Hastings Philharmonic boosts exciting contemporary music

The new season of the Hastings Philharmonic boldly features some examples of stunning creativity from contemporary composers.

Beguiling Of Merlin SUS-181018-152743001
Beguiling Of Merlin SUS-181018-152743001

Next weeekend sees Hastings composer Keith Beal present the world premiere of his new opera Merlin at St Mary In The Castle in Hastings.

Back in September the Ken Broberg Mozart piano concerto concert also included a reprise of Philip O’Meara’s Flacubal intended to be complementary to Mozart’s music. In March 2019 a Philip Glass piano concerto is featured in a programme of Grieg and Tchaikovsky, followed in May by three prize-winning compositions from the Atatürk International Composition Competition Finals in a concert with Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky.

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In June 2019 Philip O’Meara will return with compositions to accompany the Edifice Dance Theatre rendering of Salome.

Locally Keith Beal is probably best known for his performances as a jazz saxophonist with that world renown Hastings Jazz musician Trevor Watts and Moiré Music; he was a member of this avant garde jazz ensemble, which played at most of the European Jazz Festivals between 1982 and 1986.

As a composer he has built an oeuvre of six symphonies, four concertos and dozens of other compositions, which accumulated since the 1980s, while dividing his activities between Hastings and the Netherlands, increasingly as a composer but also as a performer.

He had some early success with a composition for the Dutch Tuba Quartet, which became a seminal tuba piece at the World Tuba Convention - so started his “classical” composition career.

In Keith’s opera Merlin is a 2,000 years old dysfunctional legendary magician and Nimue a poor young Welsh girl on the make. He has spent his life trying to do good for mankind, but everything has gone wrong. There follows a story of sexual awakening, intrigue, incest, failed magic and war based loosely on some of the many legends of Merlin from England, Wales and other parts of Europe. A tragic ending allows Nimue as the ‘Lady of the Lake’ to join Merlin in the ether. Counter-intuitively, the baritone, Merlin, got the girl!

At the time Keith wrote this opera he was experimenting with the ‘Diminished Whole Tone Scale’. This diminished scale from the tonic to the flattened dominant, is often associated with Debussy and Ravel in classical music and commonly employed in jazz improvisation. Not all the music is in this mode. It also owes something to minimalist music and Keith’s personal experience playing jazz and working with African musicians. Keith believes that all art should be a balance between the emotional and the intellectual so he has sought euphony, something easy on the ear that enhances the drama of the piece. The opera production includes some of Hastings Philharmonic’s best loved singers: James Schouten, Caroline Carragher, Helen May, Claire Filer, Kieran White and, that great Brazilian asset to the Hastings music scene, Marcio da Silva, conducts.

Merlin will be performed by Ensemble Orquesta and Hastings Philharmonic on Saturday October 27 starting at 7pm. Tickets cost £15+ £1.50 s/c, under 18s, students free at the door. By Christopher Cormack.

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