An Evening with Dame Evelyn Glennie
The Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool
August 19th, 2012
Support: Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra, Liverpool Signing Choir, Shanghai Deaf School
Producer: DaDaFest (Deaf and Disabled Arts Festival) Liverpool
Running Time: 2 hrs 15 mins
It is unusual for the Philharmonic Hall to stage performances at the height of summer, even when it has been as wet and miserable as this one. However, when an exponent of their art as superb as Dame Evelyn Glennie offers to not only perform a recital in the city for the first time in eleven years, but also to take questions from a packed audience in aid of the remarkable DaDa Festival, then the offer is literally one that is too good to refuse. This is a coup to outstrip any other that this amazing festival has managed to pull off in its twelve years of existence and underlines just how important – and its popular – it has become.
For those who don’t know, Dame Evelyn is arguably the world’s finest percussionist and recently played before 80,000 spectators at the Olympic Opening Ceremony in London, along with 1,000 volunteer drummers, as the circles forged in iron joined together in the night sky. Dame Evelyn is also profoundly deaf, yet watching her perform and listening to her speak, you would never know.
Supported by The Liverpool Signing Choir, direct from their own successful rendition of Imagine at the Olympics Closing Ceremony, and Liverpool’s Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra – formed in Liverpool's Chinatown in 1984 and the first and largest Chinese Youth Orchestra in Europe – who performed their new work, Jasmine Flower Fusion in conjunction with Shanghai Deaf School.
Although the music itself was a quirky fusion of nursery rhymes, American folk and old English favourites, all played brilliantly on various Chinese instruments, it has to be said that the choir seemed a little superfluous, which in itself was something of a shame given their undoubted ability.
Yet, when Dame Evelyn strolled out to take her position behind the Marimbas that dominated the stage, things went from good to mesmerising in an instant. Ilijas, written in 1996 by Bosnian composer, Nebojsa Zivkovic, is a delightfully rhythmic piece that combines a number of styles and genres and resonances of differing instruments, that delightfully settles the audience into a mood of relaxed appreciation.
There were quirky moments – the use of the Waterphone highlighting the percussionists desire to push the boundaries a little – that sat beautifully with more “traditional” offerings, the zenith being the superb Prim composed by Askell Masson and played on a single snare drum; a piece that was as powerful as it was enthralling to both hear and see being played.
Yet, as superb as the performance was, the talk in which Dame Evelyn explained her journey to discover what sound is and how to allow the entire body – not just the ears – to embrace it, was truly fascinating and not a little worrying. With sound becoming increasingly more isolated thanks to the gadgets the young use, there is a rapidly growing number of hearing impaired youths today than there have ever been. As a result, Glennie explained, instruments are being tuned at higher pitches so that audiences can recognise the instrument’s tone. “I sometimes wonder,” she warned, “whether, because of this isolation, we humans will also communicate at higher tones in order to be heard, at some point in the not too distant future”.
A thoroughly entertaining, totally captivating and incredibly interesting evening, Dame Evelyn Glennie will hopefully return sooner rather than later as a result and so enhance DaDaFest’s burgeoning reputation on a regular basis.
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