Accordion orchestras: the unlikely link between traditional and modern music (Isabella van de Grampel, Putney High)
The Accordion: An instrument that has long been associated with folk tunes and joyous campfire serenades, was unveiled in a whole new musical dimension at the LSO St Luke’s Film and Fantasy Accordion Concert last night.
Led by renowned conductor and composer Ian Watson, the two-hour performances by the London Accordion Orchestra and the German National Accordion Orchestra (in that order) were full of colorful dynamics, rhythm and tempo that were a juxtaposition striking with the musicians. black traditional concert. The musical narrative began with ‘Intercity’ (Adolf Götz), which was the perfect piece to introduce the excitement and energy that would be sustained throughout the evening. At the end of the play, the audience witnessed Watson’s first of many humorous comments that night, as he noted that the previous play would be the “only mode of transportation we would get” that night due of the strike; when he then presented ‘Flight’, a self-composed piece that was nationally acclaimed on BBC radio programs, it was clear that this comedic charisma was a quality that permeated his composition and his flamboyant conducting style.
“Tranquil, migration, arrival” – this is how Watson described the three themes of each movement of “Flight” which converged to convey the turbulent but beautiful migration patterns of the birds, which fly over thousands of miles of ocean every year. Such a natural and arbitrary event was resurrected as an emotional journey that audiences could experience with empathy, as the music enlivened the birds’ ever-changing environment…even the turbulent weather challenges they face felt present in the dynamic, as if Watson were using a musical form of pathetic error. Once the piece was finished, the applause lasted for several minutes, a pattern that will continue throughout the evening as a testament to the quality of Watson’s composition and the talent of the London Accordion Orchestra.
There were several unique aspects to this concert, such as the castanets used in “The Legend of King Arthur” (which was the world premiere) to represent the sounds of the knights as they galloped through Camelot. This, alongside the ethereal hum of the German musicians at the start of Watson’s third movement of ‘Black Mountain’, took full advantage of the acoustics at his disposal in St Luke’s, a desecrated former Anglican church building that has been converted into a performance space that fuses the industrial and brutalist design typical of this part of east London (i.e. the Barbican) with the building’s Georgian foundations and columns, dating back to 1727. The venue itself even was as revered and valued as the music, with many spectators members periodically craning their necks to admire the vaulted ceiling or vast windows behind the stage.
As the concert drew to a close, the second of two John Williams masterpieces to be performed that evening, the theme ET, was performed by the German National Accordion Orchestra, of which Watson is the guest conductor for 2022. In this new position, he explores his love of dramatic and cinematic music (represented by his love of Benjamin Britten who is known for his theatrical and unusual works) with his fellow musicians, and uses all the skills of each accordionist to bring Williams’ famous piece to life: most notable are the magnificent trills of Silke D’Inka, the orchestra’s principal conductor who alternates direction and interpretation every two years. Just as ET’s final notes were kicked out and the gloomy realization that the concert had ended set in, the German orchestra announced a short encore of Mary Poppins’ “A Spoonful of Sugar” – a happy conclusion to their stay in London.