wed 19/06/2024

Robert Mitchell's 'Invocation', Queen Elizabeth Hall | reviews, news & interviews

Robert Mitchell's 'Invocation', Queen Elizabeth Hall

Robert Mitchell's 'Invocation', Queen Elizabeth Hall

An exciting new chapter in award-winning artist's development

A personal and universal thank you to life-changing teachersPhoto: Emile Holba

Imaginatively constructed and endlessly surprising, this world premiere of the complete version of pianist Robert Mitchell's choral work Invocation elicited one of the most moving performances I had the pleasure of hearing at this year's EFG London Jazz Festival.

Written as “a personal and universal thank you to life-changing teachers”, the vast, six-movement work skilfully interweaved the improvised with the composed, resulting in a score of quite astonishing richness and variety.

The cast included the Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and its chorusmaster (and powerful baritone singer) Gavin Carr, Mitchell's own long-standing quartet Panacea, Goldsmiths [big] String led by Julian Ferraretto, young music students from Avonbourne and Harewood Colleges, plus percussionist and narrator Eugene Skeef, and the performers brought exceptional focus and commitment to the work. The intermingling of youth and experience served the ethos of the piece ‒ the power of sharing of wisdom and inspiring future generations ‒ rather well. A member of Mitchell's Panacea since 2001, vocal soloist Deborah Jordan was a remarkable presence throughout, investing everything she sang with an unfailingly beautiful tone, while the Panacea rhythm section of Tom Mason (upright and electric bass) and Laurie Lowe (drums) ensured that the music remained airborne at all times (Deborah Jordan photographed by Gerry Walden, below).

Powerfully intoned by Skeef, the work began with the spoken word, an ancient Sumerian riddle from the eighteenth century BC (“A house based on a foundation like the skies”). From the first movement's gradual textural build-up to a pulsating wall of sound ‒ Mitchell's rhapsodic pianism, the arresting ululations of Jordan and Skeef's percussive interjections dovetailing to magical effect ‒ to the poignant a cappella singing of the student choirs in the fourth movement, prefaced by a notable quote from Mahatma Gandhi (“Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words”), Mitchell's writing was extraordinarily rich in detail, ranging from the intimate to the imposing. Switching between grand piano and electric piano, Mitchell's own playing ranged from forceful, almost minimalistic ostinatos to virtuosic solo passages in which rapidly repeating two-handed chords created the impression of motion blur, such was the intensity and speed of the pianist's attack.

With eight critically acclaimed albums to his name, including last year's The Glimpse, this first large-scale work from the award-winning Steinway artist and composer signals an exciting new chapter in his development. A recording of the work would be hugely welcomed.

Mitchell's own playing ranged from forceful, almost minimalistic ostinatos to virtuosic solo passages which created the impression of motion blur


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Great review of a wonderful pice of work by a very fine combination of artists. Well done to all involved, and a pleasure to have been a part of it!

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