Anne L Ryan reports on Acoustic Triangle - Peterhouse, Cambridge 3 August 2007

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire
It was Friday night in Peterhouse College Theatre. The penultimate night of the Cambridge Summer Music Festival. The performers were Acoustic Triangle, a trio who play New Music composition on piano (Gwilym Simcock), double bass (Malcolm Creese), and saxophone and bass clarinet (Tim Garland) in a style ‘from ancient themes and folk styles through impressionism and the jazz era to the avant-garde'. It was a music performance of sheer velvet, laced with moments of tuned in synchronicity causing the audience to gasp with delight many times.

One such moment was in Tim Garland's composition Black Elk. Simcock started slowly on the piano playing for about five minutes, when he was joined by Garland's saxophone bringing a complete rhythmic change. As the improvisation evolved, the piano and saxophone moved together effortlessly, weaving tightly up and down scales one minute, then in contrary motion the next. The only thing that distinguished the sound was the different instruments.

Fun and delight permeated the evening, saturating Gwilym Simcock's piece Fundero. It was very lively, demanding a real test of musicianship. At one point Simcock dampened the piano strings with this left hand whilst depressing the keyboard with his right hand, creating a percussive rhythmic, drum-like sound effect with each stroke. The audience, visibly enjoying this, smiled throughout.

Trois Poémes de Stéphane Mallarmé, arranged by Tim Garland, displayed Ravel's wonderful harmonic sense. The musicians gave this everything - beautiful piano touch, outstanding lyrical saxophone, gorgeous double bass bowing - it was all absorbing. The audience were so mesmerised they nearly forgot to clap!

Best of all was Coffee Time written by John Taylor. Intense and demanding it was well within Simcock's capability. He just threw it off like an old shirt. Several times his fellow musicians joined in randomly. As he improvised they watched him closely, arriving together punctuating the piece with the same note, at the same time, in perfect pitch. The effect was stunning and created excitement for the audience who watched for it to happen again and again.

The most appealing thing about this concert was its combination of structured new music composition alongside jazz/classical improvisation. At no time did the audience feel lost because their attention was held throughout. With their musical taste buds challenged, they savoured the complete treat. The whole evening's performance was a real pleasure.

You can find out more about Acoustic Triangle by visiting

The Cambridge Summer Music Festival took place from Thursday, 12 July to Saturday, 4 August 2007

Writer: Anne L Ryan