For me, the most impressive event so far in Hull, City of Culture 2017, was the installation of ‘Blade’. You may have missed the installation, but the 75m turbine blade currently dominates Victoria Square. It was made by local firm Siemens, transported to the square by Abnormal Load Engineering, rests on supports made by Pearlgreen Engineering and is the brainchild of artist Nayan Kulkarni. The turbine blade is thought to be the biggest handmade component cast as a single element. Despite its size, it weighs in at only 27 tonnes, and its tip is 5.5m in the air. That is roughly the size of the fat end.
It was most spectacular, in the night light as I left the City Hall last Saturday evening. The Hull Philharmonic opened their 2017 season with a sell-out concert, including a newly commissioned piece, 6000 Pipes. It was composed by Sir Karl Jenkins to show off the beautiful Edwardian organ in the City Hall and was full of hitherto unimagined ideas. The concert’s centrepiece was Ravel’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra. French flamboyance pure in the outer movements, but ravishing woodwind and piano lines in the central second, describe this piece. Pianist Martin Roscoe visited for the occasion. He has been playing with Hull Phil since the 1980s and, although a world-class name in music, always pops back to treat us, if commitments allow. I think we owe the quality of these soloists to Music Director Andrew Penny. That man has connections!
The musical juxtaposition to the Blade was Saint-Saëns’s mighty Organ Symphony, with which the orchestra finished. Its best-known melody was taken from the maestoso section, by Scott Fitzgerald and Yvonne Keely in their reggae beat version of ‘If I Had Words,’ in 1978. It’s an earworm of a tune, and we were still humming it as we left the hall and walked beneath the Blade.
But before that melody, Hull was silenced by the mighty C major chords from the organ, with which the movement opens. The packed house was waiting for it. We knew it had to come, and when it did, it pinned us back in our seats just as the composer intended, sending pulse rates racing through the stucco. A wall of sound interwoven with piano duet, and then the mighty brass interludes! Breathtaking. Only with live music can you experience the true majesty of the moment. Recorded or broadcast versions don’t work. Just as well you can’t do it at home. It would shake the mortar from the bricks and chip your best china.
These two events in Hull will not be forgotten. Certainly, not by 13-year-old Archie Kneeshaw, who beat the timps during the Saint-Saëns. Awesome.
Hull is glad to have the 2017 City of Culture title, but rest assured, it had great innovation, music, art and drama, before 2017. Archie has pedigree.