Anniversary Concert Royal Festival Hall

 Mike Oldfield and Robin A Smith 

It was by chance that Robin met Mike Oldfield after he’d worked with Mike’s sister, Sally as a sessions musician on her album, Natasha .  Mike was preparing the world premier of Tubular Bells 2 – a concert which was to be performed outside at Edinburgh Castle and broadcast live around the world and Sally felt the two would work well together.  

Robin was captivated by Tubular Bells when he heard it the first time. He once made the pilgrimage to climb Hergest Ridge to try and understand the heart of Mike’s work. 

When the two met in LA in 1991 they seemed to have an immediate understanding. Both quiet, professional  musicians, Mike seemed to recognise that he could trust Robins ability to work quickly on arrangements while respecting his creative thinking. 

Robin is unique in having a strong classical background and musical arranging plus a unparalleled understanding of modern technology which was developing and emerging at break neck speed.   Sequencing, notation, synchronisation and synthesisers were new and Robin understood them all and was one of London’s more successful sessions musicians because of his ability to incorporate them. 

The Premier was hugely successful and was one of the first concerts that involved using live musicians both rock and orchestral performing to synchronised audio elements.  At the time in 1992 it was an exciting and groundbreaking concept and the overall sound of the musicians on stage was enhanced with sophisticated audio files and colours that transformed the concert experience. 

The challenge for Robin was that he was conducting whilst listening to a synchronised click. This was totally new territory and took a lot of adaptation but the finished result was astounding. 

The show tour included Carnegie Hall, the Royal Albert Hall and all over Europe the following year. 

Since then Mike and Robin worked together on various projects; the subsequent sequel, Tubular Bells 3 and the Millennium Bell, performed in Berlin on the eve of 1999.

Robin said, “The wonder of working with Mike is his amazing creative restraint. He would allow me to paint a musical picture and then very thoughtfully and carefully intwine his own personality and musicality to create something magical. He was always enthusiastic and incredibly generous and thoughtful with the other musicians, and actually a very sensitive instructor.

The last time we worked together was at the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics  working with Danny Boyle.  Mike was living in the Bahamas, and he put his trust in me to take charge of organising the arrangements and musicians – even down to the size and tuning of the bell.   The whole experience was awe inspiring, working with Mike and Danny and such a great team, including the volunteers and nurses and together we created a wonderful segment of this fabulously unique show.” 

The Development of the Idea 

Robin has always loved German Composer, Carl Orff’s, Carmina Buranda, which was originally composed in 1935 for chorus and orchestra. 

Orff subscribed to a theatrical concept known as,  “Theatrum mundi” in which music, movement, dance, visual design and speech are inseparable. This was the inspiration for Robin who saw the parallels between the works and wanted to explore the possibilities. 

“There’s no question that Tubular Bells is one of the most unique pieces of music written this century. It embraces so many platforms. It is highly complex, embracing  minimalist, rock, serialisation, and in many ways heralded the emergence of new age music; chill and ambient.

With a mountain of wonderful audio and visual images in my head, and Mike’s blessing,  I set out to re soundscape the work – mindful not to change a single note of Mike’s original composition, but to create layers combining the audio content with the constantly changing musical landscape of fantastical cinematic imagery.   

This is a transformation, without a single note changed from the original, but bursting with a fresh vitality,  audio  theatrical elements, movement, light, and with a small ensemble of musicians (some of the finest in the country all chosen for their ability to play this complex work and embrace all the technical issues presented to them.)”

How we got here

Robin’s business partner in Feet Up & Listen, Sallie Taylor took up the challenge to get Tubular Bells the Ballet (it’s original working title) to production/market in 2017 after Robin had hit a few brick walls with the idea in Europe. 

She approached David Bintley, Choreographer and then Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet with the idea and he loved it. For almost 18 months they worked on the project with David’s friend and colleague, Stephen Hetherington – who introduced production company, Fiery Angel. 

Ideas for the production grew and grew but at the end of the day there simply wasn’t money in the pot for a full touring ballet of 24 dancers – a huge disappointment to Robin and Sallie. 

Fiery Angel introduced the pair to Brisbane based acrobatic circus company, Circa  who have since come on board under the choreography of, Yaron Lifschitz. Circa are an extraordinary circus company who push the boundaries of the art form, blurring the lines between movement, dance, theatre and circus.

The Olympic opening ceremony band
Edinburgh Tubular Bells II