Review: Classical Vs Jazz – The Ultimate Jazz Battle

8 years ago
Aidan Johnson

The harp is a fantastic instrument to listen to, and when you put two harpists from two very different schools of music in a room, things can get intense.

The show started with both performers onstage, performing various pieces. This initial introduction also saw some amusing stage antics that added a certain element of humour to the performance. In an almost perfect example of the relationship between classical and jazz musicians, the two harpists had a fun relationship onstage, poking fun at each other, whilst playing fantastic music as well. An example of this was when the jazz harpist cheekily knocked over a stand with sheet music standing on it, and began to play her own tune, whilst the classical harpist looked on indignantly.

classical vs jazz

Each of the harpists had solos, showcasing several well known tunes, such as “Take Five” for the jazz harpist. They then came together again to do a rather melodic and musically interesting cover of a 1980’s pop tune. During this time, the harps themselves had lights attached to them which responded to vibrations. After a quick acknowledgement of applause, the harpists then had a fun encore piece.

The performance was very fun, for both audience members and the performers as well. The energy that the performers had in performing intense pieces for that amount of time seemed incredible, and yet the performers were able to maintain a high level of intensity, which kept the pace fast and fluid. Not that all the pieces were inherently fast, but the overall pace of the show, combined with the energy of the performers, was fluid and enjoyable. The pieces chosen were also well picked – most were recognisable to people who have any interest in classical or jazz/blues numbers.

As with every show, there were some minor problems. The first one was something most classical musical numbers have: a lack of story or plot. Whilst the little antics onstage were enjoyable, they often seemed odd and out of place, especially considering there was no dialogue at all. Whilst there may have been some vague form of story, with the classical harpist attempting to “teach” the unruly jazz harpist, it was difficult to tell. Even a sentence or two at the beginning of the show to mark some form of narrative, no matter how small and flimsy, would have probably given the performance a little bit of shape. Whilst this didn’t detract from the music at all, and the show was still fantastic to watch, the extra dimension could have made it an almost faultless performance.

The other issues were also fairly minor. The first was lighting. Although the harps lighting up was a very cool feat, and worked very well during the cover of the 1980’s pop tune especially, the rest of the stage seemed quite poorly lit. Whilst in a music show the main focus is on the audio, it doesn’t hurt to have the performers lit up slightly more. A lot of the time they were in a half light, so it was difficult to see them clearly. The other issue was some of the microphones. The classical harpist seemed much quieter than her jazz counterpart, and occasionally the balance seemed off. The higher notes as well could often be quite piercing, which was distracting when the main melody was in the lower registers. However, despite these minor problems, the sound and lighting was quite well done, and didn’t detract from the overall impact of the show.

Overall, the duelling harps were a fantastic spectacle to watch. Two harps in the same room is always an uplifting experience, especially when the musicianship is to the high standard that it was. The repertoire was well chosen to keep the audience engaged, and the show felt fluid and well paced. Despite some issues with lighting and sound, the show was well executed.

Having an appreciation for either jazz or classical music, or at least a basic familiarity with these genres, would give an individual a greater level of enjoyment of the performance, but overall, the show itself was very well done, and showcased two highly skilled musicians. Although some of the gags were cute, it could have had a little more direction, but aside from that, the show was fantastic. In conclusion, truly enjoyable and fun to watch.

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