Culture: Philip is inspired by rhythms of the world
The spirit of this year’s Olympics shines through a new musical project by city composer Philip Herbert. Nigel Powlson reports.
AS the Cultural Olympiad comes to an end, there's a chance to enjoy a special project that celebrates the spirit of internationalism that has been a hallmark of London 2012.
Leicester composer Philip Herbert has devised a special celebration that can be seen at the Peepul Centre before touring to Nottingham and Leeds.
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It's called Ballare: To Dance and features world class musicians coming together to explore a rich diversity of sounds. It includes music from across the globe and two new works written especially by Philip for the project.
Philip says: "For me this project is all about celebrating internationalism.
"I have always had an interest in music from around the world, an eclectic interest in fusing music and cutting across boundaries."
Ballare is a Latin word meaning "to dance" and seemed an appropriate title.
Philip says: "I was looking for a way of grouping together these different scores – and each has a natural connection with a dance tradition. So Ballare became a useful link for the whole project."
Philip has lived in Leicester for the last ten years. He was born in London, grew up in Leeds and studied in America.
He took music at King Alfred's College, Winchester, and later studied at post graduate level at Andrews University, Michigan.
He now teaches at the Martin High School in Anstey and continues to create music.
He was delighted that his project was selected for Cultural Olympiad funding.
"We were free to go our own way as long as what resulted was excellent and connected with the Olympics in some way," he says:
"There are so many people across the globe who have been tuned into the Olympics and I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring people together through a sound world of music, to take a mini tour around the planet."
Classical musical scores featured in Ballare include excerpts from Luigi Boccherini's Quintet for Guitar and Strings No 4, which Philip believes sums up the world of Spanish flamenco, and a Cuban piece that sees string players tapping their instruments, percussion style.
"There's a lot of interesting things happening with these pieces," says Philip.
The concert also features two new works.
The first is a Suite for Solo Steel Pan and Strings, which is modeled on a baroque dance suite, reinvented to include contemporary dances from the Caribbean and further afield.
Philip says: "I guess it is a journey through the Caribbean.
"I have taken the baroque suite and under-layered it with an old folk tune that had a percussion rhythm and words that talked about 'Jubilee, jubilee, Victoria set us free'. It was a song that slaves sang when Queen Victoria gave them emancipation."
Each movement has a different sound wall. One is influenced by a Peruvian colonial dance called the Zamacueca.
Philip says: "That's inspired by a courtship routine, where the couple dance with a handkerchief that is symbolic of amorous exchanges."
The second work, Mantra for an Athlete, connects the sound world of India to strains from the West.
Philip says: "For me, it's about how somebody would go through a religious ritual to reach enlightenment, paralleled with how an athlete would go through certain rituals to reach excellence in Olympic competition."
The musicians involved in the project are the Timescale Ensemble (made up of renowned soloists from well-known orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic and The London Philharmonic).
They are joined by soloists who play solo steel pan, sitar, tabla, guitar and bandoneon. Philip says: "What's interesting is the reaction to a solo steel pan acting as a soloist and being accompanied by orchestral string players. That has got a lot of people thinking a bit and looking beyond stereotypes."
Also joining the project is dancer Lee Payne, who featured on Sky's Got To Dance.
Philip says: "Instead of dancing per se, he will use his feet like a percussion instrument. The sounds from his tap shoes will be part of the texture of the percussion section."
Philip is clearly delighted with the results of his project, so what next for the composer?
"I always have a project brewing," he says. "Even if it hasn't quite hatched yet."
BALLARE: TO DANCE: Takes place on Saturday, October 6, at 7.30pm at the Peepul Centre, Leicester, and Thursday, October 11, at 7.30pm, at Nottingham Contemporary. Tickets are £10-£12. Go to www.philipherbert.org to buy.