CLASSICAL MUSIC

Ensemble Bash, BBC World Service International Recital St George's, Bristol
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The Independent Culture
This series of World Service concerts is a model of good practice, though unfortunately a difficult one to transfer to other contexts. As admission is free, no one feels they've got to get their money's worth, and the whole thing is over in less than an hour. The musicians get on with it, everyone retains their concentration, and you get the added thrill of listening in situ to what is being relayed live to listeners in Kuala Lumpur and all points around the globe. The intensity of the experience was particularly valuable for a programme of percussion music, where the sweet sounds of vibraphones, xylophones and marimbas are perhaps best consumed, like sticky buns, in short measures

As if mindful of the old BBC Radio convention whereby announcers wore evening dress to communicate with their invisible listeners, the four members of Ensemble Bash were smartly turned out on Sunday in shiny four- button suits that made them look like a mid-Sixties pop group on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. This also chimed with the repertoire, which opened with an arrangement of Lennon and McCartney's "Rain", and went on to feature a composition by the ex-Police drummer, Stewart Copeland. The Beatles tune was beautifully played, the marimba and xylophone textures shimmering with moire patterns like the electric hues of those shiny suits.

Copeland's The Gene Pool was a more substantial piece, and the first to feature the trap-drums, which kept up a rocky pulse against which the lighter colours of the marimbas stuttered fitfully, punctuated by beats on the sundry surfaces of the stage's full complement of percussive kit. Copeland - who years ago composed the brilliant soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola's film Rumblefish - had told the Ensemble that The Gene Pool was about "the urge of species to procreate", and it was satisfyingly primal and convulsive, played with great energy and conviction.

Shining Through by Nick Hayes, which followed, was less forcefully shaped, leaving space for improvisation in its progression from quiet cymbal-strokes to a climax of samba-like rhythmic figures, before the sound eventually died out in a classic "Have they finished yet?" indeterminate ending.

The broadcast section of the concert closed with the exquisite miniature of Chick Corea's Children's Songs No 13, before we in the hall were rewarded with a reprise of Yaa Yaa Kole, an arrangement of a courting song from Ghana.

It was the climax to a wonderful hour squeezed out of a lazy Sunday afternoon, and yet another reason why the BBC's World Service should be saved for posterity. And Ensemble Bash? They're great too.

Remaining concerts in the series: Skampa Quartet playing Mozart and Martin, Sunday 2 March; Spirit Talk Mbira, directed by Chartwell Dutiro, Sunday 9 March, both at 2pm at St George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol

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