Water Music

It’s Handel’s 250th Anniversary this year. Part of the Greenwich and Docklands Festival involves a son et lumiere ‘Water Music.’

I thought I’d better go last night before the ‘Water’ part became a little too real (the weather forecast’s dreadful for tonight and tomorrow) and – yes, I’m glad I went. With the odd reservation.

IMHO the lumiere bit is much better than the son. Presumably there’s no funding for a straight rendition of a 250 year-old work, so a new piece was composed and played, a bit too straight-faced.

Now, I’m generally fine with avant-garde music, and this was okay – tinging and bonging, sirens and low-notes played on the tuba, pretending to be ships’ horns. But it never really sounded ‘fresh.’ In fact, for me it only began to blossom in the rare moments when they played snatches of Handel’s original.
It all felt a bit – well – ‘cliched-contemporary’ to me – the sort of sounds I’d expect from someone trying to re-interpret the Thames, London’s history and Handel’s classic without sounding uncool to his mates. There were some frankly unnecessary spoken bits, which smacked of wanting to ‘appeal to the kids’ by including asinine comments made by – who? I have no idea who was speaking or, indeed, why.
I positively squirmed when members of the band started humming the famous bits – it felt like taking the piss out of a distinguished old gentleman.

What I will give it is that it was beautifully played. Trinity College is one of the best in the country – and its sheer class shone through last night. These guys were professional in the extreme – especially given that that lumiere must have created some interesting conditions to play in. They played incredibly well.

Which brings me onto the lumiere – worth making the effort to go to this event for on its own. It was great fun. Mainly watery images – taps and waves, bubbles and jets, mixed in with old paintings, silhouettes and cartoons. Wonderful.
I do recommend this. As you’ll have surmised, I wasn’t particularly jazzed with the music – it just felt like it was trying too hard. But the event as a whole was great. I mean – anything that starts at 10.00pm and has flashing lights has that little extra excitement value for a sad Phantom like me. And it’s certainly worth the entrance fee ;-)

Bring something to sit on, a woolly (however warm it is earlier) and a book to read if you’re going to get there early to secure a good place. A mac might be a good idea too, tonight. Oh – and bring your camera – as virtually everyone last night seemed to have done. There will be a LOT of photos flying round the web. And I see no harm in joining them.

As I left, I could see the fireworks from the other big event, over at Millwall Dock on the Isle of Dogs. If it’s not totally bogging with rain tonight…


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