The Aurora Orchestra chose one of the most eclectic mixes of music that St George’s has seen in a classic music concert inspired by the home, opening the eyes of Bristol to a strange variety of pieces. The stage was set up with a screen controlled by Stanton Media on the left hand side with a black and white drawing of a house on it. To the right of the stage there was a dining table set up with cutlery, crockery and glasses, completed with napkins and an L.E.D. candelabra. With promises of toothbrush music, it was clear that this was not, by any means, a normal concert.

Aurora Orchestra © Lewis Brockway
Aurora Orchestra
© Lewis Brockway

The evening opened with Toru Takemitsu’s IV: Rocking Mirror (Rocking Mirror Daybreak), written for two violins. On the screen appeared a film of the two violinists standing in front of it who mimicked the images in a mirror like fashion before turning round to start playing. This led into a collage of different views of the violinists close up. The piece itself was experimental and atonal, as was Thomas Adès Court Studies that followed on from it, so much so, that it was very difficult to tell when the pieces changed as the other instruments were already sat on stage.The Takemitsu could have easily been an opening for the Adès.

Bohuslav Martinů’s ‘jazz ballet’, La Revue de Cuisine, was brilliantly performed. Again it led straight in from the previous piece but its start was detectable by the trumpet call and running of other members of the chamber ensemble on stage. The score was jazz-inspired using dance forms such as the Tango and Charleston. It was set to a silent film, made in 1927, that told the tale of romantic encounters between a series of kitchen utensils.

It was difficult to understand why the first three pieces ran together or where Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E flat major Op.20 fitted into the programme of the evening, unless it was a way for the Aurora Orchestra to demonstrate their talent as more traditional classical performers. The programme notes linking the Octet to the Dining Room as part of the ‘home’ theme was tenuous and so was its pairing with Music for Two Acoustic Toothbrushes. After the hype about it, I was rather hoping the Music for Two Acoustic Toothbrushes was going to be a longer piece, but in retrospect how long could it really be? Delago, accompanied by another member of the orchestra brushed, swilled and gargled into microphones. The small piece was only a few minutes long and brilliantly conceived with a lot of humor delving into the percussive qualities of very simple toothbrushes. It felt as though this piece was a witty play on Manu’s father, Hermann Delago’s piece Durch Mark und Bein composed for a laid dinner table, all its components and a marimba. The work passes from wine glass tones to salt shakers and the four men performing at the table tucked their napkins in to their collars to start the piece whilst Delago stood behind with the marimba. The imaginative work culminated in an equally absurd fashion where in an entirely separate performer walked on to the stage to hoover it.

The star of the night was young Manu Delago and his three hangs. These were instruments created in Switzerland in 2000 that take he appearance of an upturned steel drum with a resonance chamber underneath. Delago played the hang in a number of different ways to create a variety of sound effects from dull thuds to a harp-like sound. The most interesting effect was a wobbling sound used in Manu Delago’s piece Secret Corridor created by string the hang with one hand whilst simultaneously bending the metal with the other hand.

The evening ended in the whole orchestra playing satirical end credits. Pictures of the orchestra as little kids with their names and instruments were set up mockingly inside an illustration of a television on the screen. Renowned for their creative programming and presentation, the Aurora Orchestra won’t be leaving my head in a rush. It was a little like Monty Python had taken over St George’s that allowed us, the audience, to experience a surreal but jovial take on classical music.