregor Black, Michael Blescun, Connor Chambers, Xacobe Roca Cruz, Rory Clark, Dom Daggett, Rhys Davies, Isis Dunthorne, Malgorzata Kepa, Tom Plumridge, Ben Quilter, Jacob Slade and Richie Sweet – closed their riveting recital with a fabulous version of Stevie Wonder’s party classic Don’t You Worry ’Bout A Thing. It was the perfect tonic in these uncertain times.

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