It has been a long and rewarding project with the Lincoln Ukulele Band as part of the 2015-16 Adopt a Composer scheme. I’ve got a lot out of this project, including a Ukulele! I also got far more joy and pride out of the process than I expected. This was because I got to see how members of the band were growing as musicians over an entire year. I hadn’t expected my piece to have such an impact on the band. It took them completely outside their normal comfort zone, requiring them to play separate parts, play as an ensemble, follow a conductor, explore unusual techniques, and to get deep inside the sounds through more attentive listening. It also really brought on their perceptions of rhythm, and ability to count. It was great to see the band go from a point of perhaps feeling the piece was impossible to being able to approach it with great enthusiasm and confidence.
The band really did themselves proud on 7th December 2016, the premiere date of my piece Ukulele Fantasy and their very first solo concert ever! They had put together a really fantastic concert, with history of the Ukulele, music from different periods and genres all the way to modern day and my piece!
The concert day was a one of nerves and excitement. The band was rehearsing well when I arrived and had improved even more since I had last seen them a week or so before. The opening of my piece explores unusual sounds that the Ukulele can make, trying to conjure up the sounds of night time as the sun gradually rises, evoking rustling in the undergrowth and wind chimes. Its builds up to a loud dramatic chord that starts an energetic rhythmic section. This section uses the symbols and sounds I developed with the band over the course of the year.
When the performance of Ukulele Fantasy finally came round I had that familiarly odd feeling that any composer sat in the audience awaiting to listening to their piece experiences. That odd feeling of being nervous yet knowing its completely pointless as its now out of your control. On this day, however, I felt an added anticipation and nerves for the band themselves. I had heard them run through the piece several times earlier in the day which were excellent renditions of the piece and hoped and prayed they would all hold their nerve in performance. The Lincoln Ukulele band did not let me down giving an assured and confident performance. There were a few nervous hiccups but their recovery from these is a tribute to how they have developed as musicians and learnt to cope with mistakes and problems as the music is flowing. I was very proud of the band and my piece and I still am. I am greatly looking forward to hearing BBC Radio 3’s broadcast of my piece on:
Thursday 26 January
9:25pm – Lincoln Ukulele Band / Angela Slater
Do tune in if you can!
After the performance, we all gave a sigh of relief in the interval over a glass of mulled wine. It was lovely to receive positive comments from the audience, many of whom had been really captivated by the opening section and never knew that the Ukulele could achieve such sounds. One audience member, Liz Ashoo, found the piece so interesting they got in touch with the band afterwards and wrote this reflection on the piece and performance:
Starting quietly with creative uses of the instruments themselves, it was as if the natural world of dunes and fen with their grasses and microscopic wildlife was slowly emerging to greet the day. Elements of air, water and fire coalesced. Images of wind and rain grew into storm, reminding the listener of another world beyond that of the concert hall and as the music gathered pace there was a sense of exploding fireworks as if in triumphant praise of nature and her many moods. Then stillness.
Amongst the busy rush of pre-Christmas days, this was an unexpected treat; a time to briefly withdraw from the bustle of the day and focus solely on the images being offered by the music. At a time when repetitive Christmas songs are everywhere, it was utterly refreshing to hear an original, contemporary piece played sensitively and with conviction.
So my Adopt a Composer journey has come to an end, but somehow I don’t think this will be my last project for Ukulele or with the Lincoln Ukulele band! Looking forward to future music making!