Monday, August 24, 2020

Arthur Street Loft Orchestra: Daniel Beban

It’s always bit of a rush to get into Wellington straight from work but I made it nevertheless. I was keen to get along this week as a Daniel Beban led large ensemble is hard to resist, plus I missed him last time I was part of the ASLO series. This was the first time I’ve managed to get along to season 10(?). Also, it was first gig I have attended during level two restrictions. Social distancing was in place (as best it could be) and ticket sales were limited to 40 in order to help facilitate this. It was nice to see a decent crowd in – I guess it was sold out.

The evening started with Beban’s composition for two tubas and percussion. Joe Lindsay and Dan Yeabsley were droning on the tubas and Cory Anderson and Daniel Beban filled bowls, placed inside the tuba bells, with various bits and pieces to rattle around (balls, beads, chain, tambourines etc). The constant drone with the ever-changing shimmer and rattling made for a nice way to relax following the drive into the city. The piece ended somewhat abruptly, to applause and laughter, as Dan ran out of steam and the tuba won.
The main event was “Daily Deaths” - sonic interpretations of COVID--19 daily death counts from eight countries (I recall Italy and Afghanistan getting a mention, and saw Brazil was on the conductors music stand). The 16-piece ensemble comprised of pairs of Trumpet, Trombone, Tuba, Alto Sax, Bass Clarinet, Flute, Violin, and Bass. And each pair was assigned a country to play. It might seem a pretty opportunistic approach to music making (much like all those streaming playlists that take advantage of words like COVID or isolation). But, unlike those playlists, the results were worthwhile. Early on, breathe sounds were prominent and the droning vibe continued. At times there was a disorientating feeling as I couldn’t always tell what instruments were producing what sounds. Beban was conducting the work, and while the hands signals meant nothing to me (and sometimes I didn’t notice a marked difference when he signalled something), when he took control of the dynamics the piece took on some welcome variety. Up until then, dynamic shifts had been less abrupt, but this section had various parts of the of the ensemble swelling and falling bring a completely different energy to the piece. Jake Baxendale used the term “beautifully tragic” to describe the music - he was on point.
Once again, solid programming from the Jake - this season has had plenty of variety, and hopefully I can get to more. 

New Zealand Jazz