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John Riley

The Royal College of Music Festival of Percussion Part 2

So, where was I?

Oh yes, John Riley.

John RileyJohn Riley’s clinic was, for me, the highlight of the RCM’s Festivl of Percussion. It was a treat to see a talk by the guy who’s book is such an essential part of drumming education. The presentation was at core a walk through the history of the drumkit which was told very engagingly with the accompaniment of samples of the drumming of each era. We were introduced to the topic with the thought that the drum kit was invented with austerity in mind (thanks John) since it enabled one person to fulfil the role of three in a marching band. The music that the drumkit accompanied back then was ragtime. The marching style evolved into swing which evolved into blues and R&B which evolved into rock ‘n’ roll and then funk and everything else. The story plus drumming were most illuminating. At the end there were some very good questions from audience members which led to a very clear demonstration of how to play the swing beat and some ideas on improving independence as well as some in depth examples of John’s brush playing and his approach to practicing.

After Riley, straight down to the Britten theatre again to see Pete Lockett show off his wonderful polyrhythmic chops. The show started with the day’s second onslaught of orchestral bass. Pete was playing some new pieces he’d prepared for an upcoming tour of India. There was some tabla playing, a piece played with darbuka and djembe and also a fantastic piece played on a kanjira. It’s astonishing, verging on the disturbing, how much stuff Pete Lockett seems to know. I would highly recommend going to see him live.

After Pete Lockett we went back to the RCM bar to see a jazz trio performance featuring vibist Anthony Kerr with a set of tunes that were made famous on the vibraphone. Bassist Jeremy Brown and RCM student Dan Day on drums accompanied.

The final performance was of the RCM big band featuring John Riley on drums performing a bunch of standards. The set was great fun. I’ve seen very few live big band performances and it was a real treat to experience at the end of a very drum-filled day.

The RCM Festival of Percussion was a fantastic event. I don’t know how many people attended but it seemed that there was room for many more people. I’m not sure if the event is simply not very well known or publicised enough but anyone with an interest in percussion would be crazy to miss this. I recommend keeping an eye out for it in the future and booking your tickets. Even if you don’t fancy spending the whole day, just seeing some of the performances on offer and participating in a free percussion lesson or workshop would be worth the price of admission.