Classic Rhythm

Concert date: 20 November 2022
Reviewed by: JRC

Never before has there been such a spread of percussion and timpani at a NADSA concert. It took over an hour just to set all the instruments up. And the ‘firsts’ didn’t stop there. Classic Rhythm’s programme was a mix of very well-known classics and jazz. Yes, we had Handel, Rossini, Debussy and Grieg, but arranged by Adrian Sutcliffe as we had never heard them before. Whether we were making a glittering entrance like the Queen of Sheba, or galloping along with William Tell, there was life and vitality. When they played Debussy’s ‘Girl with the Flaxen Hair’, their soft silky mellow blended tones stole my heart. With Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite there was such variety of colours and drama one was kept on one’s toes wondering whatever next!

Sutcliffe’s ‘Folksong: The Emerald Isle’, had simple introductions to ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘Skyboat Song’ and ‘Irish Jig’, the piccolo and drumbeat of the latter being chillingly effective, before the melded finale.

Chris Brannick gave us a brief talk about some of his percussion instruments with demonstrations of marimba, xylophone and glockenspiel. Using different sticks produces soft, medium or hard tones. His performance of Brahms ‘Hungarian Dance’, featured more than a dash of virtuosity and humour.

The trio gave a very polished performance of ‘Midnight City’ from Adrian Sutcliffe’s ‘Jazz Suite’, to be followed [in ‘Alone in the Night’] by superbly legato lines from Helen O’Connell’s flute. It felt like a song without words, the theme being seamlessly passed to Adrian on the piano. In great contrast, ‘Downtown Kyiv’ was lively and up-beat with the feeling of vamping: each performer vying for attention.

Sue Casson’s ‘Camden Lock’ arranged by Chris Brannick reminded me of ‘Eleanor Rigby’. The plaintive theme and pathos of the musical narrative held the audience in rapt trance.

Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story Suite’, arranged by Sutcliffe, was not a challenge for this trio, more a chance to shine. Yes, we were guided through the musical/opera’s familiar tragic songs, but also gripped by pauses and syncopation. To end its programme with ‘Somewhere there’s a place for us’ demonstrated that Classic Rhythm knew it would have us in the palm of its hand.

To send us home happy, they gave treats! Enthusiastic applause drew two encores: a ‘Jungle Book’ medley, and [as recognition of the coming festivities] a merry Christmas wish - in music of course.

Classic Rhythm have an unusual combination of musical virtuosity with audience rapport. This enables them to carry off their wide-ranging programme of familiar music arranged for this unusual combination of instruments. Ray Avis, of ‘Buyrite Tyres’ a long time sponsor of NADSA concerts, said this was the best concert he had sponsored, - and he didn’t regret having missed a ‘Grand Prix’ to be there!

The following day, Classic Rhythm went on to give a workshop at Canada Hill school; the children must have had a treat.

This concert was sponsored by Buyrite Tyres, Brunel Road, Newton Abbot.

NADSA Concert, Sunday 20th November 3.00pm at The Courtenay Centre, Newton Abbot.