The power of percussion drives the show

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When Claire Edwardes is at the hands of that percussion, I know I will hear something special… Photo: Peter Hislop

PERCUSSION has the power to colour and drive almost any piece of music. When Claire Edwardes is at the hands of that percussion, I know I’ll hear something special.

Music, painting and portraiture are close cousins. In this concert titled “The Power of One”, it was appropriate that it was held in the National Portrait Gallery of Australia (NPG) because the pictures this music created was as powerful as any portrait.

Beginning with a composition by Edwardes titled “Ether Lines” on a wondrous instrument called the Waterphone; it looked a bit like an upside-down spiky umbrella. When tapped or bowed it sounded like a cross between a large empty metal drum and an echoing pipe. The sound rang out through the Gordon Darling Hall with spooky and eerily effect.

The next work by Michael Smetanin called “Temple” was played on Temple Blocks. As Edwardes said, temple blocks are heavily used in cartoons because of their comical sound. The music of this polyrhythmic composition bounced hard off the walls in the hall creating an ear-popping effect. The complex rhythms and dynamics contained a variety of stylistic playing techniques, which added to this intricate and enjoyable work.

Having heard and reviewed Benjamin Drury’s work “Stained Glass” for the 2018 Canberra International Music Festival, which was performed in the workshop of the Canberra Glassworks, it was a pleasure to hear it again in the resonating hall in the NPG. This soft and mesmerising piece for vibraphone and electronics is meditational and haunting.

Edwardes’s ability on any percussion instrument is of the highest order. Apart from lecturing in percussion and composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and the leader of the group Offspring, she has performed with all Australian orchestras and numerous European orchestras.

To a spoken word soliloquy by rapper and drummer Rhyan Clapham, his piece titled “Dream Drummer” Edwardes bounced along on a snare drum mirroring the rhythm of the spoken word. Edwardes even joined in with vocal accompaniment at high points to add to this inventive and dynamic work.

Using cymbals, gongs, temple bowls and a wind chime, the work “Moonlight” by Clare Strong was composed by using the instruments found in Edwardes’s studio. This piece is to be listened to as a reflective meditation and it left the listener with feelings of contemplation and reflection.

A rising star in the music world is Kate Moore. She creates music of an ethereal nature filled with deep meaning and quality. Moore’s “Spel”, which is a Dutch word meaning game in English, for vibraphone is like a symphony of sound. This colourful, complex melodic work has an intricate weaving of lines that filled the hall. Edwardes made it sound like a dream.

The final work by Edwardes and Paul Mac for recorded percussion, with Edwardes playing three small drums, concentrated on alternating rhythms played as one that cast a spell on the audience and performer. However, a little more variation of instruments might have given it more depth.

This type of concert organised by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra is something that our region could use more of to expand its musical horizons.

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