After 20,000 people witnessed ‘Heroes’ at Glastonbury 2016, a rare tour of Philip Glass’ seldom-performed orchestral re-imagining of Bowie’s music moves indoors to three celebrated UK venues.
Philip Glass: Heroes Symphony / Low Symphony
Charles Hazlewood conducts the Army of Generals and members of the British Paraorchestra.
A Celebration of David Bowie: Philip Glass’ Heroes Symphony / Low Symphony
Sat 10 December 2016 – Colston Hall, Bristol
Mon 12 December 2016 – Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Wed 14 December 2016 – De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill
Just over 24 years after its premiere in Munich, and just under one year since the loss of David Bowie, British music fans have a rare opportunity to hear the American ‘minimalist’ composer, Philip Glass’ Symphony No.1, also known as the Low Symphony, performed in its glorious entirety by a world-class orchestra. ‘A Celebration of David Bowie’ tours to just three UK venues as Charles Hazlewood’s Army of Generals follow up their remarkable, televised performance of Symphony Number 4, the Heroes Symphony, in front of a 20,000-strong Glastonbury Festival crowd by taking both indoors for an intimate tribute to the two musical icons.
Swapping the famous, often muddy fields for three of the UK’s most revered orchestral settings, the symphonies find their only 2016 dates at Colston Hall, Bristol (Sat 10 December), Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham (Mon 12 December) and De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill (Wed 14 December). In touring Low and Heroes after leading the Glastonbury tributes to Bowie during the summer, Charles Hazlewood and the Army of Generals – featuring members of the British Paraorchestra – promise an intense, yet celebratory symphonic tribute.
Composed in 1992 and 1996 respectively, both the Low and Heroes Symphonies came not only with the blessing and collaborative input of both David Bowie and producer, Brian Eno, but also used key elements from the seminal, namesake albums, famously recorded during Bowie’s ‘Berlin Period’ in the mid-70s.
Having met Bowie as two emerging musicians in early 1970s New York, Glass remained in contact with the rising glam-rock star, approaching the ‘thin white duke’ in the late 80’s as he developed ideas for his first symphony. Recognising the experimental nature of both of these classic albums, as well as the intrinsic, modern-classical compositional nature of Bowie and Eno’s craft, Glass worked on extending the themes found in each. Through his un-mistakable and hypnotic brand of alchemy, Glass remarkably isolated the musical essence of Bowie at his challenging best and re-expressed the much-missed star’s genius, treating the themes of the albums very much as if they were his own and allowing their transformations to follow his own compositional technique.
Charles Hazlewood says: “With my back to 20,000 people who had gathered to celebrate the life of David Bowie, the experience of performing this set at Glastonbury for me, Army of Generals and British Paraorchestra musicians was beyond intense, the perfect intersection between music, artists, audience and a unique moment in time. The Heroes Symphony is a wonderfully intense symphonic journey, which takes the musical essence of Bowie’s album, and re-expresses it through Glass’ unmistakable and hypnotic brand of alchemy: a symphonic meditation setting the ghosts of Bowie’s (and Eno’s) creation in poetic, shining relief, through the filter of another, equally iconoclastic and unique genius.
“Six months on, the setting for the tour, and the rare performance of the Low Symphony, changes that dynamic all over again and brings us together in more intimate numbers, but that sense of wonder won’t leave us. What David Bowie achieved can’t be overstated, but Philip Glass’ deft reimagining of two of Bowie’s most ground breaking albums was an inspired and inspirational meeting of two musical minds.
“Anyone who loves Bowie will regularly listen to Low and Heroes back to back – the two major fruits of his Berlin period and collaboration with Eno – and so it makes perfect sense to view Glass’s extraordinary reimagining of these two iconic works as one great symphonic journey. From the Low Symphony’s dark beginnings to the white-hot finale of Heroes, this is remarkable testimony to Bowie’s indefatigable spirit, and Glass’s equally mesmerising gift of reinvention and reinvigoration: Low and Heroes re-expressed through the unique and kaleidoscopic colour-prism which is the orchestra.”
In a career that spans over half a century, Baltimore-born, New York-based Glass’ status as an originator and key player in the development and popularity of minimalist composition, alongside contemporaries such as Steve Reich, has long been assured. Oscar-nominated three times and the winner of a Golden Globe for his soundtrack for 1999’s The Truman Show, Glass has effortlessly crossed any perceived divides between classical and popular culture through collaborations with filmmakers, artists and musicians as diverse as Mick Jagger, Aphex Twin, Richard Serra, Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese.
An internationally-renowned conductor, Charles Hazlewood assembled his virtuoso orchestra Army of Generals in 2003 to perform with him on his landmark TV films featuring Mozart, Beethoven, Purcell, Haydn and Handel. In 2012 he founded the British Paraorchestra, the world’s first professional ensemble of disabled musicians alongside television director, Claire Whalley. Following their world debut at the Paralympic Closing Ceremony in 2012 alongside Coldplay, the British Paraorchestra set out to pioneer a global movement to recognise and showcase disabled musicians with extraordinary abilities.
For information, times and ticket prices for all of the dates on the “A Celebration of David Bowie: Philip Glass’ Heroes Symphony / Low Symphony” tour, visit the websites or call ticket information lines at each of the respective venues:
Colston Hall, Bristol: www.colstonhall.org / 0844 887 1500
Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham: www.trch.co.uk / 0115 989 5555
De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill: www.dlwp.com / 01424 229 111
The British Paraorchestra and Friends is grateful to Hauser & Wirth Somerset for sponsoring this project. Supported by Arts Council England