2017 - from Bernstein to Bernard Herrmann, Paddington to Pete Tong and Bon Voyage to Ensemble Bash

Sasha with Joby Burgess (percussion). Refracted at the Barbican, May 2017 credit Dan Reid

It has been another busy and fulfilling year of music making with many happy, exciting performances and recordings to remember. Here are the highlights, which I hope you enjoy. All of the recordings can be found on Spotify!

2017 started with a recording of Leonard Bernstein’s wonderful ‘Chichester Psalms’ (the version for organ, harp and percussion) with Stephen Cleobury and the Choir of King’s College, on a cold January day in Cambridge. I am very happy to finally record this percussive classic.

I joined composer Stephen Deazley and Love Music in Edinburgh to deliver the sixth ‘Punkit’ (a 12 week punk percussion education project), which culminated in ‘Punks, Rebels & Radicals’ - a musical adventure featuring 60 young percussionists and a 300 strong community choir to a packed out Usher Hall.

Throughout the year I presented more ‘Pioneers of Percussion’ shows, including performances at the RNCM Day of Percussion, LSO St Luke’s as part of Sound Unbound and at the Universities of Cardiff, Manchester and Sheffield. Alongside these I gave performance master classes and composition workshops, which included a week long residency working alongside composer Michael Zev Gordon, as part of Cheltenham International Music Festival’s ‘Composer Academy’.

In May I joined DJ/Producer Sasha on two live shows at the Barbican, London. ‘Refracted’ saw Sasha perform live (piano not decks) for the first time – alongside his long term collaborators I added mallets, cinematic percussion and some ‘Space Harp’ (Canna Sonora). A live DVD and recording was released late in the year on Late Night Tales.

There were two memorable gigs as part of the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, where I led the percussion sections for ‘The Scott Walker Prom’ (a collection of his songs from 1967-70) with the Heritage Orchestra featuring Jarvis Cocker, John Grant, Richard Hawley and Susanne Sundfør - and the first live performance of ‘Passages’ – the 1964 concept album by Philip Glass and Ravi Shankar re-imagined by Anoushka Shanker and the Britten Sinfonia.

During the summer I also joined Suzi Digby and her stunning choir ORA to record two new modern Christmas carols by John Rutter and Debbie Wiseman. These recordings lay behind doors 1 and 24 of ORA’s Advent Calendar, which was broadcast around the world and released throughout December.

After securing the number 1 album slot early in the year, Pete Tong’s ‘Ibiza Classics’ juggernaut with the Heritage Orchestra, conducted by Jules Buckley hit the road for performances at Common People (UK), V Festival (UK), Electric Picnic (Ireland), Destino Pacha (Ibiza), an arena tour with two sold out shows at London’s O2 and a private petrol head launch for Jaguar. This project shows little sign of slowing down!

There was lots to record in the studio throughout 2017 - a few favourites included film scores for Dario Marianelli ‘The Darkest Hour’ and ‘Paddington 2’. I had the pleasure of playing all the timpani and percussion on both these scores and worked closely with Dario and his team to find just the right sounds. Recording with Max Richter was, as always a liberating experience – this year recording percussion for his score to ‘Hostiles’, whilst viewing the stunning cinematography of North America. Marvel’s latest offering ‘Black Panther’ scored by Ludwig Göransson has a heavy West African flavour to it. Great times leading the percussion on this film with both the orchestra and on the ethnic sessions - adding a ton of low end drums and noises alongside brilliant friends and colleagues Paul Clarvis and Rob Farrer. It was also lovely to revisit the ‘Trolls’ and record music for ‘Trolls Holiday’ – a TV special, which doesn’t suffer the same fate as infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special!

Towards the end of the year it was awesome to join the section recording the promos for the next ‘Jurassic World’ movie, recording cues by John Williams and Michael Giacchino – no click for the JW music, which creates a whole new and exciting vibe in the studio.

I continue to develop my ‘Remote Record’ service, where I currently offer to record all the instruments in my collection from my studio - a former grain store built in 1875 north of London. A particular highlight was recording all the percussion (taikos, toms, djuns, bass drums and metals) for ‘Future World’, scored by producers Pablo Clements and James Griffith aka ToyDrum.

I also rejoined Spitfire Audio adding timpani and other small percussion to its  ‘Bernard Herrmann Composer Toolkit’ – a unique ensemble sample library, from a dry scoring stage, recorded in Air Lyndhurst’s Studio 1.

Towards the end of 2017 I made the difficult decision to move on from my percussion group of 16 years ‘Ensemble Bash’. It has been a thrilling ride and journey dating back to 2001, but I simply no longer have the time to commit myself as fully as I wish. I am very happy to be passing the reigns back to Richard Benjafield - the groups founder who I replaced all those years ago. I wish the boys every success for the next chapter of the group.

Happy new year and may the music be with you.


Your comments

It’s been a great ride and a privilege serving in the Bash ranks alongside you. We’ll aim to keep the flag flying!

Good luck with your amazing career. Keep a few comps spare for the top gigs, will you?

By chris brannick on

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