Bug Sandwich

I attended an excellent concert last night as part of the Royal Exchange Theatre’s series of six o’clock concerts. The title for the concert was Bug Sandwich and consisted of three new works for voice and piano by Gavin Wayte, Alan Williams and Cameron Harris. Gavin Wayte was also the pianist and ‘compere’ for the evening.

First up were five songs from Alan E. Williams’ 12 Storeys High performed by soprano Zoe Milton-Brown. I have heard this piece performed before by the same musicians after H.K. Gruber’s Weil concert, and it was a real pleasure to hear it again. The music is a very accessible mix of lieder, music theatre and Jazz perfect for this kind of gathering.

The second song cycle/monodrama was Gavin Wayte’s Metamorphosis, based on the Franz Kafka story of the same name about a man who wakes up to find himself transformed into an insect. In order to reduce Kafka’s story down to something that can be performed only by a pianist and baritone, in this case Marcus Farnsworth, Gavin had to write his own libretto as well as compose all the music. Often, it can be quite a gamble for a composer to write his own text, but in this case the gamble paid off. The libretto conveyed the story clearly and with great drama, assisted in no small way by Marcus’ excellent performance. Musically, this was an extremely satisfying piece that exploited the the baritone’s voice fully and contained some wonderfully delicate harmonies in the piano part.

Cameron Harris’ Land of the Broken String, a of setting three poems by indigenous South African poets, followed with Zoe Milton-Brown returning to sing . As with the previous two song cycles, Cameron’s piece was very classy and rounded the whole evening off nicely.

As you will have gathered, the title of the concert, Bug Sandwich, is a reference to Kafka’s Metamorphosis. However, there was a mildly amusing moment when one of the audience, being interviewed as part of a video of the concert, announced that she had really enjoyed A Bug’s Life.

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