Olafur Arnalds at Cathedral Sanctuary

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Olafur Arnalds at Cathedral Sanctuary

Hiro and I loved this show!  Hang player, Manu Delgado opened with a few solo pieces.  For me hang is a little like taiko... they're both in the early phases of development and they both fall prey to their most obvious uses; "power" for taiko, and "sweet sixteenth notes" for hang.  With creative extended techniques using mallets and the hang bottom port, Delgado's playing avoided these pitfalls.  His range of hand technique is compelling, and I especially liked when he used ghatam-style rapid finger strikes and sparse pitched notes.  For at least one of the pieces he incorporated triggered sounds effectively, using what looked to be a hang-shaped midi controller.  Hiro didn't like this quite as much as I did but I found the bass tones and watery percussion sounds really compelling.  Freeze was our favorite piece of this opening set.  (Hiro and I were both reminded of Radiddlepa at times watching Delgado; Hiro in a positive way and me in a negative.  There's something about the Delgado's and my compositions I find lacking.  If I could put my finger on it, Radiddlepa would be better!)

Olafur Arnalds performed keys, piano, and backing pad tracks along with a cellist, two violas, and a violin.  He brought his midi-controlled upright pianos (all the way from Iceland?!) and they sounded amazing when playing plinky, delay-type effects as Arnalds handled the main melodiesn on a keyboard.  He told the touching backstory to the uprights... he injured his right arm in an accident and thought he might not be able to play piano again.  He saw one of these player pianos at the airport playing "Yesterday" by the Beetles, and thought, "this is the solution to all my problems."  (Speaking of problems, he had a little technical difficulty with his software controlling the left-side piano, and it sounded to me like the right-side piano had a note out of tune or was mis-firing a black key.  Hiro didn't notice either issue and Arnalds was perfectly charming dealing with the glitch.)

The Cathedral Sanctuary is an interesting venue for music.  The church interior is grand and beautiful and it's quaint to sit in pews to see a concert.  (Note, leave your bag-o-chocolate at home... no food or drink!)  The musicians could have used a riser or two to help with visibility, and I found the lighting a bit annoying.  Others were snapping photos so I might be in the minority here, but I would have kept the lighting simpler.  Less rock concert and more cathedral.  The smoke also felt out of place to me.

These were minor quibbles though.  There were multiple times when I teared up during the performance, not least of which was the encore piece which ended with the strings walking out of the upper deck and continuing to play off into the distance.  It was remarkably gentle and beautiful and was the kind of moment that can only happen after a thousand people and the musicians have bonded through a great concert.  Bravo!