Friday, September 17, 2010

The Ten Tors Orchestra in a Yurt

Janners and visitors to Janner-land might have wondered over recent days what the dome-like marquee affair that has appeared in their midst (just south of the sundial in on Armada Way) was all about.
I can't really speak for what's gone on there during previous days, but last night it played host to the Ten Tors Orchestra performing with a series of panorama images projected onto a  full 360˚ screen.

Mrs The Millbrooker, Dozybean and I went along to see what was going on and to listen to the highly regarded  Ten Tors people.

The orchestra is a professional outfit and performs with great aplomb and accomplishment under the direction Simon Ible.
We were treated to Mozart's 10th Symphony (a short piece composed when he was 16) followed by a vivacious and delightful reading of Vivaldi's Four Seasons in its entirety.
After a short interval to allow the smaller bladdered amongst us to use the facilities on the other side of the square, the programme continued with Grainger's arrangement of the Londonderry Air ("Oh, Danny Boy" to you lot in the cheap seats) followed by Haydn's Symphony 45 in Fm "Farewell", with its humorous, but pointed, ending:

"The symphony's nickname comes from the extraordinary final movement. The first half of the movement is quite fast, in accordance with conventional expectations that Haydn himself helped to establish. (Indeed, the first part of the movement is quite similar to the final movement of Haydn's "Mourning" symphony, which he had just completed.) Just as the movement seems to be nearing its conclusion, however, everything stops.

The music which follows is related (by tempo, meter, and tonality) to the serene second movement - hardly the fiery conclusion that the symphony seems to need. Gradually, the various players of the orchestra stop playing, their parts bearing the instruction nicht mehr ("no more") at their individual conclusions. 

By tradition, each player departs the stage after completing his or her part, even though the remainder of the orchestra continues performing. This tradition is believed to stem from the piece's first performance. Haydn's Eszterháza musicians, weary after what had already been a long season (and separated from their families), asked Haydn whether he might convey a message to the Prince about their fatigue. Rather than confront his employer directly, Haydn decided to communicate through his new symphony. Prince Nicolaus got the message - and granted the musicians their vacation shortly after the work's premiere." (Quotation from

So - did the conjoining of panoramic images and orchestral music work? Only partly, I think is the answer. None of what I'm about to say should reflect on the tremendous work of the Ten Tors Orchestra.

I found that the addition of such a visual stimulus distracted me from the music, I found myself unable to give my full and proper attention to either the music or the imagery. In the end I largely gave up on the films and watched the orchestra as I would in a normal concert setting - largely negating the point of the evening's performances, as explained by the compere, which was to re-introduce the 18th-19th century entertainment of travelling panoramas.

The siting of the the venue was also a bit of a distraction, even a top-hole orchestra has difficulty competing with Harley Davidsons and heavy goods vehicles only 100 metres away without solid walls to protect it.

So - will I go and see the Ten Tors Orchestra again? Oh yes, just tell me where and when.

Will I go and see them in a tent in the centre of Plymouth with a film show? Probably not.


Peter Stevens said...

I was not sure how to re-act till I read this excellent summary. I had wanted to comment in similar vein but thought my response might have appeared to be the crotchety comments of an oldie. I tried to take in the music, the panorama, AND the re-actions of the audience, while blocking out the Harley Davidsons etc. It was obvious that the panorama was the loser, because all the audience was looking at the orchestra.

One final comment, the yurt loses the top and bottom resonances of the instruments. So, excellent orchestra, unenjoyable venue.

The Millbrooker said...

Thank you for the kind adjective "excellent" and many thanks for taking the time to comment.