Gig review: The Words on the Wall

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AUDIENCES are usually asked to turn off mobile phones at concerts, but cellist Peter Gregson is one of the new generation of musicians keen to explore digital technology in performance. Instead, he invited everyone to not only keep their phones on (albeit in silent mode), but to send text messages during the concert that were then projected on to the wall.

Alternating between an acoustic and electric "blue" cello, Gregson delivered a varied programme of works primarily by living composers. These included the beautifully crafted Constant Filter by John Metcalfe, Max Richter's Vocal, where the cello truly did sing in this superb acoustic, Sally Beamish's Song of the Birds, based on a Catalan folk song, and James MacMillan's lament HB to MB.

Initially, most of the audience were content to just listen, particularly in the lengthy and intense Cello Suite No 2 by Britten near the top of the bill, but gradually the texted comments became more frequent. Most messages tended towards the poetic ("hello mellow cello") or reflective ("haunting sound, grips the emotions"), although one texter wondered whether the audience shouldn't be listening to the music rather than "staring at the wall".

However, there was plenty of substance in this short but packed concert, with Gregson ably assisted on the technical side by Milton Mermikides who also wrote Subtext, a highly rhythmic work incorporating cello samples and snatches of President Obama's inauguration speech.