Piano, Flute and Percussion
25th February 2017
* arr. by A. Sutcliffe
+ arr. by C. Brannick
Classic Rhythm is a unique and exciting chamber group with a difference. Formed in 1992, this trio for flute, piano and percussion has met with astonishing success, playing to sell-out audiences all over the UK as well as broadcasting on Classic FM and being featured on BBC2. Classic Rhythm has appeared at several hundred festivals, music societies and other arts venue, encompassing literally every region of the UK. Engagements have included many return visits to Scotland and Ireland, appearances at major venues such as London’s South Bank and the Welsh Proms and, by popular request, a series of concerts in The Midlands for three years running. Skilful arrangements of well-known classical favourites, set alongside as exceptionally wide variety of other pieces, have quickly established the group’s popular appeal. The range of music, from original compositions to light and jazz arrangements, is complemented by the warm informality of the group on stage. Audiences are always fascinated by the vast array of instruments, some familiar, some not! From marimba to tam-tam, from piccolo to cabasa, they are brilliantly woven into a sparkling evening’s entertainment.
The group combines the talents of Helen O’Connell (flute, piccolo and recorders), Adrian Sutcliffe (piano and keyboards) and Chris Brannick (percussion - tuned and untuned), all of whom studied at the Royal Academy of Music and were prizewinners in their various fields. All three are widely travelled musicians - between them they have performed at all the major concert venues in the U.K., as well as travelling further afield to Africa, the Far East, the U.S.A. and all parts of Europe.
Russlan and Ludmilla Overture: Glinka’s opera ‘Russlan and Ludmilla’ was based on a poem by Pushkin and was first produced in St Petersburg in 1842.
Classic Rhythm’s account of the Andante from Haydn’s Clock Symphony seeks to recreate the orchestral colours of this popular work through tasteful use of piano and tuned percussion in combination with melody lines often well-suited to the flute in particular.
Folk Song: The Emerald Isle was the first original composition written for Classic Rhythm back in 1992. A one-movement work, it features three well-known folksongs from around the British Isles, each being developed in turn and eventually being woven together into a rousing finale section.
Clair de lune: Debussy’s Clair de Lune is the third movement from Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque and represents a calmer moment in the group’s programme.
Nutcracker Suite - does exactly what it says on the can! Four familiar movements given the Classic Rhythm treatment:
Dorian Rhapsody is an original piece written specially for Classic Rhythm by the Kent composer Simon Proctor. Using a wealth of different percussion instruments together with flute, piccolo and piano, the piece takes its name from the dorian mode on which the opening theme is centred.
Prelude in C is an arrangement of one of Prokofiev’s Preludes for Piano. The scoring here is for flute, xylophone and piano, with the xylophone part providing the recurring delicate semiquaver passages.
On The Track was composed by Jack Simpson, the famous drummer & xylophonist of the Jack Payne Orchestra, one of the leading dance bands of the 1930s and 1940s. Born in 1911, this great exponent of keyboard percussion would bring a smile to the face of many with his flamboyant performances!
Paganini Variations: The Tree is a major work written for the group by Adrian Sutcliffe. It is based on the much-used theme from Paganini’s 24th Caprice for solo violin, and consists of a theme and a set of twelve variations. The piece is also programmatic in that it describes events in the life of a tree. Here the group has a chance to show off its full versatility, featuring a huge range of instruments including flute, piccolo, recorders, piano and synthesiser, and as ever a vast array of percussion. At one point the performers even swap instruments in order to feature a violin solo! Several melodies and rhythmic ideas are developed throughout the piece with some of the themes being inverted latterly, whilst elements of folk and rock are used in some of the variations. The whole work comes to a climax with a final statement of the theme and a rousing coda.
Adrian’s work has ranged from solo performances in Eastern Europe and New Zealand to frequent performances at the Royal Opera House and West End Shows, whilst his compositions and arrangements have been featured on Classic FM, BBC television and at Sadler’s Wells. As an examiner and trainer for A.B.R.S.M. he has travelled from Africa to the Middle and far east to the U.S.A., India and China.
Chris is an adventurous performer with a taste for the eclectic. He is a founder member of the leading contemporary percussion group ensemblebash, performs in cabaret with his show The Brannick Academy, and he acts, composes and arranges. He holds both maths and music degrees, is a professor of percussion and until recently was CEO of the Newham Music Trust, an educational charity.
Helen studied flute and recorder at the Royal Academy of Music, where she gained the Recital Diploma, together with many prizes for solo playing, ensemble work and baroque performance. As a professional flautist she has played in most of the country’s top venues, in West End shows and featured on both Classic FM and BBC Radio. Alongside performing she has enjoyed many years of teaching. One of her current posts specialises in teaching blind and visually impaired students.