This was my first visit to a percussion only concert and even though I play percussion in a youth orchestra I was a little apprehensive. I need not have been, O Duo were brilliant from start to finish, I even found myself on stage playing with them, twice during the performance!

O Duo are a percussion duo who met while studying at the Royal College of Music and have since played in many different venues around the world. They are described by the Daily Telegraph as “brimming with style and panache’’ and Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell, the members of O Duo, certainly didn’t disappoint us.

The programme opened with one of their own compositions “Bongo Fury”, a wild, inventive piece that included vocals, movement and drumming on the floor, as well as the bongos and cowbells. They reminded me a little of the percussion ensemble “Stomp” and the audience loved them, as did we.

Next came their own arrangement of Aragon from Suite Espanola, Op. 47 by Albeniz played beautifully on two Marimbas. These two pieces demonstrated the wide range of music we would hear during the concert, which ranged from classical to jazz and improvisation.

After each piece Oliver or Owen entertained us with funny stories about previous performances or enlighten us with anecdotes about their instruments or the piece of music they were about to perform. I particularly enjoyed learning about the history and construction of the marimba and was also able to watch them dismember one of these fantastic instruments after the concert.

(In addition, when they discovered I played percussion they chatted with me throughout the interval and really inspired me to follow in their footsteps and learn more tuned percussion.)

The first half continued with a Chopin Etude popularly know as the Black Key Study, played on two marimbas instead of the piano. Owen challenged the audience to pick out “ the one white key played by the right hand, or in this case brown key!” I didn’t identify it but their adaptation for the marimbas worked well.

Members of the audience were then invited to join O Duo on stage to play Take Five, a jazz standard widely attributed to Dave Brubeck. However, today we learnt it had actually been written by his sax player Paul Desmond for a bet! I leapt at the chance to join them and played bongos while my friend Sam Tarver played a cowbell – our first professional concert!

The first half was brought to an impressive close with Improvisation No. 1, a unique piece with many percussion instruments including a vibraphone played with a double- bass bow, how cool is that! It really demonstrated how versatile and fit a percussionist has to be.

The second half also included some audience participation, Sam and I found ourselves playing vibes while four other audience members played the marimba to demonstrate that “ anyone can play an instrument but some just have to try harder!” Needless to say we loved it and the applause that followed.

The program continued with Prelude In C, Op.12 No.7, Harp by Prokofiev, which O Duo had arranged for tuned percussion. A Philip Glass piece entitled Mad Rush played on marimbas and vibraphone came next, both pieces were very successful and were extremely popular with the audience. We were all were thoroughly enjoying this very entertaining concert. It finished with a very moving composition by Minoru Miki, Marimba Spiritual, written to mark the famine in Ethiopia during the 1980’s. It was intended to be performed by a solo marimba and three percussionists but Oliver and Owen re-arranged it for drums and marimba and to say the instruments battled it out to the end was an understatement; a virtuoso performance.

Their encore was a very funny but beautifully timed Minute Waltz, which almost brought the house down.

I felt privileged to have been at this inspiring, entertaining and dare I say it educational, afternoon concert. I will definitely go and see them perform again. I loved their mix of musicianship and humour, which worked well in this small theatre. A five star performance with a well balanced programme. Thank you to the Hoddesdon Music Club for the tickets and welcome.

Andre Johnson, aged 15 O DUO at Hoddesdon Music Club, United Reformed Church, Mill Lane, Broxbourne Saturday 22nd January 2011

© Hanya Chlala.