The October Quadrathalon - any takers?

October 2008 saw two pleasingly twinned "firsts" for me, which in combination could construct a new Quadrathalon of sorts. The event in question would consist of playing three different concertos performed in as many days, followed by a thirteen mile run. For those keen to take part, may I wish you the very best in finding the relevant resources to do so. For my part, I wish to continue the intended angle of this post, which is to thank all concerned for the fantastic opportunity I recently had to play three great percussion concertos more or less all at once in St Louis, and to follow it up with my first ever half-marathon upon returning to London. David Robertson invited me to close out his first season as Music Director of the St Louis Symphony with three performances of James MacMillan's "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel" in May 2006. A geyser of creative energy, he launched his idea at me over dinner one night of inviting me back to play three different concertos, over the course of a standard set of symphonic concerts. I held sway but I was rather bowled over; this would indeed be a challenge for all concerned and require careful consideration for repertoire and rehearsals. So of course, I accepted on the spot.

The result was the triple-bill "Currie x 3" at Powell Hall earlier this month. I was delighted at the final choice of repertoire, namely Steve Mackey's "Time Release", HK Gruber's "Rough Music" and Christopher Rouse's "Der Gerettete Alberich". Each work requires a very different set-up for me, and extensive re-shuffling of equipment was required as the rehearsals progressed. It was highly interesting for me to engage with this sheer volume of music(the dress rehearsal consisted of running through each piece one after the other) and the whole experience gave me a terrific mental boost.

One of the biggest demands turned out to be the scheduling of Steve's concerto, which at 10.30am meant a serious challenge to get warmed up in time, and for me, practice at 6.45 that morning on stage. "Time Release" is beautiful and touching music, and it is my job amongst all the beauty to conceal its vast technical demands. I try to keep it as natural and easy as I can, and this was a great performance where I felt free to explore the work's many charms. I first played the Gruber in 2001, but have since only performed the work on two other occasions, so was delighted to be giving the US Premiere of a very under-performed work. I know the composer well and he is a fabulous creative genius, unstoppable in all his lovable eccentricity. I got a huge buzz from this version and especially reveled in the meltdown and mayhem of the final movement. The Rouse was just a dream; I have played it many times this year and so it was wonderful to have it to look forward to as the finale of the triple. I believe we may have risked roofing at one point, Chris will be especially pleased to know!

The orchestra were simply staggering. Their good humour and zest for the project inspired me immensely. It took considerable bravery to apply such confidence to each concerto as they did, and I got an enormous amount of energy from them. Robertson was conducting each work for the first time, but, as ever, he made it so easy for me to do my bit. In fact, many things worked so well and were such fun, that several smirks had to be suppressed.

I also very much enjoyed the city, and a week of glorious late Summer weather. My father Iain made the trip and we had many a great time on top of the whole musical adventure, including at least one farcical detour. For those of you who know the characters involved, this may not come as an overwhelming surprise...

Back in London, on October the 12th I ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon, on Team UNICEF. It was my first one, and I have already signed up for another(Hastings on December 14th). Using the Albert Hall as its Start/Finish I particularly enjoyed the aspect of running around a central London WITH NO CARS, and was chuffed with my time of 1 hour 40 mins. I had a good portion of 7-minute miles in the middle of the race but found it tricky in the hot weather and felt at one stage that the 11-mile marker would never appear. It was however an enjoyable way to round off a very particular  Quadrathalon, which I may never have the opportunity to repeat. Having said that, just wait until I can tell you what Robertson has me doing with St Louis next year!!

Best wishes, Colin.