The Poetry of Interaction
I was at a classical music concert last week at the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea. It must be nineteen years since I last sat in that hall listening to the BBC NOW (National Orchestra of Wales) and it was a joy to be back. I can still picture the murals by Frank Brangwyn.
The new decorative and wildly colourful panels showed the people, beauty and the produce of the Empire, although the idea of the British Empire was fast become outmoded at the time. Scenes on the new panels included themes of fantasy, fruit, flora and fauna, from his studies of animals at London Zoo, and images from his travels.
(BBC Wales arts)
The concert was programmed around music from Spain and France. Pieces included Manuel de Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat, Suite No. 1, and Nights in the Gardens of Spain; the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand by Maurice Ravel; Debussy’s Iberia from Images for Orchestra; and ending with a delicious rendition of Ravel’s Bolero.
It has been estimated that during his lifetime Brangwyn produced over 12,000 works. His mural commissions would cover over 22,000 sq ft (2,000 m2) of canvas
The pianist in the two works by de Falla and the Ravel concerto was Angela Hewitt, who I’ve always known of as an exponent of baroque period works, particularly those of J. S. Bach, so it was a real joy to hear her in these orchestral works. Her pieces were all in the first half and the friend who accompanied me (not in the musical sense of the term!) told me that Angela sat in the audience to listen to the second half. I always love it when soloists do that, the last pianist I saw doing that (back in my sighted days) was Boris Beresovsky, again at the Brangwyn Hall, after he’d played one of the Chopin piano concertos — the first if I recall.
The After Party
I was hoping to chat to Angela Hewitt after the performance, just to say how much I enjoyed the concert but she was making her way out of the auditorium before I’d even stood up from my seat. As I too left the auditorium we spotted her selling her CDs of works by Bach and Scarlatti. I've always thought that this is an advantage that poets have over musicians, particularly bands. More often than not there are sales teams manning the merchandise stalls. In the poetry world there’s rarely money to pay the poets let alone pay somebody to staff a merch stall, so we do it ourselves — usually signing them (I say who it’s for, sign my name, give the location and the date ... it is a long time now since I’ve written anything in ink, so this amount of writing stretches my penmanship skills!) Angela shook my hand as I said hello, chatted to me for a couple of minutes, and then shook my hand again as I said goodbye. For me that is the best bit of any live performance — interaction between performer(s) and audience. The works gain an additional dimension when you get to meet the artist. My laptop doesn’t have a CD drive so I didn’t buy any of Angela’s CDs, but I have since bought her recording of J. S. Bach’s Inventions via iTunes. I’ve always known them specifically as the two-part or three-part inventions, which these recordings are not identified as ... but thankfully they are the same pieces! The first piece of Bach I ever played was the two-part invention No. 4 in D minor and I later played the two-part invention No. 14 as one of my GCSE exam practical pieces. :)
And, as a believer in synchronicities, I think that hearing a Canadian-born pianist who studied in Toronto in the same week I submitted an proposal to read at a disability poetics festival very near Toronto, can’t be anything but a good coincidence :)
The Poetry Interaction #BrangwynHall #BBCNOW #AngelaHewitt @HewittJSB