Travelling by Tuba

This has been a truly exceptional concert series for the Strathearn Music Society, now embarked on its second half-century and clearly going from strength to musical strength. Their twin hallmarks in recent years have been excellence and variety, and last Wednesday’s concert in St Andrew’s Hall brought their current season to a highly entertaining close with Chris Cranham and Stewart Death who tour the country “Travelling by Tuba”. Chris is the tuba-player and Stewart is billed as the pianist (and incidentally proved his undoubted worth in this department with a beautiful solo Prelude and Nocturne by Scriabin) but he’s also no slouch himself with a posthorn, cornett or hosepipe and funnel in his hands. These three instruments, along with conch-shell, kudu horn, serpent, ophicleide, sousaphone – and even toy cannon with party-poppers – were enlisted during the first half of the evening as live, sounding props for a whirlwind historical tour of the development of brass instruments (mostly of the loud and low variety).

After the interval Chris and tuba, now established as the star of the show, displayed its full colours and remarkable range and agility in an intriguing array of music, including a contemporary concerto by Ole Schmidt and “Two Moods for Tuba” by Donald Swann. Yes, the instrument definitely has comic capacity, easily exploited, but in the right hands it plainly also has dignity and depth in every sense.

Both performers clearly relish their role as ambassadors and advocates of unusual sounds and project their message, both musically and verbally, with infectious enthusiasm and élan – all in all, a great finale before the SMS takes a well-earned rest for the Spring and Summer months.

Talking of well-earned rests, the Society will have a new Chair after their forthcoming AGM, and it is only fitting to add a footnote to this review, recognising and applauding the unstinting hard work and devotion of Marjorie Bourne in this role for the last few years. Thank you, Marjorie!

This year’s SMS AGM is on Wed 24 May 2017 at 7.30 pm; it will be followed by an organ recital by Jamie Turnbull in Crieff Parish Church.  

Howard Duthie