A chamber ensemble from the Band of the RAF Regiment and Ellie Smit, a drama student from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, performed Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat (or A Soldier’s Tale) under the baton of Director of Music, Flight Lieutenant (Flt Lt) Tom Rodda. This year marks the centenary of the composition A Soldier’s Tale and, of course, the formation of the Royal Air Force, making it a fitting occasion to stage this rarely-heard piece. The hour-long work was performed on 23 February as part of the lunchtime series of concerts at Regent Hall, London.
Stravinsky calls for 7 instrumentalists: violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, cornet, trombone, and percussion. Despite this being a chamber ensemble, in terms of the number of players, the difficulty of the piece requires a conductor to negotiate the frequently shifting time signatures.
Three spoken parts tell the story: the soldier (Senior Aircraftsman (SAC) Jono Read), the devil (Miss Ellie Smit), and a narrator (SAC James Giddings), who also takes on the roles of the other minor characters. The libretto is based upon the Russian folk tale The Runaway Soldier and the Devil and is a parable detailing the tribulations of a soldier who trades his fiddle to the devil in return for unlimited economic gain.
The conductor, Flt Lt Tom Rodda, commented:
"A superb concert. All the musicians delivered to an extremely high standard, demonstrating the professionalism of RAF Music Services to a packed concert hall.”
Flight Lieutenant Tom Rodda
SAC Ryan Penman (clarinet), who was the driving force behind the idea for this concert made the following remarks:
“This challenging work for small ensemble provided an excellent opportunity for the development of all involved as musicians and performers, and allowed us to raise public awareness of the talent we possess in our capacity as RAF Musicians by performing a famous work in a very public setting. The level of performance was outstanding and I am delighted with the enthusiasm and professionalism of all my colleagues, without whom this project would not have been the success it was.”
SAC Ryan Penman