Recording released by ISM members Geraldine Allen and Sarah Rodgers after 27 years
On 18 September 2019, we held the London launch of a CD devoted to The Roaring Whirl by Sarah Rodgers at the Royal Society of Musicians in Fitzroy Square. There is quite a story about the 27-year delay between the recording and its commercial release!
As a solo clarinettist I have specialised in the performance of music by living composers, with a particular interest in contemporary British music. In the early part of my career, I was very excited when approached by East Midlands Arts to commission a work with Arts Council funding, from a composer who could create a musical narrative between the traditions of Western and Eastern, and specifically Asian music.
Sarah Rodgers was known for her interest in cross-cultural music having incorporated instrumentation and techniques from non-Western traditions into a number of her compositions and it was to her I turned for this new work. After a period of development, the work had grown to include a staged setting with contemporary design, kathak dance and on-stage narration.
Performers were brought in to further represent the cross-cultural ethos of the project with myself as solo clarinettist, Timothy Walker (classical guitarist for the LSO and Fires of London) and Baluji Shrivastav, master sitar, tabla and pakhavaj player, now known for his work with Charles Hazelwood’s Para-orchestra which performed at the opening of the 2012 Paralympics.
The composer decided to work with the narrative from Kipling’s, ‘Kim’, in itself, redolent of cross-cultural imagery and eminently suited to narrative and journey which were the prominent features of the project’s aspirations. The novel provided Sarah with the title for the new piece: The Roaring Whirl. The readings incorporated into the work needed to be heard as from an authentic Asian voice and this was provided by actor, Bhasker Patel (now known for his role as Rishi Sharma in Emmerdale).
It was a fascinating work to perform not only for the originality of the instrumentation but also because the composer used Indian raga and tala as her source material and provided windows of improvisation between pairs or all three of the instruments in each of the movements. This I found completely invigorating and inspiring and also challenging because it lay outside the scope of much Western repertoire, but here was essential to the interplay of musical traditions.
The commission created a wonderful basis not only for performance but also for all the educational events and workshops that grew along with it. Prior to the Nottingham Now Festival premiere, the complete audio work was professionally recorded by Simon Weir’s Classical Recording Company. This all happened in 1992 and it was ground-breaking at a time when there was very little genuine cross-cultural work being created.
Shortly after the premiere performance, I was involved in a serious road accident that interrupted my professional career. We did not release the recording commercially because I was waiting to ‘get better’ and that took a lot longer than expected – 27 years in fact. I am thrilled to say that I can now play without being in pain and it was a joy to be reunited with Baluji and Bhasker at the launch event when we were able to give a flavour of the work through a number of short extracts.
With the release of the CD on the Metier label of Divine Art Recordings, we are presenting a work which played an important role in the evolution of the cross-cultural genre, and especially so as many collaborations today are more accurately described as fusion music while The Roaring Whirl is a true meeting of West and East.