Synergy represented by

(from left to right): Amy Haworth, Heather Cairncross, Micaela Haslam

“A very busy week for me. This concert fell during the same week as a Ben Park project and BBC Singers’ rehearsals for the Birtwistle Prom the following week. Fortunately, I’d made the decision not to sing in the 2nd half of the Sunday Prom with the BBC Singers (for Les Noces – much as I love that piece). That really would have been too much to cram in.

Heather and I had sung Grand Pianola a couple of times before – including a performance with John Adams conducting in San Francisco – but this was Amy’s John Adams debut. The vocal lines look straightfoward enough on paper – pages of sustained triads shifting up and down the octave, repeated chords sung to scat, and overlapping sustained legato lines. The difficulty is one of nerve, stamina (especially for sop 1), and in tuning the “simple” chords precisely, without vibrato. As usual, Amy did a great job – just as well, as we had next to no rehearsal with the players. We had a run-through the day before the gig, then the balance on the morning of the concert. That was it.

There was some wonderful playing amongst the players of London Sinfonietta – I must mention Gareth Hulse’s oboe solos in particular – gorgeous! John Constable and Rolf Hind made light work of the grand (in every way) piano parts, and I think we all really enjoyed the piece. The only thing I find slightly odd about it is the amplication. The voices are amplified, with foldback monitors at the back of the stage so that we can hear ourselves, but it’s very difficult to hear the players as they are not amplified and therefore can’t be “fed” into our monitors. It can feel quite lonely at the back – especially in the Royal Albert Hall – and tuning to something you can barely hear is always a challenge. If I were a sound engineer, I think I’d amplify the whole ensemble slightly, in order to create a more unified sound from the front, and make it easier for everyone to hear each other on stage – hoping that John Adams wouldn’t mind, of course. Whichever way, I hope we get to perform Grand Pianola again before too long. The audience obviously loved it. It’s a real “feel good” piece, and we all need a bit of that from time to time.”


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