Gathering of the Gamelans, Saturday rehearsals

Substantial chunks of the day were taken up by a series of rehearsals for the wayang. The venue was a modern dining hall, with a kind of semicircular shape. Spacially this allowed for a very good arrangement, with room for audience all around, and a separate staging area off to one side for dance and video. The ceiling was perhaps a little low, and the sound less resonant than might have been ideal.

There were seven amalgamated gamelan groups from over the UK who needed to rehearse: around 170 musicians in total! Coordinating all of this was musical director John Pawson, and by and large we got to do what we needed to do, albeit not without a certain amount of last minute stress. A day of hurry up and wait, mostly, with the Scottish group almost missing out on our final fifteen minute run-through.

Now, an interesting aside, but I want to tread carefully, as this concerns an overheard remark. One of the groups was about to rehearse a piece which incorporated clarinet, and someone from one of the other groups was apparently heard to say ‘Here comes the sacrilege’. Maybe this was a joke: probably it was a joke. I entirely respect the conservative impulse in traditional musics, but ‘sacrilege’ seems a very strong word. Of course we were all thinking, ‘Wait till he hears the bagpipes!’.

An excellent Indonesian meal was provided for the participants: I had the rendang, always a favourite!

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