Leighton Buzzard Music Club : Iain Farrington’s concert ‘A night of light’

On Saturday 17th of March  Iain Farrington made a welcome return to Leighton Buzzard to play a light classical programme. But not the naff, light classical one gets in lifts. Dear me no.

Farrington began with his own arrangement of the ‘Sailor’s Hornpipe’, which immediately demonstrated his liking for ‘a good tune’ and a light, scampering touch on the piano. He plays in praise of strong, simple melody and harmony.

Big composing names often dash off something lighter between major works. We now enjoyed one such by Elgar. He wrote it late in life, when he had, arguably, already written his best music. Simple little ‘Serenade’ is light and charming and soothes the soul.

William Walton’s ‘Façade’ began life as a single suite for piano and Edith Sitwell bellowing poetry down a megaphone. It also has many half lives. ‘Popular Song’ may be the best known ‘song’ from the suite. It is music which demands one perform a soft shoe shuffle – one long musical witticism: marvellous. Percy Grainger’s ‘Country Garden’ came next. Farrington’s jazz and blues influences brought out nuances of this quintessentially English tune that I’d never heard before.

Billy Mayerl was popular on the radio between the wars, influenced by “stride” piano and ragtime, Art Tatum and Scott Joplin – much like Farrington himself. Three short Mayerl pieces followed. ‘All of a Twist’ was in the Walton mould; furiously fast, bluesy and full of notes. ‘Marigold’ was syncopated in a ‘Kids’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you’ style. ‘Railroad Rhythm’ incorporated the sound of the wheels on the rails, the whistle, the train rushing by and a final mournful hoot as it disappeared.

Both Mayerl and Gershwin had great technique and an ear that enabled them to unify jazz, blues and pop within a classical structure. Three Gershwin pieces arranged by Farrington completed the first half of the programme. ‘It ain’t necessarily so’ was a full-blooded, vibrant musical statement. ‘Someone to watch over me’ had the song peeping through a glorious supporting swirl of music, which finally died away before Farrington launched into ‘I got rhythm’, which became faster and more furious until …the interval.

Farrington’s own composition,  ‘Fiesta’, began the second half. The seven short movements celebrate life. In ‘Conversation’ Farrington figures sharply observed conversations within the music. ‘Stride Dance’ ramps up the excitement. ‘Song’ gives us time to, maybe, smooch a little. ‘Fast Dance’ has a Peter Gunn-ish quality shading towards the sinister. ‘Nocturne’ allows us to sit down outside for a moment in the cool, night breeze. ‘Finale’ drives us back onto the dance floor. The tempo is furious, the volume up to eleven. The neighbours are complaining!

Farrington enjoys arranging seminal pieces of modern music: the Beatles’ ‘Strawberry fields forever’ and ABBA’s ‘Money, money, money’ being two. ‘Strawberry fields’ is Lennon’s haven. A bell tolls, there is nostalgia, a hint of nightmare; things aren’t quite what they seem. ‘Money, money, money’ has the Lizt-ish robustness of melody which Andersson and Ulvaeus were so good at. Farrington’s arrangment riffed around the motif, flirting, departing, returning.

Art Tatum enjoyed jazzing the classical repertoire. He arranged ‘Humoresque’ from Dvořák’s cycle of piano pieces, giving it smart new dancing shoes: here were blue notes and jazz variations. The music was breaking out all over. ‘Humoresque’ ragged! And, to close, here was Tatum’s furious ‘Tiger Rag’: wham, bam and thank you Ma’am!

Farrington shared one final piece with us as an encore: the tiny ‘Exit’ from his own ‘Animal Parade’ suite.

It’s great to see and hear someone keeping the spirit of ragtime and its relations jazz and blues alive – and adding to the canon. No need to hide this music away in an elevator!

Published by Judi Moore

Hi there, I hope you find something to interest you here. In December 2017 I published my fourth book – ‘Wonders will never cease’. It’s a satirical campus novel set in the fictional Ariel University in 1985. If you enjoyed Tom Sharpe’s Porterhouse novels, Willy Russell’s ‘Educating Rita’, David Lodge’s campus novels or Malcolm Bradbury’s ‘The History Man’ back in the day, you may enjoy revisiting the ivory towers of 1980s’ academe thirty years on. See what you think. “It is December, 1985. The year is winding gently towards its close until Fergus Girvan, a Classicist at Ariel University, finds his research has been stolen by the man who is also seeking to steal his daughter. But which man is, actually, the more unscrupulous of the two? And is there hope for either of them?” In the autumn of 2015 I published a volume of short fiction: 'Ice Cold Passion and other stories'. I am also the author of novella 'Little Mouse', a shortish piece of historical fiction which I published in 2014 and, a sequel to it, 'Is death really necessary?', my eco thriller set in the near future and which, confusingly, I published in 2009. All the books are available from all good online bookshops and FeedARead on paper, and as e-books on Kindle. On a semi-regular basis, and about a month after the event, I post here reviews which I do for Big Al & Pals, the premier reviewer of indie books, based in the States. My interests tend to thrillers, SF, magic realism and other quirky stuff. On this blog are also posted the reviews I did for Leighton Buzzard Music Club over some five years up to the end of 2015. LBMC present annual seasons of eight monthly chamber music concerts at the Library Theatre in Leighton Buzzard, Bucks. They select young musicians just beginning to make their name - and the concerts are usually magnificent. I was very proud to be associated with them. I review other music, books, theatre and exhibitions which I've particularly enjoyed. BTW - it says the link to Facebook is broken. I dispute that. Click it and see, why not?

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