Fraser Trainer (Proms 2005 – Week 3)

Written by: Colin Anderson

A new CD, a new violin concerto – education, too, and a day at the Proms featuring the violin and young musicians, amateurs joining with professionals. Fraser Trainer tells more…

The three Proms on Saturday, July 30, the first at 2.30, are centred on the violin and youthful musicians. Fraser Trainer has been “working on the Proms education side of things and touring around the country doing projects in different regions. The 30th is going to be a huge day.” Fraser is “working with Between the Notes and students to perform a new work which we haven’t written yet. Invisible Lines is going to be interesting. It’s the five of us plus members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra and students from around the country that we’ve been working with on prelim projects. We plant seeds of ideas about creating musical structures, riff patterns in irregular patterns for example, and expand them. Half of the students will come to London and will work on a project based on my new violin concerto, For the Living. The other half, largely drawn from youth orchestras, will play Respighi’s Pines of Rome with the BBC Symphony – as big an orchestra as can be got on the Royal Albert Hall stage!”

Between the Notes is a quintet, Fraser playing keyboards and piano. “We do concerts, we write our own music collectively, we improvise, and we work with artists outside of music; we currently do a show with stand-up comedian Neil Ashdown. We’re all committed to education work and often include pieces that we’ve worked on with local people.” Just out on Black Box (BBM1095) is a Between the Notes CD that includes two of Fraser’s pieces, Knots (a 2003 violin concerto for Viktoria Mullova) and Id, as well as a community work, Tangerine Dance, and an arrangement of a Human League song.

Fraser describes himself as “a composer who works in education – in schools, colleges and prisons.” The artistic director of Between the Notes is the cellist Matthew Barley. He is the husband of the violinist Viktoria Mullova. She premieres Fraser’s new concerto in the 7 o’clock Prom. “For the Living has a strong connection with a poem by Lemn Sissay called Advice for the Living. The poem was the starting point and it’s inspired some of the music. Viktoria’s playing has inspired it quite a lot, too; it’s fascinating working with a soloist of that calibre. There are 78 musicians in the orchestra and the violin is amplified to allow the violin to compete on a sonic level. The orchestra is split into three groups; left and right are mirror images in their instruments, and the centre is violas, woodwinds and brass.” Fraser describes the music as being of “strong pulsing rhythms; I hope that people get a sense of drama, excitement and propulsion from this music. There’s a lyrical quality, too.”

It’s in this Prom that Invisible Lines will be performed, which is also related to Sissay’s poem. “We’ll never have a score of this piece, we won’t write it down, it’s something that we’ll invent practically and learn, keep in our heads and perform. That’s why it’s called Invisible Lines. There’s a string ensemble, saxophones and clarinets. We’ve even got bagpipes; I don’t know how we’ll work that in, but we will.”

During this three-concert day expect, too, some debate on the Music Manifesto. Given the London Olympics will be dominant for years (overbearing?), I ask Fraser about sport over music with, in mind, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s recent Royal Philharmonic Society Lecture. “As I understand it, it’s a bid that went into the community to create new work in various areas and that music and schools will benefit – I’m looking to see that happen and the follow-through on that. The Olympics could be an opportunity for lots of music to be made and to bring people together.” First, then, to ‘violin day’ at the Proms, celebrating the versatility of the violin, from Bach to Blazin’ Fiddles (traditional Scottish fiddles) and from Fraser’s premiere to Roby Lakatos’s gypsy band (at 10 o’clock) – “it’s going to be an incredible day!”

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