“Reach high, for there are stars in your soul”, was an opening line in Robert Mitchell’s six-part ‘Invocation’. This new composition saw his customary trio generously augmented by a fifty-piece choir, twenty-strong children’s choir, chamber strings, vocals and percussion. Whilst all involved ‘reached’ and there was ample soul offered, regrettably it was only the core trio that provided a star-dazzling performance.
Mitchell’s composition sought to pay tribute to inspirational teachers around the world, seeking to put them on their deserved pedestal rather than a soapbox or picket line. The narrator Eugene Skeef endeavoured to frame and extol this purpose, but his engrossing body percussion performances were less certain in their role.
There were moments of brilliance when Mitchell’s fingers took flight and drummer Laurie Lowe dug deep into the groove. Many of the choir could be seen compulsively shaking their hips and bopping their heads, as sparkling melody and rhythm entangled.
Predominantly, however, the larger ensemble’s contributions seemed to fall short of their potential. Mitchell had the diversity of forces to hand to create captivating contrast, and yet the texture varied little throughout the performance. At times the choirs’ tones were the perfect accompaniment to a blistering piano solo, but their true capacity felt unharnessed and perhaps diminished by less than perfect sound balance.
Notwithstanding, Mitchell’s trio shone bright enough to light up the whole stage.