CASS magazine review of Equinox and Christian Forshaw concert

(June 25, 2010)
Clarinet and Saxophone, Summer 2010

Equinox and Christian Forshaw – Sanctuary for Saxophones

Concert Review - St Giles Church, West Bridgford, Nottingham
Saturday, 13 March 2010


There is always an air of expectation and excitement surrounding an Equinox Saxophone Ensemble concert; and when you add to this the presence of saxophonist Christian Forshaw and singer Natalie Clifton-Griffith the anticipation of something special pervaded the church.


The concert grew in stature throughout from the opening number Palladio, Carl Jenkins, to the closing piece, Forshaw’s arrangement of Down Ampney, based on a theme by Vaughan Williams.  Equinox was in sparkling form and enthralled us with Nicola Pennill’s arrangement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.2.  It might be difficult to imagine that a sopranino saxophone could sound like a piccolo trumpet - but in the capable hands of Alistair Parnell it really worked.  The group played with precision, capturing the contrast between the opening movement, which was controlled and precise, and the Andante middle movement, which was mellifluous and languorous. There was beautiful playing from all, but particularly some wonderfully creamy playing by Sarah Markham and Nicola Pennill on soprano saxes.


The Bach was followed by two movements from the Holberg Suite by Grieg and Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy, both demonstrating the versatility and confidence of Equinox.  The first half closed with Alistair Parnell’s stirring arrangement of Riverdance,, when Equinox were joined by soprano Natalie Clifton-Griffith and Christian Forshaw on soprano sax.  Natalie’s beautifully clear and precise singing of the opening Lament enraptured the audience; her diction, intonation and melodic understanding were exemplary.  Equinox played well, capturing the rhythmic complexity of the piece supported admirably by John Oldershaw on percussion.


The second half brought Christian Forshaw and Natalie Clifton-Griffith to the fore playing pieces from Christian’s Sanctuary project.  Originally conceived for sax, voice and organ, for this concert the material had been reworked so that Equinox played the role of the organ.


Mortal Flesh was both tension-creating and plaintive.  The ostinato drum and chordal organ sounds provided the background for a duet between Natalie’s lovely soprano voice and Christian’s saxophone. What began beautifully, had an inner tension which hinted at the terrifying climax to come. Great control by Natalie and sublime intonation and mood created by Christian! Equinox’s accompaniment enhanced the sound. What a start to the second half!


Medieval music suits saxophones and the performance of four pieces originally written by Guillaume de Machaut sustained the glorious soundscape that had begun to develop. Music that is four hundred years old sounded as though it had been written yesterday in Christian Forshaw’s interesting and adventurous arrangement. This was followed by three pieces from Rameau’s Les Boreades in an equally successful arrangement, with Forshaw and Equinox demonstrating that wonderful combination of subtle sound envelopes and lively, rhythmic interpretation.  One might then have thought that it would be difficult to exceed this exquisite playing, but in None But Me by Dowland, Forshaw and Clifton-Griffith wove a mesmeric and beautiful melodic line with obbligato accompaniment. The audience was spellbound.


The baritone came to the fore in Bach’s Nicht so Traurig adding its power and strength to the chordal accompaniment. Down Ampney concluded a memorable concert full of excitement, mystery and wonderful playing.  We went home happy and fulfilled.


Richard Linden
CASS logo

Click here to return to the News page