The Grand Union Orchestra’s strength is the spontaneity, colour and sheer excitement of its live performances – notoriously difficult to capture on film. This video selection gives an impression at least of the range of those performances. To enjoy them fully, choose the best resolution you can, and listen on headphones or through good quality hi-fi!
A brief introduction…
- Short clips from shows interspersed with interviews with the musicians (6’ 25”)
…a highlight of the London 2012 Festival
- What the River Sings featuring the Grand Union Orchestra and theWater City Festival Orchestra in the BBC’s Music Nation weekend (7’ 10”)
…two longer documentaries
- Profile of the Grand Union Orchestra based around a performance of Now Comes the Dragon’s Hour at the Spitalfields Festival (25’ 50”)
- Bangla Jazz – filmed on the Grand Union tour to Bangladesh in 2009, produced by Terry and Alex Braun (27’ 30”)
...three numbers featuring Bengali artists
Following the 2009 tour, Grand Union was commissioned to produce a special event for the annual Baishakhi Mela in Bethnal Green, including three popular singers from Bangladesh.
- Milon Hobe, sung by Sumi – classic Lalon song with West African rhythm added (4’ 00”)
- Sojoni, sung by Meherun Kanak – a richly harmonised haunting ballad (3’ 45”)
- Jiki Miki, sung by Kala Miah – modern baul meets reggae in Brick Lane (4’ 15”)
Tony Haynes’s most powerful show for the Grand Union Orchestra dramatises the clashes of culture and religious belief, tenderness and brutality that lie behind contemporary events.
- Song of the Song of Songs – yearning duet with lyrics from the Song of Solomon, a religious text common to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike (2’ 15”)
- Tomar Basane – a much wilder, free version of the same text in Bengali, with flute solo, tabla and naal, driving rhythm and melismatic voices (2’ 40”)
- Bhangra Brass – a brash and brassy big band ensemble inspired by the well-known north Indian dhol rhythm (1’ 55”)
- The Radiance of a Thousand Suns – brilliant Indian rag-flavoured trumpet solo and transcendent choral climax (1’ 10”)
- The Song of Displacement – interweaving two narratives, contrasting the devastation of a terrorist attack with the plight of refugees (3’ 10”)
- Collateral Damage – the same story dramatised instrumentally, with two pairs of virtuoso jazz soloists (trumpets and alto saxes) and great brass writing (2’ 30”)
- The Perfumes of Paradise Blues – blistering electric guitar solo and a trio of spine-tingling singers bring the set to an elegiac conclusion (3’ 25”)
...an extended workout on African Rhythms
- Eleggua Ko, Eleggua Ra – call and response brass and saxes and brilliant drummers from three continents take on a classic Yoruba chant (9’ 05”)
Grand Union is well-known for its large-scale shows, bringing together young and adult performers of different cultural backgrounds under the guidance of its core musicians.
- 100-strong youth ensemble – combining Indian musicians, African drummers, steel bands, strings, youth jazz orchestra and brass band at the West Yorkshire Playhouse (3’ 10”)
- On Liberation Street – highlights from the same show at the Hackney Empire, with the cream of East London’s school musicians and community choirs (5’ 50”)
Over the years, Grand Union projects have included an astonishing range of performers from all over the world; here are some featured in earlier shows.
- from Doctor Carnival – panpipes, kena and other South American textures (1’ 55”)
- from Now Comes the Dragon’s Hour – Chinese instruments and singers (2’ 10”)
- from Where the Rivers Meet – South Asian instruments and singers (1’ 55”)
…and a special feature
Much of Grand Union’s work is built around the experience of its performers, which gives it authenticity and immediacy. Albeit so individually focussed, it also becomes universal, and this short film, about the first ‘9/11’ (the date in 1973 when Allende’s government was overthrown in Chile), was to take on an extraordinary resonance later…
- When We Left – from a performance of Where the Rivers Meet at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in 2000, an episode about the aftermath of the 1973 coup is illustrated with photographs from the personal collection of its writer and main performer Vladimir Vega (8’ 40”)