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Thursday 3rd May 2018 - 7:30pm

Rhapsody In Blue

Clark Rundell conducts the RLPO, saxophonist Iain Ballamy and pianist Julian Joseph live from Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool. Presented by Tom Redmond. 

Julian performs Ellington, Gershwin and his own Symphonic Stories (includes UK Premiere of new movement).

'Set' for Saxophone and Orchestra. 

Iain performs Gary Carpenter's concerto 'Set' for Saxophone and Orchestra. 

Gary Carpenter - composer
Clark Rundell - conductor
Iain Ballamy - saxophone

Post Concert Question Time - starts 15 minutes after the concert ends, in the Music Room, with Gary Carpenter, Clark Rundell, Iain Ballamy and Julian Joseph.


Notes on 'Set' by Gary Carpenter

Iain Ballamy and I met in the 2010 at the Loch Shiel Festival where we had both been commissioned to write pieces. One mellow, whisky-ed evening by the hotel fire, we got to discussing the tenor saxophone and the orchestra from which the idea for this piece grew.

The title SET was chosen to reflect the jazz convention where a performer plays a group of pieces referred to as a ‘set’. ‘Set’ is also an alternative term for a 12-tone row, the bedrock of formal atonality. There’s an implied paradox: the jazz ‘set’ involves improvisation and is synonymous with freedom whilst ‘set’ in my world is perceived as being rigid; fixed. So the title became an analogue of the piece, especially as we decided that invading the deathly world of cross-over was not for us and that travelling in the same direction, engaging in meaningful conversation and nodding sagely at each other suited better. My job was thus to invent a sound world that enabled Iain to improvise freely (after all, Iain is a superb improviser and you don’t get a Lamborghini to do the weekly shop!) whilst still retaining a formal hold on the structure and musical progression.

All movement titles refer to 1950s TV. Commenting on his musical Company, Stephen Sondheim refers to New York as the subtext of the entire piece as even though the piece is not about the city, the city permeates it. 1950s TV functions similarly in SET.

First movement: No Hiding Place

This is the closest SET gets to ‘swing’ and the first twelve notes you hear form a tone row or ‘set’ so two birds (or elephants in the room) are ritually slain with one stone. No Hiding Place was a popular police drama from the earliest days of commercial TV. The siren towards the end of this movement was the

Proustian ‘madeleine’ moment that led me to 1950s TV (sets) as the source for my titles.

Second movement: You’re Never Alone...

...with a Strand was the strap line for a cigarette advertising campaign. A handsome, Trilby-hatted man in a raincoat, filmed in a moody, noir-ish black and white (I know that because it also played in cinemas!) is seen wandering around the Strand area of an atmospherically nocturnal London, stopping only to light a ciggie. It was the most famous, award-winning campaign of its time and it killed the product stone dead as no-one wanted to think of themselves as being alone in the middle of the night. I went with the ‘noir’ element.

Third movement: Footso

This dance floor number celebrates Footso, the pet cat of Twizzle, a string puppet with extendable limbs. The Adventures of Twizzle was the first TV series made by Gerry Anderson who famously went on to make Thunderbirds.

Fourth movement: Love and Kisses

This piece takes the title at face value although this was actually a sitcom vehicle for the much loved Liverpudlian comedian Arthur Askey and his daughter Anthea.

Fifth movement: Blue Fox

The variety show In Blue Fox aired briefly. All scripts and video are lost so no-one really knows anything at all about it other than it happened. I was attracted – as in an earlier piece (Van Assendelft’s Vermeer for clavichord) – by the notion of something that may or may not exist.

SET is a BBC commission and was largely written as part of a composer residency at the Visby International Composers’ Centre, Gotland, Sweden. I am enormously grateful to both parties and to the Royal Northern College of Music who also offered valuable support.

Gary Carpenter © 2018

SET was first performed in 2014 by saxophonist Iain Ballamy and drummer Martin France, with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by HK Gruber.