FringeReview UK 2019
Paul G Terry gave a piano recital of 12 of his own piano works.
Paul G Terry’s been present on the Brighton music scene and indeed attended performances at St Nicholas. Noted as a film and orchestral composer he writes for choirs, rock bands, composes electronic music and for chamber ensembles.
His attractive works do indeed as has been claimed ‘speak with a raw truth, direct to the heart….’ Terry’s a composer who eschews knotty most-romanticism let alone post-modernist gestures. Instead like a substantial minority of composers – and many who write for films – he capitalises on techniques Philip Glass introduced. These involve repeated but evolving ostinato patterns variegated by slow tunes. In other words the pulse is slow and harmony shifts with a kind of glacial inevitability.
Terry’s a warmer composer than Glass, and his titles suggest this. ‘Finding Paradise’ is a wide-eyed entrée, followed by the more upbeat ‘This Is Where It All Starts’ and then the limpid ‘May Child’. After this ‘My Dark Mistress’ allows a few – not many – tenebrous registers, and then we’re for the dark.
‘The Veil of Forgetfulness (Parts 1 and 2)’ indeed had one forgetting, so dark and wondrous is the patterning, and in its more night-music feel listeners were so lost that everyone forgot to clap too. A tribute. This is a work worth listening to again.
‘Silence is Bliss’ is anything but silent, in fact quite busy and in truth not evocative of silence, let alone John Cage’s 4’32”. It invokes perhaps the far bustle when one experiences apparent quiet. ‘Slow Awakening’ is a kind of Aubade and moves in slow ostinati to a more tumultuous development.
The final group were more distinctive still. ‘And She Flew (through velvet skies of love)’ is a lyrical piece where a discrete tune floats on the ostinato, developing a plangent rather beautiful melody across it. It’s different from much of the foregoing, a deliberate naivety for ‘the one that got away’ as Terry puts it. ‘Golden Storms of the Morning’ is for those undergoing trouble and a paean to survival and endurance with more emphatic rhythms and denser harmonies.
‘Festival Sunset’ is remarkable for storytelling. A bustling ostinato-driven harmonic density starts and only gradually winds down as the Brighton Festival itself does. ‘Lazy Summer’s Day’ was omitted though lack of time and we went out on the last piece. ‘The Everyday Often Gets in the Way’ in itself unites techniques across a deliberate busyness of texture with a kind of hymn to the simple the numinous and the true.
If not especially variegated this is heartfelt, affective music. If Terry composes more of the kind heard in the last few numbers, then we can expect to enjoy a real development too. They’re ridged and backed with something more than their style. CDs are available. Terry has his own accent, should be enjoyed by many who imagine a composer born after 1900 might be too knotty. And Terry plays his own works beautifully, with consummate command and rhythmic tact. Mesmerising for a summer’s day.