African Sunrise/Manhatten Rave - 1995
For percussion and full orchestra. Duration, 35 minutes.
Percussion concerto commissioned by the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland, sponsored by Hydro-Electric with a subsidy from the Scottish Arts Council.
When I went to see Evelyn Glennie perform, the thing that struck me was not her marimba playing - which is spectacular - but that she suddenly announced that she was a "rock chick" at heart, sat behind the drum kit and went wild.
I had always wanted to write a piece for drum kit and orchestra and decided to base the second part of this concerto, (Manhatten Rave), on contemporary rave music using drum kit and the orchestra as a "sampled" orchestra behind. My original idea was to use real Stravinsky samples (i.e. three second bursts of the Rite of Spring etc.) but as the piece developed, this became unnecessary.
The chords in the orchestra start with triple open triads accross the beat and as the piece develops the harmonies and rhythms become more and more aggressive and complex until complete anarchy takes over. After a huge climax, there is a short coda section for vibraphone and flugelhorn reminiscent of Miles Davis and Gary Burton, bringing back echoes of the theme from "African Sunrise".
The First section, "African Sunrise", is played on the marimba and uses many different timbres of the instrument from the low almost choral opening (accompanied by thunder and rain machines) to the virtuoso middle section (on the top part of the marimba) to the lyrical final section (played in octaves on the middle of the instrument).
One thing I did want to avoid in this concerto was too much running around from the soloist - and to concentrate on one or two instruments and explore their potential as fully as I could. The soloist only plays marimba, kit drums and vibraphone during the piece and the only running about involved is to the bar afterwards.
Published by Chester Music.
Recorded on Black Box - Featuring Evelyn Glennie and The London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Dave Heath.
First performed by Evelyn Glennie and The Scottish Youth Orchestra - Orkney 1995