My Top Five Pieces To Conduct
We all have a list of things we’d like to do in life, a bucket list if you will. I have several things I’d like to do before I kick the bucket (yes, that’s where the phrase “bucket list” comes from) but as a conductor I have a list of items I’d love to work on. Some of this list I’ve already been fortunate enough to conduct and I’ve had to restrict myself to five pieces or I’d be here forever!
Mozart - Requiem
When I first heard Mozart’s Requiem at about the age of 15 or 16, I knew that I wanted to conduct it one day. From it’s first melancholic notes it draws you in, grabs hold and doesn’t let go. God’s pounding fist of judgement in “Dies Irae” to a tremendous display of polyphonic mastery in Rex Tremendae. The urgent scurrying of notes in “Confutatis” where Heaven and Hell are sung about with literal distance between the choral parts to represent the gulf between the two…the reasons for my loving this work are countless. It was the first piece I conducted when I started SSOCs, and I’d love to do it again.
Gershwin - Rhapsody In Blue/American In Paris
I could do a Bernstein and conduct Rhapsody In Blue from the piano but I’d rather concentrate on conducing it. We did a Gershwin concert last summer and performed highlights from “An American In Paris” which is a massive instrumental work influenced by Gershwin’s time in Paris. It used in the musical film of the same name as a ballet sequence choreographed by Gene Kelly who also starred in the film. One day I’ll conduct the whole piece. Rhapsody In Blue has enthralled me since I first heard it courtesy of my grandad (I think but it might have been dad). The fusion between classical and jazz excites me I look forward to being able to put my personal stamp on it one day.
Tolga Kashif - The Queen Symphony
When I first heard the adagio movement (Who Wants To Live Forever/Save Me) I was reduced to tears. I then got hold of the whole album and was mesmerised. It excites, emotes, invigorates, and des everything that a piece of music should do. The tonal quality is diverse and draws on Western classical tradition as well as opera, medieval, and Romantic music. Freddie Mercury once said that he would “like people to put their own interpretation” on his songs, and Tolga Kashif certainly does that. The orchestra and choir is huge for this but it will happen one day and I look forward to it! Kashif also wrote a Genesis Suite so maybe a concert of both is on the cards! Let’s hope so!
Ravel - Bolero
I was eight years old when Torvill and Dean used this piece for the Olympic Gold performance…but even at that young age the impact of the music was not lost on me. I love music that builds and builds and you can’t get much more “buildy” than Bolero. Some people don’t like this piece citing that it’s too repetitive, however, there are so many subtle differences throughout that the development is organic and exciting. I love the nuances and the gradual introduction of instruments. I love the constant snare drum which itself grows in volume as the music progresses. It’s truly exciting and I cannot wait to pick up my baton for it.
Louis Prima - Sing, Sing, Sing
I’ve always loved drumming and percussioning (sic). I’d heard the famous drum motif many years ago, but a chance hearing of John Williams conducting it with the Boston Pops Orchestra opened my eyes (and ears). I had no idea how incredible this piece was. Louis Prima was a vocalist and trumpeter and he wrote and recorded this with his New Orleans Gang. Gene Krupa played drums. Benny Goodman also did a famous version. But I cannot wait to find a suitable concert to include this wonderful, energetic, big band classic.