O Duo

O Duo

O Duo

The stage was set, two marimbas, a vibraphone and various percussion instruments, including scrapyard junk.

The concert started with two guys dressed in black running up to and leaping on the stage, clapping their hands, stamping on the stage and playing bongos. A piece appropriately entitled Bongo Fury.

Quite an explosive entrance.

Then quietened down a little, with a few classical pieces, Albeniz, Bach, Chopin, these transcribed from piano or violin.

A slight programme change, instead of A Night in Tunisia by Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck Take Five (and no, not written by Dave Brubeck), one of the guys on marimba and percussion, another on vibraphone, and three kids who volunteered to be the rhythm section on percussion. It was spine-chilling.

Czardas, a gypsy piece by Monti, transcribed from violin.

Searching, written by O Duo, was mesmerising and held the audience spellbound. Think Vangelis.

Bowing of the keys with a bow, not hitting with a stick.

A break, then back with Junk Trunk, another O Duo composition, literally playing scrapyard junk, salvaged from the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

Mad Rush, a Philip Glass composition originally written for organ, transcribed and shortened from fourteen minutes down to about four minutes.

Signals from Space, an Oliver Cox composition, was another mesmerising piece.

For overture, Chopin Minute Waltz, familiar to all Radio 4 listeners, as the Minute Waltz fades away, talk for one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

Each piece interspersed with chat, explaining the group, the music, the instruments, meanwhile all the instruments being re-arranged for the next piece.

By far, the best pieces of the night, were the modern pieces and those composed by O Duo.

Too many classical concerts, I find, are boring, musicians going through the motions, no enthusiasm, no passion. I sit there wondering why were the pieces written, why does anyone bother to play them, even more so, why am I paying good money to sit there.

The best concerts are where the musicians re-arrange, re-interpret, improvise, but it takes talent to do so.

One reason why O Duo were such a pleasure, they played with enthusiasm, they improvised, they clearly enjoyed playing.

Often, I am at a concert, and I think, why was this not recorded. The concert this evening was recorded, by a couple of students from Surrey University. If they have done a half decent job, they will release on bandcamp. If the concert is too long, then I suggest, release the modern pieces either as an EP or an album, Live at URC Guildford.

Advantages of releasing on bandcamp, is that people can at the click of a button, share with their friends, plus you can listen on-line to an entire album (not a few seconds lofi sample), and download as high quality FLAC.

Advantages to musicians of releasing on bandcamp, they reach a far wider audience, can list their biography, their albums, their tour dates, can link to their website, link to their videos, facebook, twitter. And, they can embed the bandcamp media player on their own blog or website. Why re-invent an inferior wheel?

Set a low minimum price, or free, pay what you think it is worth.

One of the dilemmas a group like O Duo face, is play a few classical numbers (bring in the punters), or play all your own stuff and have a much better concert.

In terms of improvisation, I’d love to see O Duo play with Steve Lawson or Zoe Keating or Imogen Heap.

I would also like to see them play Astor Piazzolla, cf Gotan Project.

I would love to see O Duo add Hendrix to their repertoire. I would suggest All Along the watchtower and Purple Haze.

I came away with signed copies of O Duo.

Champs Fire Records are not doing their artists any favours when all they provide on-line is a few seconds lofi mp3 sample. It is also an insult to anyone who may wish to listen to the music.

The marimbas they play cost £13,000. A single rosewood key, £450.

A marimba consists of a series of tuned wooden keys and resonator pipes for each key. The modern marimba is about 100 years old. earlier marimbas are to be found in Africa, the resonators being gourds.

O Duo are Owen Gunnell and Oliver Cox. They met at Royal College of Music, from where they both graduated with a First Class Honours in Percussion, and were both immediately offered the first Junior Fellowships in Percussion.

It is a must for them to release a DVD as their concerts are as much a visual as sound performance.

The concert was one of a series at URC Guildford. Next concert is Will Todd Trio, 7-30pm Friday 16 May 2014. A pity I will miss, as Will Todd Trio are excellent.

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One Response to “O Duo”

  1. keithpp Says:


    Bongo Fury — O Duo
    Suite Espanola — Albeniz
    2 Preludes — Bach
    Étude — Chopin
    A night in Tunisia — Gillespie
    Czardas — Monti
    Searching — O Duo
    — interval —
    Junk Trunk — O Duo
    Prelude — Prokofiev
    Mad Rush — P Glass
    Signals from Space– O Cox
    — encore —
    Minute Waltz — Chopin


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