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Orpheus Presents a Scottish Concert at Carnegie Hall, Featuring Evelyn Glennie in Solo Percussion

- Classical and Cultural Connections

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
(Orpheus Website)
490 Riverside Drive, NY, NY 10027

Evelyn Glennie, Percussion

Surprise Bagpiper:
Brian C. Meagher

At Carnegie Hall
Raechel Alexander: Manager, Public Affairs
Press: Cohn Dutcher Associates

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 28, 2006

(See Orpheus Historical Notes).

(See Orpheus February 4, 2006 Review).


Sir Peter Maxwell Davies (b. 1934): An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise (1985).

James MacMillan (b. 1959): Veni, Veni Emmanuel (1992): Introit-Advent, Heartbeats-, Dance-Hocket-, Transition: Sequence I-, Gaude, Gaude-, Transition: Sequence II-, Coda-Easter.

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847): Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56 “Scottish” (1842): Andante con moto-Allegro un poco agitato-Andante come prima, Vivace non troppo-, Adagio-, Allegro vivacissimo-Allegro maestoso assai.

In an interview at Starbucks on West 56th Street, Btw. 6th and 7th Avenues, this morning, I sat down with Brian Meagher, bagpiper extraordinaire, who also happens to be a District Attorney from Brooklyn. Brian was scheduled to be the surprise bagpiper to walk to the stage of Carnegie Hall tonight, at the conclusion of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ “An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise”. Brian told me he had played bagpipes for 30 years, since the age of six, growing up in Rockland County. He is a fourth generation bagpiper. He teaches bagpipes to advanced students at the NYC Fire Academy, and he sometimes plays with the NYC Fire Department Band.

We discussed the origins of the bagpipes, his passion, and I learned about the transport of bagpipes from the Roman Empire to the Celtic nations, with Scotland being the epicenter. I also learned about various tartans, and Brian would wear green tonight, with full ornamentation. He mentioned the various Scottish hats with ostrich feathers or bear fur. When asked about practicing, Brian told me he practices every day and plays bagpipes at weddings and funerals. They can be practiced on the lap, but tonight they would be played while walking down Carnegie Hall’s long aisle.

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise is lyrical and pastoral, with intonations of clomping horses and orchestral bagpipes. The strings become percussive in abstract, spinning sensations, and one can only imagine a wedding hall of inebriated guests. With glockenspiel, wood blocks, tambourine, and cymbals, amidst an orchestral compliment, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra dramatically evoked the wedding on the archipelago of Orkney, with its 70 islands off the coast of Scotland. The sunrise, after heavy drinking and carousing, is represented by Brian Meagher’s bagpipes, and, lo and behold, there was Brian, walking down the aisle of Carnegie Hall in his green tartan kilt, white hose, and signature black tie shoes. For the record, he played the bagpipes with professional persuasiveness.

Just as the audience was warmed up for surprises, Evelyn Glennie appeared, in a lovely, burgundy silk pants outfit, barefoot and nimble, as she intensely eyed her wide variety of percussive instruments on display on Carnegie Hall’s expansive stage. It’s almost impossible to describe the image of the collection of “solo percussion” instruments: bass drum with pedal, six tom-toms, two bongos, two timbales, two congas, two cowbells, sizzle cymbal, large cymbal, two woodblocks, six temple blocks, log drum, six gongs, marimba, vibraphone, two mark trees, and two tam-tams (Program Notes). This “solo percussion” collection was strategically organized front stage, with Orpheus musicians almost hidden in the rear.

Ms. Glennie moved about silently, back and forth, throughout the oddly named seven movements of James MacMillan’s Veni, Veni, Emmanuel, eyeing her next gong or tam-tam, and then, with almost dance-like choreography, striking each instrument with visual drama and determination. Her taut muscularity and simplicity of style were a vision in themselves. This is a dissonant, intense, and contemporary work, fascinating to hear and more fascinating to watch. The audience seemed mesmerized, as orchestral genre “solo percussion” is rare indeed, even at Carnegie Hall. The violins turned edgy, against soft marimba and strings. Ms. Glennie walked up a ladder to the hanging chimes to end the work in fading religiosity.

Mendelssohn’s Third “Scottish” Symphony in A minor brought the conductor-less Orpheus front stage again. The four movements could create daring dance imagery, from tornado-like ballet, to lyrical leaps and spins, to both willowy waltzes and edgy tangos, to modern marches and whirling dervishes. Kudos to Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Guest Artist, Evelyn Glennie, as well as surprise bagpiper, Brian Meagher, for a rare and challenging concert at Carnegie Hall.

Brian Meagher Marching Outdoors
Courtesy of Brian Meagher

Brian Meagher at Leisure Outdoors
Courtesy of Brian Meagher

Evelyn Glennie with her Instruments
Photo courtesy of Mark Harrison Good Housekeeping

Evelyn Glennie
Photo courtesy of Mark Harrison Good Housekeeping

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Photo courtesy of Ken Nahoum, Edge Films

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
Photo courtesy of Ken Nahoum, Edge Films

Post-Concert Bagpipe Event Outside Carnegie Hall
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Post-Concert Bagpipe Event Outside Carnegie Hall
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

Post-Concert Bagpipe Event Outside Carnegie Hall
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at