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Monday, August 15, 2016 4:00pm

The ASO out and about


We launched our new Community Centre Concert series this year and throughout our 80th Season, the ASO has been working closely with Community Centres SA and other community organisations including ACH. A member of the ASO and viola section, Martin Butler is presenting and conducting an ensemble of eight musicians for this series.

“Earlier this year I was asked to organise a series of community concerts that we could take on the road around Adelaide,” Martin says.

“I thought it would be nice to have a string quintet as the basis for the ensemble (two violins, viola, cello and bass). This meant that we had a solid foundation to which we could add some wind soloists – and this turned out to be an oboe, a French horn, and a bassoon.”

With this instrumentation, Martin started thinking about creating a program that would last around fifty minutes. Ideal timing for school students, as well audience members that perhaps had not heard a chamber group perform before.

“I knew that Jackie Newcomb, the ASO’s Contra bassoonist, was doing a PhD on the early history of the bassoon, so I thought it would be fun to use one of the strange instruments she has in her collection as a feature.”



Photo credit: Jackie Newcomb & Martin Butler by Shane Reid


Jackie’s Curtal is a Renaissance predecessor of the modern bassoon and explained to Martin how it has a double bore made from a single block of wood. Like most early wind instruments it is inherently unstable in pitch and tone which makes it very hard to play!

“Jackie sent me some YouTube recordings of Renaissance dance music and I chose this weird Brazilian baroque piece called Nao Tragais os Borzogais and I set about arranging it for our group – and I didn’t even know that Brazilians were writing music at the time of Bach and Handel!”

Martin said that, to a certain extent, the other wind solo pieces chose themselves.

“As oboe solos go, Enrico Morricone’s music from the film The Mission is almost up there with the opening solo for oboe in the slow movement of the Brahms Violin Concerto.” (See a previous ASO Blog post entitled Tales of the most beautiful oboe solo.)

“So, I set about arranging it for the group and I wanted to include a horn and bassoon along with the string backing. Renae played this solo so beautifully that we often used it as an encore in our program,” Martin says.

“I asked Sarah if she minded doing a movement from one of the four Mozart Horn Concertos and even though it was at such short notice she happily agreed. I had the rather sacrilegious duty of redistributing the parts for the extra horn and oboe that we didn’t have amongst our group,” Martin explains.

“The most glaring ‘redistribution’ that I ever experienced was when I attended a concert which included Mozart’s 5th Violin Concerto being performed by a Russian touring ensemble. This concerto has four horns but they only had two horns travelling with them, so two violas suddenly got up and sat in the horn section for this work!”

Martin says he has always loved Jordi Savall since he first saw his group Le Concert des Nations perform in an unforgettable concert in Lisbon Cathedral.

“His recording of Lully’s March of the Turks is a favourite of mine.”

Photo credit: Martin Butler, Diane Kruger & Jackie Newcomb by Shane Reid


Martin said this piece was written for Louis XIV and was meant to impress the Ottoman Ambassador who was in Paris for talks.

“You see, Europe was worried that the Muslim hordes were about to invade and the French King was keen to avoid this. Now where have I heard this sort of thing before?”

March of the Turks is one of the earliest known examples of ‘Janissary’ or Turkish military-style music. Mozart often used it in his works written in Vienna (e.g Rondo alla Turca or the 5th Violin Concerto. You can also hear it in the finale of Beethoven’s 9th symphony – a very late example of this style of music.

“Two pieces were included that I have used with my youth orchestra, the Adelaide Youth Strings.

“Brudlat Fran Oje is a Swedish Bridal March and is a lot of fun to perform, especially when you get a couple to ‘volunteer’” to get married on stage!”

Martin also wanted an audience participation number so he chose Guest Soloist which entails asking an audience member to come up and play a violin solo with the rest of the group.

“I have a specially tuned ¼ size violin with two strings for this,” Martin says.

Photo credit: Martin Butler, Diane Kruger & Jackie Newcomb by Shane Reid


“No single performance of this work has ever been the same and I have also discovered that it really does work best of all with a volunteer who doesn’t know anything about music!”


Photo credit: Martin Butler, Diane Kruger & Jackie Newcomb by Shane Reid

Martin then asked ASO bass player, Dave Phillips if he could write something the ensemble could use.

“Dave is a fine jazz player and composer and I really wanted to do a piece from someone in the group. It took a bit of arm twisting but Dave came up with a lovely tune called Jol written in an African style,” Martin says.

“Well, that isn’t the whole program but it gives you some idea of how a project like this is put together.

“Back in February we hadn’t played together in a small ensemble before but we are having a lot of fun visiting people out in the community.

“I’m really looking forward to going on the road with the same group again at the end of this month.”



This article was written by Michelle Robins, Publications & Communications Coordinator, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

Community Concert series
23, 24 & 25 Aug
Findon, Hillcrest, Pooraka, Morphett Vale and Tusmore



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