David Hackbridge Johnson

Shoppingtrollies for Chechnya

ballet for 11 instrumentalists and dancers

perc, egui, bgui, pf, honky-tonk pf, xyl, vib, ondes martenot, synthesizer

duration: 20 minutes

Shoppingtrollies for Chechnya
(Ballet for 11 instrumentalists and dancers)

This piece, which can either be performed as a ballet or as an instrumental work, was written in April 2000 and is dedicated to Marcus Wright. The score also bears an anti dedication to spiritual tourists. This refers to the appropriation of world events as emotional stimuli for those artists inclined to thus boost their humanitarian ratings. Needless to say personal experience of the world empathised with in the work of such artists is not required for these pieces to be written or admired. Indeed a much vaunted 'empathy' appears to allow for all sorts of absurd postures. Wandsworth has not recently been invaded to my knowledge, and despite the turmoil in other parts of the world, Chechnya included, I feel this fact disbars me from the easy option of penning a 'deeply felt cantata for peace'. The shoppingtrollies alighted upon randomly as a gift to a troubled region are meant not as an insult to those suffering, but as a symbol of powerlessness in the face of such distant torment.

The ballet has no plot as such but contrast is made in the choreography between the violent dances featuring percussion and keyboards and the cool detached dances that shadow them. The music highlights the difference between two worlds. Humour, intentional or otherwise might be welcomed by the audience, as it contrasts uncomfortably with the music, which is in the main brutal and uncompromising. A shopping trolley may or may not appear. The group of musicians consists of three percussionists, electric guitar, bass guitar, piano, honky-tonk piano, xylophone, vibraphone, ondes martenot and synthesiser.

David Hackbridge Johnson was born in Carshalton. He studied violin with Louis Rutland, piano with Martin Wilson, singing with Fabian Smith and conducting with George Hurst before taking up a place at the Guildhall in order to study singing with Arthur Reckless. He later continued singing studies with Mark Wildman at the Royal Academy. He holds degrees from the Academy, Trinity College and University of Surrey, Roehampton. He began work in the early 1980's as a violinist in theatre orchestras before becoming a jazz pianist and drummer. He has appeared in jazz festivals at Montreux, Culle, Glion, Cheltenham and Ross-on-Wye and has several jazz recordings to his credit. His most recent performances have included taking part in the debut concert of the improvising trio, 'Evorcity'. A recording of this group's work is imminent.

He began composing at an early age and despite having reached his 100th opus shows no sign of stopping. He has had works performed by pianist Stephen Gutman, by the North German Radio Choir and by Gemini. While living in Switzerland for a year in 1997, he worked as composer in residence at an international college and had music performed by the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra and cellist Mark Drobinsky. He often takles part in performances of his own work either as a singer or violinist, most recently in his Violin Sonata no.2. He has written many large scale works that still await performance, including five symphonies, six tone poems, seven string quartets and many other choral and chamber works.

His wide interests are demonstrated in the inspirations that lie behind some of his music: two recent ballet scores take their scenarios from the myths surrounding the Merovingian dynasty, and an imaginary day in the life of Uganda's largestbeetle, respectively. He is currently working on an (insect free) opera.

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