Rock star plays at world premiere of his ‘Durham Concerto’
(19 October 2007)
Former Deep Purple keyboard player, Jon Lord, premieres his much applauded Durham Concerto.
The Concerto, a piece of classical music created by the international rock star to promote Durham and its University throughout the globe, was played by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to an 800-strong audience at Durham Cathedral.
The event was one of the highlights of Durham University’s 175th anniversary celebrations, and was recorded for broadcast by the radio station Classic FM.
The Concerto paints a musical picture of a day in the life of Durham, and has seven movements whose musical influences span jazz, ragtime, rock, and even Northumbrian folk music, including an old miner’s lament.
Jon Lord was one of four soloists at the premiere – who also included Northumbrian pipe player Kathryn Tickell - and played the Hammond Organ. A CD has been recorded and will be available online soon and in shops in January.
University Chancellor, the writer Bill Bryson, has described the Concerto as “terribly exciting, not just for the University but for music fans everywhere”.
Although mainly internationally renowned for his role in the rock band Deep Purple, Jon Lord has written acclaimed classical music pieces throughout his career and describes this musical genre as his “first love”.
Jon, 65, first visited Durham when commissioned for the project six years ago after leaving Deep Purple to take up classical music composition full time. He said: “When I first visited Durham, I was hugely impressed with all aspects of the City, especially the Cathedral and the Castle college where the students live, eat and sleep.
“I view myself as a painter of pictures, and I have given a very personal, idealised view of Durham in this piece. Durham spoke to me very strongly and I just hope some of the passion I felt for the City and its wonderful Cathedral will come across.”
Playing his Hammond Organ at the Durham Concerto premiere provided him with a welcome opportunity to see an audience enjoy his work.
Jon added: “I adore performing and playing live. There is nothing like it. It is the perfect complement to that almost monastic existence of writing, although I love my work as a composer too.”
Other soloists who appeared at the Cathedral alongside Jon were acclaimed Northumbrian Pipe player Katherine Tickell, cellist and musical director of BBC Two’s new reality series, ‘Classical Star’, Matthew Barley, and violinist and Classical Brit Award winner Ruth Palmer. The conductor is the Swiss-born Micha Damev.
Durham University Vice Chancellor, Professor Chris Higgins, a Durham graduate who trained as a classical violinist before taking up an academic career, said: “The Durham Concerto captures everything that is special about Durham and the University - the heritage of scholarship and education, sense of community and place, and long musical traditions. It was a fitting celebration for our 175th anniversary which can be shared by music lovers around the world.”
The Durham Concerto was inspired by Durham law graduate John McLaren, merchant banker, best-selling novelist and classical music lover.
John said: “This is a fitting tribute to Durham, which I know as an overwhelmingly beautiful place. However, what really makes it special is Jon Lord, an icon of rock history who has written this specially for Durham and the University. He is a composer of real substance.”