Tubular Bells For Two, Grand Opera House, York, June 19
Thursday 30th May, 2013
THE last time two men from Australia came over here parading their instruments the show was called Puppetry Of The Penis.
This time, it is far cry from those strange stretching exercises. Instead, old school friends Daniel Holdsworth and Aidan Roberts have set themselves the bold task of recreating Mike Oldfield’s magnus opus Tubular Bells live on stage, in real time. No wonder the Scotsman newspaper called it “the musical equivalent of the triathlon… with bells on”.
After sold-out seasons at the Sydney Fringe Festival, the New Zealand International Arts Festival and last summer’s Edinburgh Fringe, Daniel and Aidan’s Tubular Bells For Two show is now on tour from this week to September to mark the album’s 40th anniversary.
Saturday’s performance at Harrogate Theatre will be followed by further Yorkshire dates at the Grand Opera House, York, on June 19; St George’s Hall, Bradford, June 20; and The Venue, Leeds, June 21.
Rather than mimicking Oldfield’s multi-tracked arrangements, the show seeks to “capture the soul and emotional journey of this remarkable folk-rock epic”.
“We first performed the show at a little place in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, at the Clarendon, a little cabaret room in Katoomba,” says Daniel, whose musical life also involves playing guitar in bands and composing for films and theatre shows.
“We had these friends who ran a theatre, and we said, ‘Look, we’ve got this strange idea for a show. If we promise to bring 20 friends, can you give us a quiet night?’ They gave us Good Friday – and it sold out.
“That was in 2009, but, hey, we’d never planned to do it at all. Aidan and I are both big collectors of records, and after a couple of glasses of wine one night, we put on Tubular Bells, and then for the fun of it, we thought it would be good to try to play it as a good exercise in training our fingers to play more complex pieces.
“It was only at that point, when we got to the end of Side One, with a couple more glasses of wine in us, that we thought, ‘Do you know what, we should do it with a piano, because we have to do the piano start’.”
From such humble beginnings grew “this rather epic idea”: could guitarist Daniel and pianist Aidan recreate the album famously released on Richard Branson’s newly formed Virgin Records label in May 1973?
They started their Everest challenge by arranging Oldfield’s music by ear on acoustic guitars, before adding more instruments from friends and rubbish skips and fashioning their all-important first set of tubular bells from fence posts.
Gradually, their array of instruments on stage has grown to accommodate keyboards, guitars galore, bass, mandolin, glockenspiel, loop pedals and the obligatory tubular bells, and on top of all that comes the visual element of the show.
In order to recreate the seamless transitions in Oldfield’s work, Daniel and Aidan must leap between guitars and pianos and drums – sometimes all three at once – recording and overdubbing loops live on the spot.
“We have 25 instruments on stage and we’re generally each playing two at the same time,” says Daniel. “The show is constantly evolving, so once it starts feeling comfortable again, we go back to the record to see if there’s anything still missing that we could put in.”
• Tubular Bells For Two, Grand Opera House, York, June 19, 7.30pm; box office, 0844 871 3024 or atgtickets.com/york. Also Harrogate Theatre, Saturday, 7.30pm; 01423 502116 or harrogatetheatre.co.uk
• Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells was released on May 25 1973 as the first album on Richard Branson’s nascent Virgin Records label. It has sold 15 million copies worldwide.
• John Peel played the album in its entirety on his BBC Radio One show. “It’s called Tubular Bells. I’ve never heard anything like it in my life,” he told his late-night listeners.
• Oldfield’s music was used for the soundtrack to William Friedkin’s 1973 horror movie The Exorcist and for the 2012 London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
• Branson had to give Oldfield his Bentley to coax him into premiering a live performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, on June 25 1973.