Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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Len Mullenger:

Music for trombone.
John Kenny
The Voice of the Carnyx
David Home Sonata for trombone and piano
Edward McGuire
Zephyr for trombone and string quartet
John Purser Skyelines for trombone and organ
David Dorward 0 how I love Thee
Tom Bancroft Bone Tone Poem
John Maxwell Geddes Leo Dreaming

John Kenny (trombone) with David Home (piano) John Kitchen (organ) Tom Bancroft (drums) John Whiting (sound projection) Chamber Group of Scotland.
British Music Label BML 016
Amazon UK
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And now for something completely different.

The carnyx was a long Celtic trumpet known throughtout Europe as long ago as 200BC. Romans used it to terrify enemies and in John Kenny's piece for four carnyxs we are impressed, alarmed and excited by primitive, blood-curdling sounds of bellicose pageantry.

David Home was born in Stirling in 1970 and first came to our attention as a pianist but he has since studied composition in the USA and, among his teachers, was Ned Rorem. The Trombone Sonata is a well-written piece solving the problems of balance admirably by prudent solo work as well as duo work. The biting second movement is irresistibly contagious and perhaps some of Kenny's own savage music can be detected here.

Edward McGuire is a curious person and I mean that kindly. He was bom in Glasgow in 1948 and has composed some fine orchestral scores. And yet for over twenty years he has been a member of the Whistlebinkies, a Scottish folk group. Zephyr is a clever piece which, consequently, may leave some uneducated listeners behind. And it is a large piece as well. A zephyr is a light breeze and the composer suggests that the piece is like a journey over scenes of human suffering. I found the final pages of Home's Sonata with its crying trombone to be more rewarding and evocative. What, however, is fascinating about McGuire's piece is its wide range of sonorities and its honest originality although four and a quarter minutes in to the work we are transported to a previous age. The result is intriguing but I am puzzled by it. The result is a cross between trashy science -fiction such as Star Trek and the three ghosts showing Scrooge his life.. But Mr McGuire must not be offended at these comments since his work has caused me to think hard about it which is a clear indication that it is not a superficial piece. When I have plumbed its depths I will like it even more, although it is slightly too long.

John Purser is a poet and playwright as well as a composer of Irish descent as shown in his orchestral score Epitaph 1916. He is passionately interested in the history of Scottish music and has lectured on this subject many times. Skyelines, as the title suggests, refers to the coastal scenery of the Isle of Skye coupled with the changing moods of the weather. It is a conventional piece and I felt that the organ was too distant at times but, beware, of one absolutely tremendous moment!

Visitors to this website should read my biography of the Scottish composer, David Dorward. His piece, O How I Love Thee is not based on the Song of Solomon but comes from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream where a magic spell causes Queen Titania to fall in love with Bottom the weaver who has been turned into an ass. Britten set this as an opera in 1960 because he loved the alternative meanings of fairies and the ass. In his work, David Dorward vividly portrays these ludicrous situations in a work that calls for exceptional skill which Kenny provides.

And to the final work. John Maxwell Geddes is another fine composer .Sadly, he is under-rated but that does not deter from the fact that he is a composer of outstanding talent. His instrumental pieces are very fine and his writing for the voice is perfect as the late Susan Kessler once told me. He is also a very likeable man with a sense of humour that you do not usually associate with Scottish people. His Symphony no.2 was written in memory of Bryden Thomson , Scotland's finest conductor.

Leo was John's cat, a very large cat and well-known in Scotland. The piece, which uses three trombones and sound projection depicts Leo's adventures in his dreams. Watch out for the jungle scene. The exploitation of the trombone is enough to make a fakir stare to quote from another cat. And you will detect the snoring as well as the sleeping.

Different, but welcome. And John Kenny is the undoubted champion trombone player.

Seconds out!


David Wright



see also Carnyx & Co


David Wright



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