Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Composer flies the flag for marching band tunes

A century ago American pioneer Charles Ives was imitating the sound of marching bands in his music.

In Flags and Emblems, a new Ulster Orchestra commission, Belfast composer Ian Wilson went one better, by involving a real band (the Ballygowan Flute) in the performance.

At the Whitla Hall premiere, the Ballygowan sat on the left of the floor area accommodating most of the players, with the Ulster Orchestra (minus strings) opposite, and pianist Matthew Schellhorn in between. It was a striking spectacle, with a large battery of percussion ranged onstage, and the crimson Ballygowan uniforms contrasted graphically with the traditional stage-black of the orchestra.

Wilson used band, orchestra and soloist in shifting combinations, and occasionally together.

Making his conducting debut with the Ulster Orchestra, Wilson drew a predictably tight, assured performance from the players, confirming that Flags and Emblems is an innovative, vividly imagined piece, worthy of repeat performances.

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