Thoughts from Behind the Piano

Posted by Riot Ensemble pianist, Adam Swayne
I have a confession to make: I’ve never been very keen on works for flute and piano. I usually think of the combination as like a lemon curd sandwich where the flute is the curd (always delicious in a symphonic cake) and the piano is the ever-dependable bread. But in spite of all the promise the results tend to be bland, sickly and overly moist.

But working on this concert has proved me wrong for three big reasons.

First of all, there’s the calibre of the flautist Kate Walter. She approaches everything with incredible determination not only to despatch everything asked of her (and that’s a lot!), but also to give some rather special energy to the audience. Her kind of lemon curd would have to be infused with something pretty spicy and intoxicating!

Second of all there’s the range of flutes and the dramatic way in which they’re used. Alongside the familiar concert flute expect to hear alto flute and bass flute, with all three being blown, slapped and howled at – as with any organ of pleasure/displeasure (innuendo intended).

And why stop at the flutes? Our composers want the pianist to join in the magic as with the sheer theatre of Amy Beth Kirtsten’s piece, during which I shall be demonstrating some newfound vocal techniques (they are so new I’ve only just discovered them myself). In this context the Feldman-esque textures of Julian Anderson and the finely crafted lines of Terence Allbright reveal some hidden secrets that don’t come out in your average concert rectial.

Ric Graebner’s solo work gives the concert its title: ‘The Magic Bass Flute’. Ric, Terence and myself are all members of New Music Brighton, the largest composers’ collective in the UK.  We host regular concerts at Brighton’s Friends Meeting House (where the Riot Ensemble will also feature in July and October later this year). As it’s a Quaker establishment the intervals are booze-free (obviously the same cannot be said of the post-concert celebrations) so we ply our audiences with cake instead. I am not sure that lemon curd has ever featured on the menu, but if it did then it would taste fresh, zingy and leave you wanting more. And we’ll be bringing some of that culinary magic to North London for this concert!