A CHRISTMAS show with a difference comes to the Royal Northern College of Music on December 14. It’s the world premiere of Luca’s Winter – a fairytale fantasy written by saxophonist Tim Garland and performed by the RNCM Big Band and Chamber Orchestra together (with Tim on solo sax), and EastEnders and Hollyoaks actor Stefan Booth as narrator.
Tim, a research fellow at the RNCM, has created this new concert work for a 60-strong ‘super-ensemble’ of band and orchestra, and his story – expressed by writers Nora Chassler and Don Paterson – is about a young musician called Luca who gets tangled up in a succession of well-known winter-time tales. Geppetto, the man who made Pinocchio, is in it, so are the Elves and the Cobbler, the Little Match Girl, the Red Shoes … and even three spooky characters like the ghosts from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
“I wanted to create a story with characters that are pretty recognisable,” Tim told me. “Luca finds himself in a city where there’s a sort of labyrinth of tales. We’ve got Cinderella-type character, too, called Maarja, with a stepmother. She’s the love interest – and the city has past, present and future all wrapped together in it.”
There are aspects of The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra in it, too: all the characters are represented by instruments or groups of instruments, and Luca is a guitar player but finds himself with the wrong guitar – it all works out in the end.
Tim says the music integrates jazz and classical styles. “The jazz element in the music is integral to the plot of the story. The Big Band sounds give the idea of being in a metropolis. But it’s not really show music: it’s concert music with some contemporary sounds. I think people can handle that if the context is programmatic – telling a story – like with a film score.
“My idea all along was to make a piece that engages everyone – I thought ‘Why don’t I write a great big piece for band and orchestra – and make it Christmassy?’ Hopefully it will come around again in years to come.”
Conductor for the 90-minute piece is the RNCM’s Clark Rundell, who’s well experienced in bridging the jazz-classical gap. “I think in future this sort of music will become less of a freak and more of a regular occurrence,” he says. “I’m really enjoying getting to know this score.”