Graham Fitkin & Nick Shipman Celebrate Steve Reich’s 80th Birthday

Wednesday 5th October 2016

Concert Programme

Steve Reich                                     Clapping Music
Graham Fitkin                               The Cone Gatherers
Steve Reich                                     New York Counterpoint
Gabrielle Woodward                    Paperman
Graham Fitkin                               Soft Wac
Graham Fitkin                               Switching (World Premiere)

On Monday 3 October 2016 we were treated to an exceptional concert focusing on the music of Steve Reich and Graham Fitkin, and also Gabrielle Woodward (a former Queen’s Anne’s pupil) who has secured a place to read music at Worcester College, Oxford. The concert acknowledged Steve Reich’s 80th birthday and the world premiere of Graham Fitkin’s Switching, which was commissioned by Queen Anne’s School and The Grey Coat Hospital Foundation.

The concert opened with Steve Reich’s Clapping Music. A work which involves two performers. Reich initially thought Clapping Music would be a phase piece, but this turned out to be rather inappropriate since it introduces a difficulty in musical process (phasing) that is out of place with such a simple way of producing sound. The solution was to have one performer remain fixed, repeating the same basic pattern throughout, while the second moves abruptly, after a number of repeats, from unison to one beat ahead, and so on, until he/she is back in unison with the first performer. The basic difference between these sudden changes and the gradual changes of phase in other Reich pieces is that when phasing one can hear the same pattern moving away from itself with the downbeats of both parts separating further and further apart while the sudden changes here create the sensation of a series of variations of two different patterns with their downbeats coinciding. In Clapping Music it can be difficult to hear that the second performer is in fact always playing the same original pattern as the first performer, though starting in different places. The work was performed with incredible precision by Graham Fitkin and Ruth Wall.

Graham Fitkin then moved into a performance of The Cone Gatherers for solo piano. A composition placed in three movements based on the novel by Robin Jenkins. A dark novel focusing on two brothers, Calum and Neil working in a forest in a Scottish country house during five autumn days in 1943, gathering cones that would replenish the forest which was to be cut down for the war effort. The first movement is abrasive, the second optimistic and the third nostalgic. The work was brilliantly performed by Graham demonstrating his great skills as a virtuosic pianist.

New York Counterpoint was commissioned by The Fromm Music Foundation for clarinettist Richard Stolzman. It was composed during the summer of 1985. The piece is a continuation of the ideas found in Vermont Counterpoint (1982), where a soloist plays against a pre-recorded tape of him or herself. In New York Counterpoint the soloist pre-records ten clarinet and bass clarinet parts and then plays a final 11th part live against the tape. Nick Shipman performed this work with great precision with the solo clarinet line interacting brilliantly with the pre-recorded lines. The third movement was every effective with Nick Shipman taking full control of the change of tempo which is abrupt and in the simple ratio of 1:2.

At this stage in the concert we were given the opportunity to hear Gabrielle Woodward’s The Paperman.  A stunning work which was performed in last year’s Speech Day. Revisiting this work reminded us all of Gabrielle’s exceptional compositional talent and exciting years she has ahead of her. Gabrielle had the opportunity to work with Graham on this composition and many of her other works in the afternoon. A great tutorial prelude to Gabrielle’s first days at Worcester College, Oxford where one of her Professors will be the distinguished composer, Robert Saxton.

Graham Fitkin’s performance of Soft Wac, performed by Graham and Ruth Wall demonstrated physical and musical acrobatics of the highest order! This work was greatly appreciated by the audience and linked with aspects of the Voces8 method and our work associated with BrainCanDo.

We then came to the final work: the world premiere of Switching.  A similar work to Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint, involving a solo clarinet line set against ten pre-recorded clarinet lines. The work demanded great performing virtuosity and Nick Shipman’s execution of the composition was outstanding. On one level, the composition is quite terrifying: it requires incredible precision with the solo line juxtaposed against/with the pre-recorded material. Nick demonstrated exceptional skill in his performance of this work.

A remarkable evening: the standard of musicianship was simply outstanding – one could have been at The South Bank Centre or The Wigmore Hall, but no, this fine music was performed at Queen Anne’s which was appropriately promoted by Petroc Trelawny on Radio 3, Monday morning.

Queen Anne’s School has become an Associate for the Fitkin Band 2016 Project.

Fitkin Band 2016 Project

We will be producing a double album of tracks including newly commissioned music.  We will also produce a book including interviews, score extracts and images by award winning photographer Lottie Davies. Alongside these, we are working with over 100 students from two universities – University of Greenwich and University of Falmouth – creating apps, choreography, remixes of exclusive tracks and architectural work based around Graham’s music. The band will then be touring the UK in November, and the album will be released to synchronise with the tour.

The recording at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios commenced on 15 August.  

Mark Richards, Deputy Head Academic