MUSIC / Out of service: Reservoir - St Giles Cripplegate

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The Independent Culture
'Reservoir, the chamber orchestra that harangued the Hecklers, offers the public a chance to cheer, jeer, hail, rail, root or hoot at their concert on Friday 30 September at St Giles Cripplegate.' Sadly, I have to report no jeers, hails, roots or toots, even if there was the odd cheer of relief.

Reservoir is a new group founded in 1993 by the conductor Mikel Toms, pianist Ian Pace and composer Ben Morison. Their publicity suggests that they are the brightest new thing on the new music trail. The main problem with the Cripplegate concert was that it was impossible to tell. Church acoustics are wonderful for voices and strings, but utterly inappropriate to music demanding any clarity. Church pews do little to comfort the restive spirit, especially when perambulation might be more appropriate. Seldom have I missed the Round House so fervently. Reservoir should review the whole notion of giving a formal concert in a formal venue of music crying out for a less formal space.

The programme itself was an intriguing mix, but the first ear-shattering blows from the percussionist in Xenakis's Palimpsest easily drowned out the rest of the ensemble and left the small audience stunned.

Satie's The Sting of the Jellyfish provided balm - a series of miniature miniatures, charming, droll, very, very short. It's good to know that Satie is to be Reservoir's 'Composer in Association'.

Barry Guy shares with Xenakis an architectural training and, like Xenakis, his scores are notable for the beauty of their draughtsmanship. The score for Bird Gong Game is laid out on a table in front of the conductor, who chooses cards - with symbols drawn from a painting by Alan Davie - to show the ensemble, a fixed group of wind and trumpet with percussion, what to play when, while a soloist improvises freely. Two versions performed with two soloists - Guy himself on double-bass, and the resourceful Australian flautist Jim Denley - showed how different the same piece can sound - but, with a moving structure, it could hardly be otherwise.

At 30 minutes, Cage's QUIM, A Circus on Tropic of Capricorn was agonising. Circus On is a set of rules for converting books into music - in this case, Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn, dredged through for references to sounds and places realised 'live', and on tape, in an apparently random ramble.

John Zorn is a composer with a self-confessed 'incredibly short attention span'. Demanding the largest ensemble, the 'soundbites' of his For Your Eyes Only hinted that Reservoir has some talented players. But only time and a different venue will tell.

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