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Press release date: March 2008

World premiere performance

a table of noises is the title of a new work by Simon Holt, co-commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) and the Borletti-Buitoni Trust for percussionist Colin Currie. The world premiere performance will take place at Symphony Hall Birmingham on 14 May and will be conducted by Martyn Brabbins.

Inspired by the composer’s great Uncle Ashworth Hutton who was a taxidermist, this is a 21-minute, six-movement work with five brief instrumental ‘ghosts’. Currie is seated for much of the time on one of his instruments, a cajon – essentially a wooden box, often used in flamenco, with the addition of guitar strings and bells inside to add to the general timbre and colour. Apart from the xylophone, the rest of his instruments – made of glass, metal and wood – are all on a table (similarly, onelegged Uncle Ash had everything he needed for his daily life and work on his own parlour table).

Colin Currie is constantly adding new works to the percussion repertoire (he has already used part of his 2005 Borletti-Buitoni Trust award to commission two pieces from Dave Maric and Lukas Ligeti) and is particularly ambitious for his concerto repertoire as he especially enjoys working with orchestras. He has worked closely with Simon Holt to develop the piece and joyfully professes “there is no other concerto like this one, anywhere – for any instrument!”

a table of noises is part of Holt’s growing focus on orchestral work: he has recently reworked two orchestral scores, Syrensong and Walking with the River’s Roar and a new commission will be announced on 9 April at The Proms launch. His last orchestral work, witness to a snow miracle, was also premiered by a Borletti Buitoni Trust Award winner, German violinist Viviane Hagner, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Nott and was awarded best orchestral work at the 2006 Composer Awards.

The six main movements of a table of noises, interspersed with instrumental ‘ghosts’, are described by the composer as follows:
1] jute is what my great uncle Ash (Ashworth Hutton, who was a taxidermist, amongst many other things) would stuff the animal skins with.
2] fly was the name of his dog who used to fall asleep standing while staring into the fire. This movement involves a virtuoso part for the percussion playing only xylophone.
3] a drawer full of eyes In searching for fresh bedding, my mother opened a drawer in Ash’s bedroom tallboy and discovered thousands of false eyes for foxes, kingfishers, stoats, etc. staring back at her.
4] skennin’ Mary was my great uncle’s neighbour who had a glass eye which would spin when she got angry, hence her nickname.
5] cadenza: table top Uncle Ash was severely crippled in one leg and walked everywhere on a crutch swinging his gammy leg about him and so needed everything at hand on one table.
6] under glass which was where a lot of his stuffed animals ended up, usually with photos of loved ones propped up against them. He gave me a stoat with a grass snake wrapped round it under a glass dome. It was on my bedside table throughout my early teens.