Berlioz – By @EllieDag

By Ellie Daghlian




Dead deer faces banging drums


On Thursday night it was Cream. My peers set upon Mother. A swarm of 30+ ‘event photographers’ without cameras. That, after extensive discussion, seemed to be the preferred method of attack. 


But whilst they headed east, towards incredible talent and free champagne, I struck west. To the Royal Albert Hall.


Since the age of six I’ve spent a lot of time with a violin glued to my chin. 


I have a few things to show for it. A right forearm longer than the left, the ability to wince when things are out of tune, and a bunch of musical friends. 


Some of them are pursing a life in it. Something I considered. Until realising it’s very hard and not that well-paid. Plus, I don’t have the one-track kind of mind you need to succeed in the business. 


My brain’s a bit more here-are-nine-million-tracks-and-can-you-do-them-all-at-once? You-can’t? Oops. 


On the bright side, it leads to lots of dots, which I hear are handy in the creative walk of life. 


Back to Thursday. A birthday planned months in advance clashed with Cream. I’d have loved to have gone. But I’ve made a mental note of who’s books were on show, and the concert I saw instead was amazing. So I thought I’d tell you about it here. 


Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Described by Bernstein as the first musical expedition into psychedelia. The guy was a pioneer. He was also on opium, and writing about a hopeless, unrequited love. 


Thursday’s performance was by the Aurora orchestra. BUT with a difference. They’d all memorised the symphony. We’re talking  80 minutes of music, most lines harmony rather than melody. Plus the conductor’s holding all of it in his head at once.


And my dad can’t remember to take his coat to Russia. 


The orchestra played standing. Losing the chairs and music stands left a lot of possibilities when it came to staging, lighting and so on. The result was cool. 


A few things they did with their no-music freedom:


  1. Lighting. 


You’re restricted when you need to be able to read thousands of small dots and squiggles. Off book you can do very funky things like setting off giant disco balls. 


Disco balls make most things better. In a huge, circular room filled with a trippy waltz and hundreds of people it’s spectacular.


  1. Movement. 


Players’ bodies became part of the story telling. Turning to face us one by one during the march. Or spread out in the dark, with lights on their wrists. As fireflies beneath the moon. 


Not a million miles away from Warhorse and The Lion King. The sort of theatre that hints at what you want to see, and lets your imagination do the rest. 


  1. Masks. 


Personal favourite. Right at the end the musicians all whipped out these large animal skull masks. Presumably they’d been hiding them up their shirts. The lights dipped to a powerful, angry red. 


This was the Witches’ Sabbath, and let me tell you, dead deer faces banging drums was the vibe I did not know I needed.

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