Will ‘ ac­ro­batic’ pair beaten by the Bells?

Two Aus­tralian mu­si­cians armed with 20 in­stru­ments are plan­ning to recre­ate a clas­sic al­bum on stage. MARTIN HUTCHIN­SON re­ports

Solihull News - - ENTERTAINMENT -

MIKE Old­field’s Tubu­lar Bells is re­garded as one of the great­est al­bums ever pro­duced.

The first re­lease on Richard Bran­son’s Vir­gin Records, it was the re­sult of Bran­son’s faith in Old­field’s mu­si­cal vi­sion – a sin­gle al­bum with one piece of mu­sic.

It was recorded by Old­field him­self – but per­form­ing it live was an­other thing. It re­quired an army of mu­si­cians ( Old­field played 15 in­stru­ments on side one alone).

So for just two peo­ple to per­form a live ver­sion must be nigh on pos­si­ble. Or is it?

Two Aus­tralians, Danny Holdsworth and Ai­dan Roberts, de­cided to have a go. Danny ex­plains how it all started.

“The show was orig­i­nally con­ceived by my­self and Ai­dan back in 2008. We are both big record col­lec­tors, and a favourite pas­time of ours is to get to­gether and lis­ten to our lat­est finds over a cou­ple of drinks.

‘‘ Ai­dan found an orig­i­nal copy of Tubu­lar Bells, which nei­ther of us had heard in quite a while. As we re­vis­ited it, we found it fas­ci­nat­ing, so we de­cided to have a bit of a jam on it.”

He con­tin­ues: “There’s a fa­mous sec­tion at the end of side one, where a bass riff re­peats for about eight min­utes whilst Viv Stan­shall ( Bonzo Dog Doo- Dah Band) an­nounces a pro­ces­sion of in­stru­ments, from ‘ grand pi­ano’, ‘ reed and pipe or­gan’ and so on un­til you fi­nally get ‘ tubu­lar bells’.

“Now we had most of these in­stru­ments ly­ing around, plus Ai­dan had just bought a loop pedal, which were fairly new back then. So we de­cided to loop the bass riff, then run around and play all the in­stru­ments.

“And from that tipsy jam, the idea was formed to try and at­tack the whole al­bum with just the two of us, just for fun.

“It’s an amaz­ing piece of mu­sic that goes against the grain of pop- mu­sic sen­ti­ment, and takes you on a weird and won­der­ful jour­ney, through many dif­fer­ent styles and moods.

“Af­ter we first per­formed it we thought that would be the end of it. But then we got in­vited to the Ed­in­burgh Fringe to per­form it, where we in­stantly sold out and won a string of awards.

“I think the show re­ally fit the Fringe well be­cause, while we’re se­ri­ous about the mu­sic, the sit­u­a­tion we’re in is com­i­cal and the task we have to pull off is al­most ac­ro­batic, so the show is in­cred­i­bly tense.”

Even though the show could be de­scribed as ‘‘ comic’’, Danny is a se­ri­ous mu­si­cian.

“I trained as a clas­si­cal gui­tarist. I stud­ied com­po­si­tion and mu­sic tech­nol­ogy at univer­sity and have a Masters in Cre­ative Arts, where I wrote a the­sis about the his­tory of the rock al­bum and its re­la­tion­ship to stu­dio tech­nol­ogy.

‘‘ So that was a pretty good ba­sis lead­ing into this project.

“There are 20 in­stru­ments on stage, most of them ei­ther string- based, key­board- based or per­cus­sion, and we can play all of them. I had to im­prove my skills on a few of them, but on the whole I know them all pretty well.’’

Due to fam­ily rea­sons, Ai­dan has stepped down from tour­ing the show and Danny is now joined by Tom Bam­ford.

“We’d known Tom for quite a while and we all come from The Blue Moun­tains, which is just out­side of Syd­ney. We’d played in bands to­gether over the years so we were com­fort­able work­ing to­gether.”

And there’s an­other Mike Old­field link to the tour.

‘‘ Mike’s son Luke is in Gyp­syfin­gers, our sup­port act. They are a fan­tas­tic folk band and I hope peo­ple re­ally en­joy their mu­sic.”

“As for Mike, we’ve been in touch with him a few times and he’s been very sup­port­ive of the show.

“The beauty of the show is that it’s not just about the mu­sic, it’s also about the the­atri­cal­ity of this ridicu­lous, near im­pos­si­ble task we’ve set our­selves.

‘‘ Our aim ev­ery night is just to get to the end. Some­times some in­cred­i­ble things go wrong, but that’s part of it. We then need to dig our­selves out of it and carry on.”

Tubu­lar Bells For Two will be per­formed at The Town Hall, Birm­ing­ham on Satur­day.

Tom Bam­ford and Daniel Holdsworth per­form Mike Old­field’s Tubu­lar Bells al­bum ( left). Photo by War­ren Kirby

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