Gerard Presencer, St Cyprians Church, Saturday 17 Nov - London Jazz Festival

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The unconventional setting of St Cyprians Church was the chosen stage for the first London performance of Siobahn Lamb’s four-part composition Meditations.  Featuring Gerard Presencer on trumpet and flugelhorn, the varied ensemble for the evening’s concert included a string quartet, harp, four piece vocal consort and even a children’s choir.  The inclusion of a very young group of singers in the third movement was a brave move, but as Presencer himself said as the gig opened; “I’ve always considered myself to be an improviser first and foremost.”  Contrasting with the professional performance of the other players, the children certainly added an air of uncertainty to the music; infusing the piece with innocence and excitement. Gerard Presencer, St Cyprians Church, Saturday 17 Nov - London Jazz Festival
St Cyprians glowed with the light of gently smouldering candles, and their flickering framed each movement of Meditations.  This atmosphere was reflective of Presencer’s own ability to flit between genres and melodies as he found his lyrical voice above and amongst the accompaniment.  The four movements of Meditations were woven around the themes of Love, Loss, Hope and Peace, and featured lines from the poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Burns.  Lamb’s composition borrowed from multiple traditions as it floated between Classical Baroque, folk and even Latino sounds.  Although Presencer’s sound was sometimes lost into the vast space behind him, and in places the progression of the music lagged, this was a riveting piece to watch.

With Lamb conducting to a strict beat, this performance was certainly closer to a classical concert than a jazz gig.  However, Presencer’s impromptu solos and fantastically executed squeals above the accompaniment betrayed the innocence and excitement inherent in the major themes of this piece.  The juxtaposition of genres, instruments and beats resulted in a journey through a range of emotions that were simultaneously soothing and inspiring.

Catherine Marks