Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Bassoon: My Newest Favourite Thing

My new favourite thing is the bassoon.

I had a fortunate childhood which involved a lot of music, theatre and art. This is because my mother loved these things, and I was the youngest child. There was gap of three and a half years between me and the next one, so when they had all been carted safely off to school, I was left behind with my mother. She toted me around concerts halls, theatres, art galleries and the like – it was much easier to keep track of one child than four on the train to London and back.

My earliest memories include music – sitting and listening to crackling records of Sergey Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf; Camille Saint-Saen’s Carnival of the Animals; Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition; Georges Bizet’s Carmen; Paul Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Ravel’s Bolero.

Underpinning all of these was the deep mellifluous tones of the bassoon. It was a sombre, dignified instrument that you didn’t mess with. It meant business and it was slightly sad due to the weight of its years and experience, yet it had a benevolent and gentle nature – it was solid, protective, and dependable. It really was Peter’s grandfather. In an orchestral melee you’d want a bassoon on your side.

Yesterday I went along to a free reading of orchestral music by New Zealand composers, conducted by Kenneth Young. What a delight! One of the pieces, by Mike Nock was Sketches for bassoon, orchestra and jazz trio. It was stunning and sent shivers up my spine – in a good way. The bassoon was played by Colin Hemmingsen and I’m no aficionado, but I thought it was fabulous.

It took me back to my childhood days of sitting on the rug in the front room while the rain sleeted down outside. My mother left me in the capable hands of these composers and my own imagination while she did whatever it was that mothers did. I can only be grateful for that opportunity.

These readings were held at the Wellington Town Hall and organised as part of New Zealand Music Month by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and SOUNZ. The next lot of readings will be on Tuesday 2nd and Wednesday 3rd September in the Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington. I recommend you get along to them.