|Reviews . . .|
Melody Maker, 5 June 1971
Continuum are continuing. Little or nothing has been heard from the quartet since the release of their first album on RCA, but the coming months should see a return to the limelight.
The group, as it was before, has disbanded. Only the name and leader Yoel Schwarz remain. Into the group come Tim Rice on keyboards, Peter Billam (picture) on bass guitar, and drummer Harvey Troupe.
A drastic change of line-up from the earlier Continuum, which relied purely on acoustic guitars, string bass and light percussion, and a change which - according to Yoel - will put added life in to the band which previously was accused of lacking excitement.
"Yes, the band was lacking in excitement," Yoel agreed when we met last week, "I originally thought we were going to grow up together but it didn't happen. I was disappointed with our performance at the Wexford Folk Festival in March and we disbanded after that.
"The original group lasted for one and a half years, but the problem was that we didn't progress. It wasn't anywhere further forward than what it was a year ago; if anything it had got worse. It was a terrible gig at Wexford and we all decided we needed a change. There's no point carrying on if a group isn't progressing. We had very competent musicians but we never managed to create any real excitement.
"Now I think we have even more competent musicians in the group and much more excitement as well." Yoel could well be right, for the credential of his three new men are imposing. Tim Rice, son of an American composer, studied organ and composition at the Royal College of Music for three years; Peter Billam is another graduate and Harvey Troupe served a drummer's apprenticeship with a variety of rock bands.
The result could be much heavier than the material on Continuum's first album. "We have more volume now, and more control over the sound," says Yoel. "I was frightened at first whether the classical guitar would work with the electric instruments but it does.
"A duet between an electric guitar and acoustic guitar sounds quite good, especially with Tim's Hammond organ behind it. "I didn't want to lose the sound of the group. I was worried about taking an organist because once you've heard one you've heard the lot. There are really only three types: the seaside type, which is terrible, the Jimmy Smith type, or the Keith Emerson. Tim doesn't really sound like any of them.
"Continuum was originally a guitar duo and most of our material was written with this in mind. Then we added drums and it sounded terrible so we added a bass. Now it has changed completely."
The present group has completed one side of a new album,
tentatively titled "Autumn Grass",
which should be available in a couple of months.
Their first concert since the change of line-up is scheduled for the
Queen Elizabeth Hall midway through June.
Sounds, 11 Sept 1971
The first half of their performance at the Caley Cinema, Edinburgh on Sunday it looked as though Continuum's failure to explain a complex program to an audience who scarcely knew what to expect was slowly bringing about their downfall. They chose a single, hour-long composition - a pastiche of contemporary and classical themes, during which they called on a variety of techniques, and variation of light and shade, and so on.
The sound of the new Continuum would have undoubtedly gone down a storm in London, but as they trod warily into their music with an improvisation, followed by a Couperin Jig, it looked as though they were sailing over the heads of their audience. But this was not to be, and as Continuum - a collection of four highly skilled and ambitious musicians - showed that their music is far more than a technical trip, the audience responded and finally begged for their return so fervently that one could forgive the band the mistake of playing an encore.
The groups organisation of sound followed an interesting set of moods, and already the band are able to swap passages whenever the improvisation demands; this is far more apparent than, say, the fact that they sight-read on stage. The group's own themes included "Overdraft" and "Kragoon" while they incorporated variations on Bach, Vivaldi, and Byrd's "Earl of Salisbury" pavan (although in most cases the arrangements were merely to fit the instrumental line-up.
Yoel Schwarz played acoustic guitar, flute, sax, recorder, violin
and mouth-organ, Peter Billam and Phil Edwards were a superb rhythm-section,
while Tim Rice's organ work contained a good balance of humour on the one
hand and the use of sounds by electronic means on the other.
The band are constantly striving to create - and not merely by filling
in every space or by using every colour in the palette,
for they are clearly much too advanced to fall into such fundamental traps.
They thoroughly deserve the tremendous ovation afforded them
and are definitely one of the experimental groups to watch for.
Melody Maker, 6 Nov 1971
Continuum's appearance at Digbeth Civic Hall in Birmingham on Tuesday of last week, was the first date on their current tour.
With an audience of eight on the ground floor and barely 20 in the balcony, it must have been the quietest send-off yet.
Continuum has undergone changes since its original conception as a classical guitar duo a couple of years ago, so that we now find multi-instrumentalist Yoel Schwarz in the company of organist Tim Rice, bassist Peter Billam and drummer Phil Edwards, - three extremely accomplished musicians.
Believing that "the creative musician can only be stifled when he imposes stylistic inhibitions on himself," their concert programme is created from a single logical structure of musical forms with extremes of "free" and written material.
The result is possibly the most complete marriage of classical music and contemporary sounds yet achieved by a small group.
Classically-based parts like "Gigue", "Pavan", "Vivaldi Synthesis One" and Bach's "Invention in F" and "Toccata in F" are treated in such a way that they do not seem incongruous blended with such contrasting Continuum compositions as "Kragoom - Monster of Doom" and "Groovy Boogie".
Schwarz is superb, playing everything from uninhibited Ornette Coleman-style
free-form alto to an intricate piece of Bach on guitar.
Those who stayed away in Birmingham missed a rare musical experience.
Melody Maker ? 1971
Today when outlooks are meant to be wider, and more people are coming to accept rock music as a serious form of art it seems to me, that for the most part, the groups who draw the largest crowds and earn the most money are those whose music is seemingly the least interesting.
Whilst not wishing to join the Deep Purple, Black Sabbath slagging syndrome, I cannot help thinking that it is unjust that they and their like should crowd out such bands as Continuum and Egg who have much more to offer musically.
I say this after returning from the best concert I have been to,
at which I and a pitifully small audience of around a hundred
saw Continuum play for two hours without interruption.
Throughout they retained the complete attention of everyone present
and at the end received an ovation worthy of any of your "super-groups,"
and this remember from a hundred people.
The Van Der Graaf concert the previous night was completely overshadowed.
Stephen Leather, Burley Lane, Quarndon, Derby
Disc and Music Echo, 18 Dec 1971
It would be hard to find four musicians more highly qualified to play music together than Continuum. They comprise a professor in music, a degree in theoretical physics; another degree in philosophy, and a drummer from the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
Add to that the music running in their veins: Yoel Schwarz's mother was a concert pianist, while Tim Rice's (no relation to the Jesus Christ Superstar) mother played harpsichord professionally and his father composed. Yoel studied music in Israel besides getting his philosophy degree; Tim studied pipe organ and electronic music composition at the Royal College of Music.
Guitarist Peter Billam has a first degree in theoretical physics from Imperial College. While he was there he fancied girls from the Royal Academy of Music and when he went out with them, always ended up doing their homework for them - and became very good at harmonies.
Drummer, Phil Edwards, has been with the group four months now, and used to be with Paul Kossoff's old group, Black Cat Bones, and with the Liverpool Philharmonic.
Continuum itself, i.e. in it's basic foundation, has been in existence for two years, growing from a guitar duo to a sizeable group, to its present four-piece status. They has always been classically structured, and they have nearly always been broke.
Yoel made a bit of money last year doing TV appearances, but after he had an argument with Andre Previn on "Late Night Line Up" he hasn't been asked back. Ironically the argument was about whether pop music and orchestral music fused; Previn said they didn't and yet recently came up with his own attempt at doing just that.
"We must", says Yoel, "be the only group in the country who doesn't own one single amplifier."
Yet they inspire the sort of admiration and confidence in people the Midas have lent them amplifiers for free. The current line-up seems to be the most successful Continuum formula so far.
"The old group was really a chamber music quartet. I wanted to take it further - the logical step would be to build it up and do big works. None of the others were interested - we played classical pieces well and were good for concerts in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, but I wanted to go out to Universities and get people going."
Consequently, the group split, and the current Continuum formed. "I started by bringing in a keyboard player - Tim. He's got a strong personality, he writes a lot and so you've got to change. Now we're a really exciting live group; we've got straight forward classical pieces, we've got jazz, we've got rock. It has alway been my dream to get a balance between arranged music and very free music.
Their equipment now includes things like ring modulators, and oscillators, and they incorporate a sound engineer, Charles Brooks, who balances them at the front, and enables them to put out quadraphonic sound live. They plan to put out an album in the spring which has a live side and a very complicated studio side - with double-tracking and overdubbing and quite impossible to reproduce onstage.
Currently the group are gigging about every ten days, but it doesn't stop the rehearsing EVERY day for a minimum of seven hours. They are very strict with themselves and their standards, which is probably why their reputation is so high and they were invited to play at the Edinburgh Festival this year.
Now with gigs coming in and the band policy happily sorted out, a new recording contract on the way, Continuum seem to be on the up and up. Last year they played only one payed gig - the Wexford Arts Festival - which was hardly the stuff to keep to keep body and soul together.
ERA, 8 Rue Charles-Bonnet, Genève, 12 Nov 1981
Le principe de double audition qu'applique le Studio de Musique Contemporaine dans ses concerts a du bon. Il permet notamment de distinguer les choses. Ainsi, le scintillement des cinq pièces op.10 de Anton Webern gagne en clarté à être entendu deux fois. Préparé par des choses plus longues, l'oreille s'émerveille d'une telle densité, d'une si fine orfèvrerie. Ainsi, à l'inverse, "Je lui dis..." de Geneviève Calame apparaît doublement pesé. Et pesant : écrit pour bois, cuivres et deux percussions, "Je lui dis..." installe par trois fois un drame pour mieux retomber dans une assez plate accumulation de climats tièdes. Amenés, certes, et soigneusement médités. Le solidité de cette écriture n'est pas en défaut d'intelligence. Mais de sensibilité aux timbres, de densité du discours, et surtout d'une imagination qui serait, ici, signe d'originalité . . .
L'originalité, le jeune compositeur Peter J. Billam ne paraît pas en possession d'un métier suffisant pour le faire ressortir. Sa création, commande du SMC, "Melody with Accompaniment" n'apporte pas grande chose de neuf : dans cette manière de contraster le propos par des oppositions de timbres, de durées, de hauteurs et d'intensitées, tout semble avoir été déja dit. Et pour ce qui concerne un language où les atmosphères ont une importance primordiale, à défaut de véritable innovation, on attendrait une substance moins molle, une poésie qui impose sa nécessité.
La poésie des "Domaines" de Boulez, en revanche, est bien réelle. Même si le tout conserve une intellectualité plutôt rébarbative. Mais le sens théâtral y est assez nourri pour que l'on saisisse, du parcours, toutes les étapes : attentes, suspensions, changements de rythmes, soudains sursauts d'énergie et retours de fatigue, sautés d'humeur et d'humour. Et malgré, ou en raison même de se longueurs, le sentiment d'un rythme, la claire perception d'une architecture. Mieux, d'une respiration qui, au-delà des formes controlées dont Boulez encadre sa construction, semble trouver les voies d'une liberté.
Lourde tâche que d'assurer le rôle de soliste-conducteur d'une oeuvre qui sollicite autant d'imagination et d'esprit : le clarinettiste René Meyer a fait ressortir une tendresse, une chaleur et une variété d'intentions éloquentes. Réparti en cinq groupes, le Collegium Academicum, aux ordes de Jacques Guyonnet, se réchauffe : après avoir donné des pièces précédentes toute la générosité qu'elles pouvaient lui inspirer.
TUMS, Ian Burk, Jane Franklin Consort, Chris Behrens
Hobart Town Hall, 26 May 1990
Under Ian Burk's direction, Bach's Easter Cantata Christ Lay in Death's Dark Prison, began Saturday's Concert with the Tasmania University Musical Society (TUMS), the Jane Franklin Consort (JFC - formerly Opus Eight) and a small instrumental ensemble.
In a romanticised performance, some untidy ensemble, muddied counterpoint and disturbing jerkiness were relieved by solist sections well sung by JFC singers.
Organist Chris Behrens played César Franck's Organ Chorale No. 3 in A minor with suitably romantic registrations. With Behrens' accompaniment, TUMS quite impressive dynamic range and fine ensemble produced a delightful performance of Gabriel Fauré's Cantique de Jean Racine.
After interval, the consort, two each of sopranos, contraltos, tenors and basses, sang a capella Tchaikovsky's The Crown of Roses, and followed with Kodály's Jesus and the Traders. The excellent intonation, balance, clear enunciation and cohesive ensemble in this rhythmically difficult score was first rate.
Directed by Ian Burk, Waughan Williams' Mass in G minor
ended the concert a capella.
With solos taken by JFC singers and TUMS reformed as a double choir,
this very expressive performance demonstrated the need for a concert
auditorium with cathedral-like ambience.
I. K. Harris
Jane Franklin Consort
All Saint's Church, Hobart, 22 Sep 1990
The Jane Frankiln Consort is a group of eight singers who specialise in a capella (unaccompanied) singing. A capella singing is difficult. Not only must must the words and phrasing be clear and complete in each voice but also ensemble, rhythm and balance must be maintained, requiring total attention from all singers.
In this two-hour program, the second half included Josquin des Pres, Gesualdo, Brahms, Ravel, Vaughan-Williams and Manhattan Transfer, demanding quantum leaps in style.
The program was well-sung in general, but there were some notable lapses. When contrapuntal entries were complicated by false relations or chromaticism, as in Resto di darmi noia (Gesualdo) and Crucifixus (Lotti), intonation faltered. Individual members sang similar intervals, particularly fourths, differently.
Pianissimo passages were magic, but unincisive bass voices made for poor balance throughout in loud passages. Disturbing, too, was the accentuation of the beats in Tallis' Lamentations of Jeremiah in an otherwise fine performance.
Ravel's Trois Chansons need more study
and Vaughan-Williams' Full Fathom Five a complete overhaul,
but Brahms' Four German Folk-Songs were very well done indeed.
Peter Billam's arrangement of I Heard it Through the Grapevine
came off well.
I. K. Harris
Jane Franklin Consort
St David's Cathedral, Hobart, 1 Dec 1990
A concert of 35 short, unaccompanied pieces needs shape, direction and style if it is to succeed. The Jane Franklin Consort's program of Christmas anthems and carols from the 15th to the 20th century proceeded randomly without centrepiece or climax.
While it included some delightful moments (such as the three-part There Is No Rose and the male-voice arrangement of Christmas Tree) it lacked colour and excitement overall. Admittedly, the group had to battle against traffic noise and restaurant muzak, but too many carols were sung in hymn book settings, rattled off without much conviction. Some, such as Hark the Herald Angels, were ineffective without accompaniment.
The consort always sang agreeably but balance, cohesion and dramatic impact will only improve when stronger male voices are added to the ensemble; all the descants drown out the melodies.
The jazzy arrangements of Jingle Bells at the end,
and the sendup of The Twelve Days of Christmas as encore,
showed what the group can achieve when engaged by the music
and how the whole program could have gained from more imaginative planning.
R. M. Thompson
Derwent Symphony Orchestra
Hobart Town Hall, Thursday, 28 Dec 1991
Concerts of Jeffrey Horsley's DSO are always bright programs played with enthusiasm.
Thursday's concert began with a gently successful Sleigh Ride of Frederick Delius, played with care and warmth.
The recorder is not an instrument much heard as concert soloist in symphony concerts. Corelli's Concerto Grosso op.6 no.8 - "Christmas Concerto" uses two. With a small string ensemble directed by Mr Horsely from the hasrpichord, the well-blended, gentle timbres of the recorder duo of Tara Maroney and Peter Billam bloomed in the lively Town Hall acoustics, with subtle differences of articulations and dynamics. Accurate phrasing, intonation and balance made this the high point of the evening.
The resonance rather muddied the too-small resources in Chabrier's Joyeuse Marche. However, in Haydn's Symphony in C no.82, "The Bear", after an over-enthusiastic beginning, the orchestra settled down to a well-disciplinied performance, although a tendency to rush caused some untidy ensemble in the second movement.
In general, the playing tended to improve in the repeats.
I. K. Harris