Last Updated on May 9, 2022
The Third Orchestra performs Between Two Waves of the Sea.
Diverse and multi-genre, The Third Orchestra returned for an exclusive performance at the Grand Junction on the 5th of May after a sell-out Barbican Centre residency in 2019.
The Third Orchestra was created by Peter and the late John Cumming, director of Serious and the EFG London Jazz Festival. Respecting the great orchestral traditions of the past, they created a new orchestra, based in multi-cultural London to reach out to the world via an orchestra without boundaries. Musicians from North, South, East and West were welcomed and helped create an inclusive, gender-balanced atmosphere with 50% Black, Asian and ethnically diverse members aged 20-70.
This performance titled ‘Between two waves of the sea’ consisted of one set lasting about an hour with pieces inspired by the haiku of Ursula Rucker, written for the 2019 debut of the orchestra and by T.S. Eliot’s ‘Little Gidding’. Peter Wiegold introduced the members of the orchestra before the performance and described that while the orchestra is following a complex and prescriptive score, there will be some bits of improvisation. I knew right then and there that I would be listening to a very special unique sound with authentic elements of each musician’s own culture.
The first piece is called “Time quantum leaps” composed by Bernhard Schimpelsberger, Shri Sriram, Max Bailie, Rouhangeze and Peter Wiegold. It started with a seemingly wailing sound from the erhu followed by the addition of some percussion. In my opinion, the style can be described as big band meets traditional folk music interspersed with cinematic suspense soundtrack music. At some point, we heard non-traditional noises from string instruments which I found really interesting. This was accompanied by almost wailing vocals from Rouhangeze that continued along the lines of the motif that the erhu was playing at the start. More instruments joined in as the piece progressed and there was a lot of dissonance which seemed to be heading to a path of resolution but it never quite did. At some point, there was also a nice but not quite consonant harmony between Rouhangeze and Alice Zawadzki in a Sephardic style. I found this piece quite rich in terms of variety and appreciated the melding of various cultures in its creation. The piece had circular structures where the beginning of the song is disguised and just sounds like a continuation of the end of the song. This boded well with the lyrics “What we call the beginning is often the end and to make an end is to make a beginning”.
The next piece, “I will write my blues into submission”, was composed by Soren Birke, Rouhangeze and Peter Wiegold. While the harmonies in this work were less dissonant Max Bailie on the violin created some really interesting noises which sounded like a chirping bird with a wide vocal range. At a certain point, the piano motif sounded like fast frenzied travelling up and down a chromatic scale, skipping certain intervals at times because of the speed. Other instruments also started to mimic this motif. Solo vocals by Rouhangeze were supported by various fantasy-like tunes by the strings, oud and harp. The oud, in particular, was really interesting with a call and response section in the vocals. This piece also contained some rap vocalisations that you might normally associate with classical Indian music. At some point, the erhu and pila-guqin played stylised ethereal motifs, complemented by equally ethereal singing with the word “freedom” repeatedly uttered by Rouhangeze.
“Oh to be a hawk” composed by Cheng Yu and Peter Wiegold started with a pipa-guqin solo by Cheng Yu, tapping on it to create percussive sounds and making quick manipulations on the strings to provide a tune. Some spoken Mandarin followed, but unfortunately, my Mandarin skills faded about a decade ago so I couldn’t understand the meaning. The oud eventually came in and accompanied the pipa-guqin to some hauntingly sung vocals from Alice Zawadzki. At some point, it seemed like they were mimicking sounds from nature using non-percussive instruments to make percussion sounds.
The fourth piece called “Between two waves of the sea” is composed by Rouhangeze and Peter Wiegold. I thought that this had a very African feel to the vocal melody but had elements of pop music weaved into it. The piece then progressed into a piece of slow-paced instrumental music with a series of dissonances resolving over time.
The penultimate piece, “To God’s Ear” is composed by Rihab Azar and Peter Wiegold. The oud carried the melody which was complemented by Peter on the keyboard with spoken word by Alice Zawadzki. The melody was still being led by the oud as the piece progressed while the rest of the orchestra supported it. After a while, the violin played a countermelody to the oud. The piece ended with spoken vocals accompanied by motifs played on the oud and keyboard.
The final piece was a reprise of Time Quantum Leaps. However, the order of certain sequences was different to the opening piece. While some motifs were familiar, some sounded quite different owing to Peter’s direction on which sequences were going to go next and to the various improvisations by the individual instruments. Overall, I enjoyed this variation and it was a really good piece to end on.
The Third Orchestra exposed me to sounds I could never have imagined. The sheer creativity and integration of diverse music from all over the globe in one set is definitely something to be cherished.
Upcoming music performances in the Grade I listed Grand Junction can be found here.
St Mary Magdalene’s church
London W2 5TF