The Royal College of Music Festival of Percussion

This past Sunday I met up with my dad just behind the Albert Hall in Kensington and went to the RCM’s (Royal College of Music) Festival of Percussion. It was a brilliant day out with an amazingly broad range of percussion-related performances and activities. The styles on offer included rock and jazz drum kit, Western classical percussion, “World” music, “Latin” music, military snare drumming and that very important part of music, selling stuff.

Geoff DugmoreThe packed schedule had enough in it to fill the day, starting at the distinctly un rock ‘n’ roll time of 11am with session legend Geoff Dugmore who started his career in the 80’s and has recorded with Joan Armatrading, Crowded House, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner, Dido and Robbie Williams, to name but a few. The theme of the clinic was how to get into session work and stay there. Geoff was a very interesting guy to listen to and his playing is rock solid, loud and grooves beautifully. Playing along to several tracks, he demonstrated the art of simplicity, playing appropriately to the song and the way a drummer contributes to the music. Aside from being a good drummer, a successful session player needs to be in the right place at the right time, be conscious of the finer art of interpersonal relationships, be aware of making the artists and producers feel good and not be an arsehole. At least I think that’s a fair summary…

After Geoff Dugmore’s clinic we headed down to the Britten theatre, a really nice little space, and saw the total opposite in a presentation by members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra timpani and percussion sections who performed some of the great orchestral repertoire. This included excerpts from familiar pieces Carmina Burana, Scheherazade and Belshazzar’s Feast. Seeing the percussionists up close was fantastic. The technical prowess, control, dynamics and musicality of the musicians was humbling to see. I also discovered what my “if I won the lottery” item would be – a 40″ concert bass drum (obviously you’d need a large room for it to live in).

From classical to military drumming, the The Royal Marines & RCM Drumline gave a performance that showed off what all those rudiments are for. I’ve never played with a marching band or drumline and it looks like tremendous fun although I think I’d struggle to play with the kind of precision required. Also, playing with gloves on looks pretty challenging.

Immediately after the marching drummers left the stage, John Riley’s kit was set up for his clinic.

I will continue with Mr Riley in my next post.

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