Here at the Londonist, we hold a few beliefs. One is to care more about whether music is good or bad, than about whether it should be categorised as Pop, Jazz or Electronic; Baroque, Classical or Romantic. Reverb 2012, therefore, is right up our street as the festival celebrates a new generation of performers who have broken away from staging ‘traditional’ classical concerts, and who capture a variety of musical styles over one evening. Its opening night last Friday certainly had it all. In the Roundhouse foyers were DJs and sets covering a range of broadly contemporary styles, while the main act came from the world class Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, conducted by Sir Mark Elder.
Another belief we hold is that the world would be a better place if it became more acquainted with Hector Berlioz! Although the 19th century French composer is hardly an obscure name, he is not quite quoted in the same breath as Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, and we think that he should be. He composed some of the most innovative symphonies ever written – which in their own day defied established musical genres – and the OAE more than made the case for him by performing an abridged version of his symphony, Roméo et Juliette.
With most of the audience seated at tables, and each of the five performed movements preceded by an informative explanation, the atmosphere was unique. Although people were free to get up and buy a drink at any time, once the music had started everyone was so transfixed that they didn’t want to. There was no question of the OAE either dumbing down or hamming up the musical output in response to its new surroundings, and it played at its brilliant best. There was one hiccup in that the scene set in Juliet’s tomb had to be performed without most of the brass section, when it was discovered that they had already gone home! They hadn’t realised they were needed again for the final movement, but the strict musical loss was more than made up for by the sheer novelty value, and 'show must go on' spirit.
The good news is that, because Reverb 2012 is spread over two weekends, it means there is still time to go. Tonight, Imogen Heap performs her a cappella soundtrack for the 1928 French surrealist silent film The Seashell and the Clergyman, with acclaimed UK choir The Holst Singers. On 3 March, the London Contemporary Orchestra presents works from 20th and 21st century composers, including Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood and Gabriel Prokofiev. The programme includes the European Premiere of the latter’s Concerto for Bass Drum and Orchestra, and there are DJ and live sets from members of the LCO and Roundhouse Music Collective. On 4 March there is a day celebrating some of the UK’s best choirs, including the BBC Singers and Roundhouse Choir. This event lasts from 11.00am to 9.30pm, and there is no need to book tickets in advance. It is free, and you can just turn up whenever you want.
Check out the Reverb 2012 website for full details of all of the concerts. All performances will be streamed live on the Roundhouse website and on Roundhouse Radio but, as the opening night showed us, there's nothing quite like being there!
Photo: The Night Shift on Friday provided the perfect start to Reverb 2012, © Joe Plommer