Review: York Late Music, Ensemble Bash, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York 

THE new season of York Late Music concerts kicked off on March 2 with a performance by Ensemble Bash, Britain’s leading percussion ensemble.

With a name like that, you might be forgiven for expecting a Stomp-like extravaganza, and while there was certainly some loud music in the concert, the group also demonstrated the subtlety and wit that percussion is capable of.

There’s only room to pick out a few highlights to demonstrate the range of their programme. London-based American composer Stephen Montague’s Rimfire provided an exciting start, with rhythms passed around the group at lightning speed, the players making vocal interjections as if exhorting each other to keep up the energy.

Roger Marsh’s Huddle (a Late Music commission) was striking in its use of theatrical elements, with the players periodically huddling together at the front of the stage. Like Montague, Marsh also uses vocal interjections; in his engaging and informative pre-concert talk, Marsh went into his fascination with Japanese theatre and music, and there’s an element of Noh theatre in the piece. He also avoids the kind of postminimalist pulse which has become a bit of a cliché in percussion ensemble music (and which some of the other pieces didn’t totally avoid).

Music by Howard Skempton and David Bedford inhabited a delicately chiming soundworld, while Pete McGarr’s Sound Asleep (described by the composer as "a trip brimming with serpentine memories") involved music boxes and panpipes alongside more conventional percussion.

All the pieces were introduced by the players, which gave an informality and approachability to the concert.

Review by Nick Williams