"Playing The History" - John Hackett and friends in concert. Wesley Hall Methodist Church Sheffield 18th June 2013. Review and photographs by Steve Hammond.
I’ve seen John Hackett in concert quite a few times, with his brother Steve’s acoustic trio, with Nick Magnus and with his own band that performed John’s superb rock album: Checking Out Of London. Each concert has been very enjoyable. So I didn’t need much persuading to travel up to Sheffield to witness a live performance of his latest collaboration: Playing The History, showcasing the CD which was officially released a week later. As a lover of both classical music and progressive rock, I thought that this concert would be perfect for me. I didn’t know anything about Carlo Matteucci but had heard good reports of Marco Lo Muscio so eagerly awaited “an evening of pipe organ, piano, flute and bass”.
We were warmly welcomed by John’s wife, Katrin and were handed a programme which formally listed the pieces being played together with the composer’s name and date of birth (John later teased that that was because he was the youngest being born in 1971!). We took our seats with the interior of the church looking far more modern than the exterior and the vicar welcomed everyone and introduced the musicians.
The opener was Jerusalem and the organ sounds were spine tingling. Marco then took centre stage and with his own Red Pedal Solo played mostly with his feet followed by Katherine Of Aragon. Next came one of my highlights; Anthony Phillips’ Fanfare and Lutes Chorus. John’s own Overnight Snow was followed by the Genesis trio of Hairless Heart, After The Ordeal and Horizons. A Steve Hackett trio, Hammer In The Sand and Hands Of The Priestess and Second Chance led to the concluding piece of the first half; George Martin’s (and Van Der Graaf Generator’s) Theme One . I would have loved to have heard David Jackson’s sax playing , as on the CD but this was still another highlight.
After warm applause the “ congregation” were invited to partake of refreshments and biscuits free of charge. Katrin took a break from sound duties to assist in dispensing the teas and coffees and conversations were struck up with a number of fellow fans of this music. The second half opened with Steve’s Cavalcanti then ELP’s Infinite Space . Next was the piece of the night for me; King Crimson’s I Talk To The Wind. John’s flute playing was superb and he was ably backed by Carlo and Marco.
Fanfare For The Common Man kept the tempo up before Steve’s Galadriel and John’s Galadriel’s Memories led us into the final pieces of the evening. Marco’s own compositions Bilbo’s Dream and Visions From Minas Tirith . John gave well-deserved profuse praise to the former saying that Marco had “written a masterpieces that really deserved to be heard in concert halls throughout the world. It is one of the very few really good pieces for solo flute”. Considering that I wasn’t familiar with this music, it was very pleasant and melodic and it received prolonged applause before all three musicians took well-earned bows.
They soon returned to play The Great Gig In The Sky which capped an excellent intimate concert that was clearly appreciated by all present and the musicians reciprocated with warm applause to the audience. Carlo played bass and a little guitar, which complemented the flute, piano and organ playing all evening.
John, Carlo and Marco then chatted with the audience and discussed the official launch party to be held in Rome on 1st July. Marco will be playing in various cathedrals in the UK in the autumn and I for one would like to be present at one of those concerts. On the way home I played most of the CD and think that it will appeal to any fans of this music who appreciate sensitive interpretations of “classics”. There are some wonderful transcriptions by Marco and Carlo with help from David Jackson on two pieces and The Watch’s Giorgio Gabriel on one. Hearing some of the pieces played on different instruments and with passion and an obvious love for the music was very rewarding. I’d like to wish John and his fellow musicians very success with their project and I hope to be able to see further performances at some point.