A REVIEW: Bones Apart performing with Cheddar Valley Music Club
21st May, 2019 by Jude Owens
Wednesday 15 May 2019 in the Kings Theatre in Cheddar
Internationally acclaimed trombone quartet Bones Apart certainly played for their supper with panache on a return visit to Cheddar last week.
During the day, Bones Apart (A.K.A. Jayne Murrill, Becky Smith, Helen Vollam and Sarah Williams) led demos and brass workshops with student musicians, before performing in the evening concert; bringing together talented professionals, young protégées and other community brass players. For all that they had only rehearsed together a few hours – or perhaps because of it; there was an air of anticipation throughout the evening as Bones Apart opened with Monteverdi’s jaunty, yet somehow formal duo of “Golden Tresses” and “Donna alla Tutta Bella” as the audience slipped into the mood. The very real pleasure of live music.
Next up, from France to Italy, and two pieces by composer sisters Lilly and Nadia Boulanger. “Jardin Clair” was quite perfect for strolling in a garden on a summer’s evening – with lilting and delicate touches. Whilst “Chanson,” was like a garden awakening – sparkling sunshine and burgeoning joy.
First up for the students was “Amazing Grace.” Every note, truly so. Beautiful and heartening harmonies that resounded sincerely in the soul. By contrast, “Brazil” was playful and dancey foot-tapping fun. Prolonging the fast tempo, Cheddar Valley Music Club’s first outing, “Pedal Pusher” was dramatic, powerful and confident. If music was animate, this piece would have run into the theatre, turned to the audience and performed with gutsy, grinning glee. Brass at its best. Followed by, “I’ve got Rhythm” – singy-swingy swaying and charmingly choreographed music. Better and brassier.
Back to Bones Apart and a Catalan folk song, “Son of Mary” was gentle and nurturing. The sense of a beginning. Yet with passion, energy and momentum. In contrast, “The Intermedio” from La Boda de Luis Alonso by Geronimo Gimenez was vigorous. An arresting opening. Surprises, twirls and flourishes aplenty. Clever playing that was fast-paced with lots of puff and page-turning; yet made trombone-ing appear artfully too easy.
In the second half, as part of Bones Apart’s Wonder Woman programme (as a female in the audience of a certain age, I felt a thrilling frisson back to my 70’s childhood!). A tango. Tangoes for me, are always edgy. A spirit of danger on the dance floor. Full of promise and expectation. “La Cumparsita” was utterly fabulous and accomplished. Smoochy music made for a sultry evening.
A world première next for Bones Apart (in Cheddar!). “Both Sides Now” from the film “Love Actually” by Joni Mitchell. Wistful and emotional. I almost expected the quartet to burst into tears at any moment. “Blues Melba” by Melba Liston was classy sassy brass. I pictured the composer strutting about like her music (and as an amusing biographical aside, Melba needed a chaperone at all times to protect men - from her!).
“Deep River” performed by the students was soothing and gentle like melting chocolate, contrasting with the next piece, a Spanish Gypsy dance with its gallopy opening and happy holiday pace, yet clear notes.
Back to the pros and the Judy Garland set with “Meet Me in St Louie” (“the trolley song” to film buffs), with all the rhythmic thrill of a moving train. All aboard! I should have been wearing my red shoes for the next piece. Delightfully sweet and tender and real, “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz was definitely one to click my heels to (oh, why didn’t I wear my red shoes??!). Still with Judy G and red shoes, “Get Happy” from the 1950 film “Summer Stock” was lovely, lively and cheering, as if the trombonists were singing the words. Toe tappingly teasing.
Next, Bones Apart and all the players from the workshops combined forces as an orchestra supremo to perform “Sway.” Grand Big Band and filmic fantastic. By now the audience were teetering to dizzy musical heights. So, Frank Sinatra’s “New York New York” crescendo was an exuberant (nearly) end. But not quite! They had an old favourite up their sleeve. “Stars and Stripes” was eye-wateringly, pacey, impressive playing. The brass shone. Hands slid up and down their instruments. Red faced, yet with endless puff for this regimented musical marching, and always ever, ever faster. The audience were on the edge of their seats. Until I thought they might burst. Yet, how else should a concert end of such creative calibre and capability and wonderful collaboration between professionals and pupils?
A warm thank you to Cheddar Valley Music Club teacher and leader Anne Higgs for organising the workshop and concert and to Bones Apart for bringing their love for brass music to Cheddar.