Collaborating since 2007, in 2011 musician/composer Richard Ingham and poet Brian Johnstone embarked on a larger collaboration: Ingham's jazz orchestral setting of Johnstone’s narrative poem Robinson. A suite for trumpet & trombone soloists, twenty piece jazz orchestra and two spoken voices, Robinson weaves Ingham's music into and around the spoken text of Johnstone’s poem, combining jazz and contemporary music in a voyage of rumour, imagination, guesswork and mystery. Inspired by the disappearance of the American poet Weldon Kees, the poem is based on his character Robinson. First published as Robinson: A Journey by Akros in 2002, it had always been projected that the poem should be presented in a musical setting. Richard Ingham's work fulfills this intention magnificently.
Prospects for Robinson
A pulsating, pulpy tale for jazz orchestra, narrators and soloists, Robinson’s ebb and flow [was] an evocative and eye-opening spectacle. Brian Donaldson, The Scotsman
An infectious big sax sound...countered with aplomb by ... less traditional strings provided an apposite period context to the narration. The whole performance was thoroughly energised by ebullient conductor Richard Ingham ... his music interact[ing] playfully with Johnstone’s picaresque tale, setting the scene with the heady days of ‘50s jazz ensembles and climaxing to wild Balkan dance rhythms, at times underlining passages with smoky mood melodies, other times digressing with Robinson to echoes of Charles Mingus, Tower of Power or Stevie Wonder. Madeline Campbell, St Andrews Citizen
Robinson was commissioned by the University of St Andrews to mark Richard Ingham's appointment as Composer in Residence (2010-12). It features Colin Steele (trumpet) and John Kenny (trombone) as soloists with Chrys Salt and Ryan Van Winkle as narrators. The piece was premiered at the On the Rocks festival, St Andrews in 2011 and received further performances at the Byre Theatre, St Andrews and the Wigtown Book Festival, both 2012.