O Duo
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Tuesday 14 January 2014

Owen Gunnell
Oliver Cox

Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox were both scholars at the Royal College of Music. They graduated with First Class Honours in 2003 and immediately took up the first Junior Fellowship to be given to a percussion duo at the RCM.

O Duo's repertoire spans more than 300 years and is an invigorating mix of popular classics and accessible contemporary music played on two marimbas, vibraphone and a huge array of percussion.

O Duo Bongo Fury
Alebèniz Suite Española
Bach Two Preludes
Chopin Étude
Silver Song for my father
Monti Czárdás
O Duo Searching
Junk Trunk
Prokofiev Prelude in C
Glass Mad Rush
Miki Marimba Spriritual

Kindly sponsored by Craven District Council.

For any audience member expecting the usual reverential presentation of a classical concert this must have required a pretty violent gear-change. One can only use the well-worn quotation, 'And now for something completely different'.

O Duo began their entertainment by dancing on to the platform to play their own composition entitled, 'Bongo Fury', one of the two items for untuned percussion. It was a tour de force of Bongo playing.

Having already enraptured an audience of more than 200 children and their teachers in the afternoon they worked their magic on their adult audience with humour, musical skill, clever presentation and boundless energy.

The basic instrumentation for the tuned items was achieved with magnificent marimbas plus added colour tones from vibraphone and glockenspiel. Most of the playing was done with two beaters in both hands of each player which achieved a full harmonic spectrum. Several items were arranged from piano works by the duo. Two pieces from 'Suite Espanola' by Albeniz demonstrated the richness and possibilities of this combination; whilst Two Preludes from Bach's '48' revealed sensitive and a beautifully articulated interpretation.

Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox not only compose and play but have to be 'scene shifters', rearranging the battery of instruments for each item. They avoid awkward gaps by one reallocating the instruments whilst the other talks about the music and percussion in general. Both projected their voices extremely well and injected some splendid humour into their comments but above all, they radiated infectious enthusiasm for their instruments.

Another departure from the 'norm' was to call for three volunteers to augment their duo for an arrangement of 'Take Five'. Three brave ladies took the stage and were complimented on their performance. It was good to hear some jazz extemporisation in this item which is not a very easy undertaking in the irregular rhythmical measures of five beats.

One of the most beautiful pieces, 'Searching' was composed by the duo. Not only did they maximise the instrumental colours but they utilised the 'Process' technique to the best of effects to construct a nice 'arch form' thus avoiding the pitfalls of endless repetition. Their arrangement of 'Mad Rush' by Philip Glass was equally well-handled.

For their encore they chose Chopin's 'Minute Waltz'. They prefaced the performance with an apology to say that overran its title to take one minute and twenty five seconds. It took one minute and twenty nine. There's always some idiot in the audience who when told of the duration in such detail, times it. That idiot was me.

Adrienne Fox