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Posts for November 2017

Monday, November 13, 2017 2:30pm

Who is the Marmalade Man?

2018 Mark Simeon Ferguson.jpg

Mark Simeon Ferguson


Hey there, Mark Simeon Ferguson here. I am putting together the show ASO does Latin with the Marmalade Man as we speak!


I have been composing and orchestrating music for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra on and off for about eleven years starting with Gospel Messiah, my revision of Handel’s Messiah. The ASO performed this back in 2007 but I began arranging it in 2006.


I have been playing Latin music for a lot longer than that. My group Marmalade Circus (and Marmalade Trio, Marmalade Jam etc) have been known for playing Latin inspired music for about 20 years. And yes, some people called me Marmalade Man along the way so the ASO folk thought it would be a good idea to put this in the title.


Marmalade Circus performs YUP!


When Simon Lord, ASO Director of Artistic Planning approached me about doing this project I was thrilled to get the opportunity to write for the full orchestra again. My two most recent projects for the ASO, The Bush Concert and Herman and Rosie were both children’s shows and I had to orchestrate them for chamber ensembles. I did get to expand the Bush concert for a full orchestra (which the SSO played in the Opera House in November) but that was a year ago. I also write a lot of music for the SA Primary Schools Music Festival, but their orchestra is comprised of Primary school children so one is limited in the choices one can make. I now get to muck around with the full resources of our fabulous orchestra—I am like a kid in a candy shop!

Mark and Susan Ferguson at the Bush Concert for Something on Saturday

I have been writing a lot of music over the years (probably more than 130 compositions in the catalogue) and probably 40-50% could be loosely called ‘Latin’. I had a good idea about which tunes I had to include in this concert but making sure the show has a really good mix of styles, tempos, feels, orchestrations etc. is a bit tricky.


Today I adapted my tune ‘Simeon’s Blues’ for the project. I wrote this in 1996 when I needed a neat little bluesy tune to play at a bunch of mainstream jazz gigs. I was filling in for my pianist friend Kym Purling while he was in Vietnam—he had about 4 gigs a week so I got lots of opportunities to play it. When I formed Marmalade Circus I rearranged the tune into a Cha Cha feel which gave it a funky energy. I had been listening to one of my favourite artists Michel Camilo and he had a fantastic Cha Cha on his album One More Once. We recorded the tune on our live album Tropical Fruit Chunks in 2001 and I have also arranged it for Big Band (Prince Alfred College Big Band and JazzSA Superbands have played it).


Today, I orchestrated ‘Simeon’s Blues’ for the ASO. I chose to use just the brass, percussion and rhythm sections in this chart just for a change. I am pretty happy with how it sounds.


I have then spent the last 5 hours reworking another of my early tunes for the full orchestra. This one is called ‘Bonaira’ and was composed in the summer of 1997. It began life as a samba (we recorded it like this on our Marmalade Trio album in 1999) then as I learned more about authentic Latino music I converted it into an Afro Cuban tune. We recorded the revised version in 2005 with the expanded Marmalade Circus on our EP and then there were ten.


I have been celebrating the fact that I can use piccolo a lot. I think Owen (ASO Principal Trumpet) in particular will be happy about this as the original trumpet part was ridiculously high! I have also been enjoying imagining the string section soaring along with some of my favourite melodies.


I have a fair bit of work to do to finish this one off but I have broken the back of it.

Happy times!


ASO Does Latin with the Marmalade Man
Sat 3 Feb 2018, 8pm
ASO Grainger Studio, Hindley Street

Tickets are available from 1 Dec or now as part of your ASO 2018 subscription.

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