xMEADOWLAND RECORDS
xSwan Lake on Ice (CD)

Artist: MANCHESTER SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
Catalogue Number: GRASSCD361
Price £8

Late in 2005, meetings between Tony Mercer and Tim Duncan were finalising ideas for the most ambitious show yet – Swan Lake on Ice. A storyboard had been drafted between them that was now to be fine tuned by Tony together with his performance creative team. Tim, meanwhile, set about studying Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score in the most detailed manner.

Music for the production was to be only from this score, but would be re-arranged and re-scored to help with the characterisations, story lines and quite different demands made of it when taking into account the art form that is Ice Dance. Some music was even resurrected from the master’s original score not now used by the ballet fraternity, and most importantly, story lines involving simultaneous dances by the white and black swans, and scenes reworked to reflect a different kind of ‘evil’ for Rothbart - Tchaikovsky always intended for there to be different dancers for the parts of Odile and Odette. Also it was decided if this was a more ‘up to date’ reflection on the story, maybe Celtic people from these very shores would have joined the Russian, Hungarian, Spanish and Italians in trying to 'marry off' their princesses to the stories hero.

This time a larger number of musicians was required and the cream of Manchester’s own Halle Orchestra, together with players from the Liverpool Philharmonic and the Lancashire Sinfonietta were contracted to the Manchester Symphony Orchestra to play the new score. Long and hard recording sessions were rewarded with superb results by the time the show was due to commence its world tour in Australia.

Conducted by Tim, the carefully designed tempo maps of the music were accurately performed by different groups of musicians at different times and together with computer technology, were assembled and combined with additional sample library sequences programmed by Tim and Peter Whitfield.

The orchestra’s leader was Sarah Ewins, second leader with the Halle. Check out Sarah’s fantastic solo, a piece rarely heard at ballet productions (because its very hard!), and a sublime performance on Harp by Edward Barnwell.