One Album – Two Men, Too Many Instruments

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Aidan Roberts and Daniel Holdsworth make the impossible possible with the mesmerising stage show “Tubular Bells for Two”…

When did music become a part of your life, and what was the first instrument you picked up?

I have always played music for as long as I can remember. There were lots of instruments in the house when I was a kid, and I experimented with all of them – guitar, piano, trumpet, organ. The guitar was the instrument I fell in love with though.

Tell us about Tubular Bells for Two; where did it all begin?

Tubular Bells for Two is a live performance where two blokes frantically play over 20 instruments to recreate Mike Oldfield’s classic album, Tubular Bells. But it doesn’t matter if you’ve never even heard of the album before; this show is for anyone who enjoys live music performance. It is a high stakes show, where things can go wrong at any moment and bring the whole show crashing to a halt. It’s tense, it’s exciting, and it’s an incredible musical and physical journey.

Where it began? Well, we didn’t come to the project as particularly big Mike Oldfield fans. Rather, Aidan and I are big fans of music from the ’60s and ’70s in general. We’re both also record collectors, and a favourite pastime of ours is sitting down to listen to records with a couple of glasses of wine.

One night it just happened to be Tubular Bells on the record player. We were intrigued by it, because it’s essentially an instrumental work that goes for an hour non-stop. How was this a hit? It goes against all the conventions of popular music. But, it was challenging and mesmerising. So we decided to learn to play it, just for fun, on a couple of guitars. Then we got a bit carried away, I suppose. The piece starts with a piano, so we sat at a piano with guitars in our hands and started jamming through a bit more.

Then, at the end of the side, there is a famous section where a procession of instruments are announced and then play the main theme. There’s: grand piano, reed and pipe organ, glockenspiel, bass guitar … And it goes until it gets to tubular bells! So we thought, wouldn’t it be fun to have all of these instruments set up around a stage, announce them, then run around and play them. And it was at that moment the show was really born.

It then became a challenge; can we play the entire album as it is sounds on the record? We then had to score the whole album and then choreograph the performance, right down to the movement of our toes, just to achieve it.

You’re both multi instrumentalists … What are some of the more unusual instruments played in the show, and how are they all juggled between the two of you?

I suppose the bells themselves are unusual, as they’re hard to come by. When we first did the show, we couldn’t afford to even hire a set, as they’re quite expensive. So we had a carpenter friend build us a set out of fence pipe off cuts. They were pretty ugly looking, and they sounded pretty awful too. They had their demise live on national radio on the ABC, when we played them, and they literally fell to bits.

What can the audience expect from your show?

A tense, edge of your seat experience. If you don’t know the album, you’ll be taken on a sonic journey that goes through so many different styles of music, from Rock to Folk to Celtic to Jazz … There’s just so much in it. If you do know the album, it’s probably even more tense, because you know what’s coming up and you’ll be wondering, how on Earth are they going to do it?

The show is intense; how do you prepare, and what happens if a finger or toe slips?

No matter what, we must get to the end. That’s the whole idea. If something goes wrong, we have to figure out how to keep going. We’ve had some catastrophic moments performing this show, we’ve had instruments fall and break, we’ve fallen over, cables have come unplug, we even lost power to the entire stage once, but we still kept going with whatever we had around us that worked.

That’s the show – two blokes play the whole album, all the way through, without stopping, no matter happens.

Thanks guys.


Tubular Bells For Two
07 Apr 2017 – Capitol Theatre Tamworth

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