On Saturday 8th March, City University London emerged victorious in the annual Battle of the Big Bands competition. The competition sees some of the best university big bands in London face off against one another. City’s Big Band, founded by music students in 2010, bested the competition with their varied programme, excellent musicianship and energetic performance. They came out ahead of big bands from other London institutions, including Royal Holloway, Kings College London, and Surrey University.
City’s set consisted of a bold mix of contemporary and classic big band repertoire featuring jazz standards ‘Too Close For Comfort’, ‘Body And Soul’ and ‘Witchcraft’ (Arranged by Gordon Goodwin, Bob Florence and Tom Kubis, respectively), ‘Samba Del Gringo’ (A Goodwin original) and a suite of Michael Giacchino’s music from the film ‘The Incredibles’ (Arranged by the band’s own Andy Allen). Highlights included strong solo performances by Ben Smith on piano, Bertie Atkinson on drums, Amy Hollinrake on vocals and the ever-charismatic Nico Seal as the band’s MC.
City University Big Band, currently in it’s fourth year, is open to staff and students, past and present from all departments of the University. With a series of concerts already lined up for the summer and a large selection of exciting new music, the future is looking bright.
Professor John Rink’s lecture recital, ‘Chopin’s Afterthoughts’, recently given in the Performance Space at City, proved not only to be a fascinating insight into the world of Chopin, but also brought to light many issues relevant to any performer dealing with historical sources.
As the world of performance continues to develop we must consider more than ever the role of performer within music reception – are we to remain a vehicle in replicating the intentions of the composer as closely as possible, or should we allow more creative, even improvisational sway in our interpretations? It was within this wider debate that Rink situated his talk. Though a series of case studies, various interpretive problems were put forth, based on incongruities between different early editions of Chopin’s music.
Known for never having ‘played his own compositions twice alike’, Chopin seemingly changed his mind on portions of several works post-publication. The upshot of this for Rink is that considering any particular Urtext edition as the ‘right’ one is not only ill-informed, but also jarring with Chopin’s compositional aesthetic.
And so, through examination of the editions, and demonstration at the piano, Rink showed how a mixing of various sources, and even (carefully considered) original improvisation around the score may be regarded as perfectly in tune with Chopin’s compositional approach. As it was put towards the end of the talk, ‘in abandoning fidelity to the letter, we capture it in spirit’.
Professor Rink directs the online resources Chopin’s First Editions Online and the Online Chopin Variorum Edition. See also Rink’s The Virtual Chopin on YouTube.
— Ben Smith and Josie Ellis