Classical musicians involved in one of the earliest East-West productions in the UK have reformed, following a serious accident that stopped the group in its tracks all those years ago…
TWENTY-SEVEN years after they were first brought together, a group behind one of the first multi-cultural musical collaborations of its time – have been reunited and have just released an album of their work.
‘The Roaring whirl’ is a musical piece with narrative – as told by Bhasker Patel (now one of the stars of the ITV hit soap, ‘Emmerdale’ but a young developing actor back then), and the production enjoyed a successful premiere at the Nottingham Now Festival in 1992.
But a serious car accident, as a passenger, to clarinettist Geraldine Allen shortly after, put paid to further performances and the recording of ‘The Roaring Whirl’ was shelved as the group broke up.
Allen suffered serious neck injuries and was unable to play the clarinet, but a long rehabilitation has seen her regain her former prowess and this has prompted the group to reform and perform – and the album originally planned can now be released.
Three of the original four-strong musical collaboration came together to play a short excerpt of ‘The Roaring Whirl’ at the Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain HQ at Fitzroy Square in Central London last week (September 20). The society was created in 1738 and lists the composer Handel as one of its earliest contributors. One of its functions is to help musicians who face difficult cirmcumstances and the society assisted Allen’s early rehabilitation.
Composer Sarah Rodgers was an integral part of the re-union and assisted with the recent rehearsals.
She had been commissioned by the Arts Council originally to produce a cross-cultural work and the piece is set in the Punjab of author Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Kim’. Rodgers had been known for her work with other musical traditions.
She told www.asiancultureuvulture.com: “I had spent two years in West Africa and during my first degree I had studied Gamelan (the traditional music of Indonesia, far more obscure then, than it is now), so I was already interested in the music of other cultures.
“I wanted to work with the music of two cultures, I didn’t want to pretend to be an Asian composer. I felt I should express my own musical creativity – and the choice of the literature was very important.”
‘Kim’ (1901) by Rudyard Kipling tells the story of ‘Kimball O’Hara’, an orphan, commonly perceived as a mixed race child, and very much ingrained in the local culture. Kim journeys to the Himalayas and the novel was one of the first in English to present India and the sub-continent in its rich diversity.
Rodgers continued: “If there is anything that brings together different musical traditions, then it is the idea of a story and a journey and Kim was making a journey and this enabled me to make a musical journey at the same time.”
Bhasker Patel was a young actor when he got the part of the narrator for ‘The Roaring Whirl’.
“I was so excited,” he told acv. “The parts were very tiny in those days and I was learning a lot, and when this piece came along I dived into it.”
He said it was unusual for there to be such a crossover work at that time. He had actually worked with Baluji (as he is popularly known) in Tara Arts’ production, called ‘The Little Clay Cart’.
“He has such energy and the music he plays – listening to this Indian music, I cried inside and you can’t take that away from me, I was rejoicing my culture here in Britain. East-West collaborations were in their infancy then, now we have so many and the more, the merrier…”
Baluji said Allen and Rodgers barely recognised him when they were re-united.
“I had hair then,” he chuckled. “I remember them coming to my house and looking at all the instruments I played. I was touring and performing all over the country.”
There is the hope that the four will be able to mount a new production – at the premiere of ‘The Roaring Whirl’ in 1992, it also had a Kathak dancer – Kumar Saswat peform to the music. Allen has not been able to track him down and hopes someone will know where he is today…
Original guitarist Timothy Walker, who was a prominent musician even at the time with the London Sinfonietta , was not well enough to join the group for the (re)-launch but is in touch with the group.
Allen, who developed a career as a musical promoter after the accident, and created a company, Impulse Musical Consultants, came together with Divine Art Recordings Group, to put out ‘The Roaring Whirl’ under a contemporary record label, Métier. The original had been recorded in 1992 and was part of the planned touring strategy before the tragedy of Allen’s accident impeded.
More info/Purchase: https://divineartrecords.com/recording/the-roaring-whirl/