Online, April 26, 2020
The room is packed. Gongs and cowbells hang from hooks on the back of the door. There are drums pushed against the wall and what looks like an exploded bicycle wheel to one side. In the middle of the screen is an array of rosewood bars that make up virtuoso percussionist Claire Edwardes’ massive, five-octave marimba.
Moving the marimba – a mellower version of the xylophone, with metal tubes beneath each bar to increase the instrument’s resonance – is one of Edwardes’ least favourite activities. As she explains to the select audience for this online concert from her front room studio, at least COVID-19 has saved her the hassle of transporting the unwieldy beast between the many concert halls she should have been in this month.
Edwardes then launches into a thoughtfully constructed hour of percussion solos, beginning with a Bach chorale and ending with two world premieres. Her own improvisation, Ether Lines, is an intimate and rewarding introduction to the bizarre waterphone, while Elena Kats-Chernin’s Violet’s Etude is a mesmeric cascade of notes. Andrew Ford’s new work, Hook, is the most demanding and, ultimately, most satisfying work on the program, at once playful and menacing, as every good fairytale should be. Finally, Ella Macens’ Falling Embers, composed during the 2019-20 summer of fire, is a deeply affecting miniature, with timbres delicately layered into a moment of emotionally-charged stillness.