Ganymede & Titan

Holly Bops

The Bridgewater Hall is fantastic. The setting for last night�s World Premiere of Red Dwarf: Concert Version, just walking into the impressive building, tucked away in a Mancunian side street, made me feel happy.

When I arrived, I realised just how brilliant my seat was. In Stalls K40, I was incredibly close to the stage, brilliant for watching just how music is made up. The only slight downside of my position was that the bass slightly overpowered the lighter instruments, although this was rarely noticeable. Important to note, however, was that one of the percussionists looked like an older version of our very own John Hoare...

Carl Davis was unavailable as billed due to medical reasons, so Roderick Dunk conducted in his absence. Heather Stott, of BBC GMR Breakfast Show ‘fame’ presented the concert, and attempted to make a few jokes throughout, such as getting a percussionist to put a beater to his head and pretend to be a dalek. Hilarious.

The Music

The music was a good selection, however the poorest piece of the evening could probably be argued to be the Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, which was long, drawn out and dull, just like the movie. Which is fantasy, not sci-fi anyway. The Harry Potter piece, although also not being sci-fi, sounded brilliant, especially the glockenspiel at the beginning.

The concert started with Holst�s The Planets: Mars, which is a brilliant piece of music, let down by the fact the orchestra went out of time half way through.

I�ve got very little to comment on from the first half, mainly because the pieces of music were the less well known ones, apart from 2001 - A Space Odyssey, which sounds brilliant live. I did get bored of clapping at the end of the half though, where the conductor kept going and coming back, and when we all hoped he�d finally gone, he�d come back and we�d all have to clap again. Yes, I know it�s good, and tradition and all that, but sometimes you can take it too far - we had to do it all again in the second half!

Notable from the second half (except Red Dwarf, which I will come onto soon) was Star Trek: The Motion Picture: End Title Suite, which sounded amazing. The Thunderbirds Suite by Barry Gray is one of those eternally good pieces of music, and this was no exception, perfectly executed, and once again, sounding brilliant live. It�s always amazing to hear some of this music live, when you are so used to it being recorded - whatever anyone says - it DOES sound different.

Next was Dr. Who. A theme initially created by manipulating magnetic audio tape, I was intrigued to see how exactly an orchestra could play this, and surprisingly well was the answer. The swooping noise that makes up the start of the theme was created by the string section, and I�m not quite sure how - it think they were using the bows on their side.

Skipping Red Dwarf, which I will cover in detail in a minute, Ghostbusters was surely the hit of the evening, especially with one of the cellist�s who was singing along inadvertently. Very similar to the Red Dwarf theme in some ways, it fitted very well afterwards. Then came Star Wars, and Superman as an encore piece after another long barrage of hand-aching applause.

Red Dwarf

So, what about Red Dwarf? Well, partly it was brilliant, partly a disappointment. It had been pitched, even in the official programme as �the jovial opening theme [joined] by other refrains which craftily crept into the series over the years�. Indeed, Rick Mason�s Groovetown site states that Howard Goodall had produced a 10 minute piece with all of this in. However, what we got was a reworking of the main theme, lasting around three minutes, and obviously padded out in one place. So here we go, from my notes hastily scribbled on a piece of scrap paper, gaining me plenty of odd looks - the review of the premiere.

The piece was very much like the remastered title theme - starting with the rumble and the solo cornet, building up into the cresendo that follows and on into the main theme. It also had undertones of the long-winded piece that appears on The No 1 Sci-fi Album, which surprised me, as Howard didn�t write the extended theme.

The main flaw in the execution of the pre-verse section was that all the other instruments far overpowered the harp that was playing the high riffs at the end of each of the stabs. Of course in the series, the riffs were played by a piano, which would probably have worked better.

After this came the bit where the slow theme accelerates into the faster one. This was the padding I referred to earlier, as in the series, there are only two “der da der der der”�s, and in this piece, there were four, and it didn�t sound good. In fact, there was a lot of this “der da der der der”ing all the way through, but none of it sounded as forced as the beginning - and it usually worked well as a joiner.

After this came the verses we all know and love, mixed together with the joiner mentioned above. The following is an edited extract from my notes, giving you the idea of the structure of the piece:

As for the music, the verses were very much like we remember them, but with a lot more twiddlyness over the “fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun” bits, which sounded really good - and it was a powerful piece - the person next to me was tapping their leg in time, which they didn�t to any other song.

OK, so now the bad bits. Basically, you can�t do a song like this with an orchestral guitar player. OK, he was a very good guitar player, I�m sure, but the main problem was that we could hardly hear him.

After the impressive opening, the main melodic instrument is the electric guitar. In fact, throughout the first verse, it was the only instrument playing the melody. So we have loud orchestral stabs, weedy guitar, and then some more stabs to finish the verse.

The electric guitar was meant to be the main part of the theme - that was obvious - and it should have been punctuated throughout by some lovely stabs from the orchestra (like the TV Theme). Instead we got the guitar being seriously overpowered by the orchestra throughout the piece. It spoilt the whole thing.

So, on reflection, the Red Dwarf Concert Version is largely a good piece of music, apart from my padding quibble, but suffered hugely in the performance, and ultimately in the orchestration. I hope Howard Goodall gets a recording of the concert, as he seriously needs to listen to it.

Hopefully, this will be sorted in the next performance...