The Scotsman Review
Well, the review of our concert was published in yesterday's Scotsman (pg 42). The link will take you to the on-line copy - we are the second review down.
It seems the reviewer was not very impressed, but we are taking many positives from it. Firstly, Chip's major influences are Copland and Bernstein, neither of which are played much here. Many of our friends and musical colleagues are just beginning to discover them. The 'American sound', created by Copland really permeates much of Chip's music and was bound to sound foreign and perhaps a bit chaotic to ears more used to the European model. On the other hand, audience reaction has been enthusiastic. We have received numerous comments that the music was emotional and moving. We had 2 retired symphonic trombonists in the audience and both commented that the music was different than anything they had played in their careers, and at the same time was thrilling and seemed fun to play.
We found the reviewer's 'Vanity Publishing' comment rather humorous. The roll of composers who have done this through the various eras includes many of the greats - not the least, Mozart. As a composer if you have no formal affiliation with the Church, Academia, or a major orchestra, you have no choice but to mount performances of your own music. It seems superfluous to point this out.
The reviewer stated that the supporting text (from the programme notes) explaining how Chip based the String Quartet on the music styles from his favourite rock band bore little relation to the music performed. While it lacked a driving drum rhythm, many of the vocalists with Stevenson Choir were bouncing around back stage dancing to the music - so they obviously felt the beat. Then she claims that the Quartet was mostly restricted to tune with accompaniment. Hmmm... Rock is a largely 'tune with accompaniment' genre. Perhaps it would have been easier to see the connections if the quartet had been set with vocals.
Her comments on the opera we take in a very positive light!! Partway between Tommy and Tosca is EXACTLY where we were aiming! Opera audiences are ageing, and the art-form is facing the crisis of dwindling audiences and rising costs. I don't think opera will die. After-all, there have been predictions of it's demise for over a century and it is still here. But, reading the accounts of the other 'crises' it has successfully overcome in the past hundred years, one thing is sure - the key is to get new audience through the doors. We purposely are writing this opera to appeal to a younger crowd and yet point towards the great operatic tradition. So the review tells us we have hit that particular nail on the head!!
Many of the members of our audience, as well as those of the choir had never really listened to opera and commented that before this they thought opera was all stuffy characters and screechy sopranos. Our Baritone is the lead singer in the band Milophobia, and he says he is always singing the opera around the house - to the point that his band-mates razz him about going poncy!
In the end run we are actually really pleased with this review. Whether we 'Vanity Published' or not, we were noticed by a major newspaper. She does have some legitimate comments, and if we, as Americans hope to have our music played in the UK we might need to look at how we approach it. Would a change in programme notes have completely changed the review? Would a different programme order? Would mic-ing the Quartet's instruments as we had originally considered, adding distortion where appropriate, have helped the 'Rock' elements to have come through?
At this point, it is all a learning experience and we are really pleased with what we are learning!!