Emily White and Steve Bingham

Trombone, Sackbut, Violin, Electric Violin, Electric Bass Violin, Percussion and Vocals

Saturday 25 October 2014 • 7.30pm
Tin Hut, Gartly (map)

Review by Alan Rogers

Emily White and Steve Bingham

I should declare an interest; I'm part of the team organising these Music Centeral events, and I'm immensely proud of this one. Emily and Steve have performed in Huntly before, and I was at their concert at Woodend Barn some years ago when they gave the premiere of David Ward's e-mails from Palestine, which concluded the programme.

Both halves began similarly with somewhat processional pieces by Hildegard of Bingen and Guillaume de Machaut arranged for violin and sackbut, which functioned as overtures to what followed. Steve gave a flawless rendition of Michael Nyman's Time Lapse from Greenaway's A Zed & Two Noughts, using electric violin loops to play all the parts himself. Live looping is what Steve does best, or so I thought, but his rendering of the Bach violin Partita in D minor concluded the first half and was quite simply stunning. I've heard and seen this played by some pretty exalted fiddlers over the years, but I don't think I've ever been so excited by a performance. It felt dangerous, and drew a universal standing ovation from the select audience, who clearly recognised a good thing.

Emily White and Steve Bingham

Music Centeral usually tries to include performances of works by local school pupils – only two this time, a charming folksy violin duet from Esther Smith, and the very quirky Jock of Angus by Iona Fyfe, which included some adventurous harmonies and interesting melodic twists. A pity neither young composer could attend; they would surely have felt very proud to be slotted in between Machaut's Douce dame jolie and David Ward's e-mails....

Given the subject matter, e-mails... must be considered a work of protest, setting Jane Frere's email texts to some pretty complex expressive music. It's angry music, now recorded for the first time (release date to be announced), but so theatrical when Emily and Steve perform it that I doubt a sound-only recording could really do it justice. A version for five players exists, but we heard it from only two; their virtuosity was astounding! Instantaneous changes from violin to trombone and back again while singing from Emily, juggling two electric violins, computer, drum, high-hat and electronic foot pedals from Steve (I'm sure he used three feet at one point). This was music theatre of a high order, and really deserves a wider audience.

A lighter encore piece then to send us home a little happier, another Bartók violin duet to add to the pair played in the first half. Wonderful, and huge thanks to everyone who helped make it happen.

Photos by Neville Rigby

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