Grainger Studio, Fri 17 Jun.
With every live performance comes the potential for something unique that can only happen with those people in that room at that time, but some live performances by their very nature can only happen once, and such was the case for Adam Page’s evening with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at Grainger Studio on Hindley Street.
The performance was a one-off, the culmination of a year of planning, featuring six world premiere performances of new Adam Page compositions commissioned by the ASO in addition to the Australian premiere of his Momentvm Symphony, previously performed with its commissioning New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
While he is based in Adelaide, Adam Page has been earning rave reviews worldwide for years now with his innovative and playful looping of various instruments, especially his saxophones. Setting himself a number of challenges, he composed the new music and worked with the ASO and handpicked members of the public to create room for improvisation in a full orchestra performance while incorporating his own live looping and sampling into the mix.
The end result was truly special and a credit to the vision of the ASO in its ambitious 80th season program. Where else might one see a looping saxophonist given the reins to a full symphony orchestra for an entire evening, featuring instruments so various as to include a kalimba (thumb piano), melodica, bowed saw, sampler, looper, human beatbox, drum machine, a mandolin, and improvised solos from nearly every instrument in the orchestra?
Page’s enthusiasm was infectious as he introduced each piece, and he graciously thanked featured violinist Julian Ferraretto and conductor Hamish McKeich repeatedly for their contributions, as well as the orchestra and the audience.
Page’s saxes got smaller throughout the evening, as he moved from tenor to alto and then soprano sax, while also picking up the flute and toying with the orchestra format in ways big and small. For his first piece, Inspiration, he performed entirely on the kalimba. The second was a primer to what he does, a solo looping exercise titled simply Loop Solo, and he built a loop with beat boxing, tambourines, melodica, flute, tenor sax, vocals, and more, soloing over it all with flute and sax. It was wildly entertaining, and his next piece, Space, Time, And A New Pair Of Shoes saw him extend his looping to the ASO, inviting virtually every instrument in the orchestra to join in the looping fun while also incorporating a fun symphonic attack reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein’s music for West Side Story.
For Momentvm, preselected audience “sub conductors” were invited to the stage to direct sections of the orchestra through varying figures at prescribed times with numbered and lettered cards, ensuring that no two performances of the piece would quite be the same, and its features for Page’s saxophone were strong throughout its three movements, the Copland-esque first, the powerful chorale of the second, and the odd-timed percussive third.
After a well-earned brief interval, Page and the ASO returned with Corners, a spritely piece again recalling Aaron Copland with its woodwind and xylophone melodic pairings and big brass hits. Page and Ferraretto followed with duet Through The Moon Glass, which found Page emulating a trance beat while Ferraretto looped his violin and bowed saw. Together they weaved melodies and then solos over the looped beat. Somber Seconds saw Page sidelined for a touching tribute to departed Adelaide jazz musician Mike Stewart.
For the next piece, Adam Page asked Julian Ferraretto to demonstrate the Bhairav scale, an Indian classical melodic figure, forming the foundation for the bombastic Waking Bhairava, which found the orchestra’s impressive performance then turned on its side by Page’s sampler. Finale Africa was a joyful end to the evening, with the audience invited to clap along, which they enthusiastically accepted between the nimble melodies of the orchestra and Ferraretto’s mandolin, with Dave Phillips on electric bass. The instrumentalists of the orchestra were given an opportunity to solo before McKeich brought it all home to a rousing finish.
Adam Page & The ASO: Gigs at Grainger II was recorded for broadcast by ABC Classic FM from 10pm on Fri 24 Jun. Listen online HERE.