Having a very wide musical taste, I sometimes muse on how poor this world would be if certain boundary defying musical instruments hadn’t been invented. Given the huge rise of popular music in the 20th century, one very obvious example is the guitar. It’s been around for several millennia in various forms, but it took the invention of the magnetic pickup in 1931 to really propel it into the mainstream. In another life I might have learned the trombone, enjoying as I do its extensive baroque and renaissance repertoire, alongside its various symphonic, soul and jazz leanings. However, maybe the instrument we could least afford to be without is the humble violin. Who would have thought that bits of sheep’s innards, stretched across a wooden cavity and scraped by horse hair would have endured in the way it has? Almost for as long as humans have made music, the fiddle and its larger brethren have been around and – arguably – strings are as important in modern pop music as the guitar. Some of the earliest synthesisers tried to recreate that lush symphonic string sound and where would disco be without the string orchestra?
Go to the cinema and you are pretty much guaranteed to hear not just massed string instruments but their cousins in the wind, brass and percussion departments too. There’s nothing like a full symphony orchestra for conveying myriad emotions from heartbreak, despair and agony to love, happiness and excitement. As a result, film scores by the likes of John Williams, John Barry, Hans Zimmer and Ennio Morricone have become much loved in their own right and very often stand alone in the concert hall as meaningful pieces of music. This theory is put to the test by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the last of this year’s visits to the Lowestoft Marina Theatre on the 27th November. Star Wars, Out of Africa, Pirates of the Caribbean, Great Escape, Lord of the Rings … the list is extensive and Oscar-studded. Unsurprisingly, tickets are already moving out of the door faster than Steve Hawthorne when he realises his round is up next, so grab one whilst you still can.
More blowing and scraping of the most musical kind is on offer at the Ipswich Corn Exchange a day later, as Ipswich Orchestral Society stage their latest concert. It’s a Shakespeare inspired affair as Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet overture and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet suites are interspersed with readings from the bard himself. IOS also have a reputation of bringing the finest soloists of the classical world to Ipswich. They don’t disappoint this time around with the appearance of a lady who surely qualifies for the epithet “classical national treasure” – Imogen Cooper. Schumann’s A minor piano concerto is on the bill, a work which is said to have inspired the famous concerto in the same key by Grieg as well as Rachmaninov’s first. This is not Ms Cooper’s only visit to the region this month; she is playing Chopin at Snape on the 1st, although – frustratingly – as the event is in the smaller Britten Studio rather than the main concert hall, it’s a case of returns only. A trip to Aldeburgh Music’s website is still worthwhile though, as English Touring Opera are in town with three diverse productions from the 12th to the 14th and some tickets are still available.