The Colourful Suite|
Turner in Uri,
Alpentöne Festival, Altdorf, 15th August 2003
Swiss Alps 2003, it is to take a dip in the lake where the Reuss contributes its milky waters of the glaciers from the surrounding sheer mountainsides, a walk in the sun-drenched forest, drowsy with the dry summer heat and the air fragrant with humus and pine needles. In the evening at last, to drift towards Altdorfs central square, now concourse of festival visitors, and into the theatre.
Before all else the stageing in unison of music and painting in progress is brought off brilliantly.
Mike Westbrooks integrating power, of Cortège and Chanson Irresponsable fame, has brought together the choreographed caleidoscopic morphogenesis of the canvas with elements as seemingly diverse as Choir, Brass Band, Opera and Jazz Band to themes of hymn and chorale, folksong and fanfare, swing and chanson, Ellingtonian Suite and Tyger. Mike and his co-workers keep all the items in the air as so many clubs, balls and bean bags, plus the odd hat, stick & plate. It is pleasantly tasking and highly rewarding for the audience to successfully keep track of the ongoing threads and watch them combine into a fabric.
So now we see the movements of a brush like a melody over the bass line of the instrumentalists - now large sweeping strokes laying down a background, over which the instruments develop their motives; brushes now feeling their way, now boldly outlining a number of apparently abstract shapes which then develop into a guards uniform or the traditional attire of a swiss girl.
Barbara Thompsons and Chris Biscoes combined virtuosity on saxophones weave a thread within the thread, adding to the delightful complexity.
Memorable too Chris Biscoes spellbinding ballad on saxophone accompanied by the economic touches of piano and drum set, the latter by Jon Hiseman, whose tour de force in turn congenially portrays the by now feverish Turner against a vortex of revolving colours.
The all star jazz line up is completed by Tim Harries on bass, Mike Westbrook on piano (both almost hidden in the wings of a packed stage) and librettist , singer-chanteuse Kate Westbrook. The latter occasionally disadvantaged by a sound setup which at times over-emphasized the volume of bass baritone Claudio Danusser.
Finally the inclusion of local groups prooved a perfectly sound concept, the choir very much entered the spirit, as did the brass band which was sharp and precise. Mike Westbrooks cooperation with leaders Hans Burkhalter (Brass Band Uri) and Renaldo Battaglia (choir Schola Uriensis) made this a success, which we should expect to see travelling to other locations.