Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells: Q&A

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Tubular Bells, the iconic masterpiece will be performed live with a full band at Storyhouse on 19 March next year, conducted and arranged by Oldfield’s long term collaborator Robin Smith.

Robin Smith tells us more below. 

How does it feel to be presenting the 50th Anniversary of Tubular Bells in concert?
It’s been a dream of mine for a very long time. I first discussed my vision of re-creating Tubular Bells as a theatrical work with Mike after we’d performed at the Olympic opening ceremony. I always experience such a huge emotion listening to and performing the work, it is full of ever shifting styles and stories that have always resonated with me throughout my career. The sheer fact that Mike loves this work that I’ve done is a huge honour to me.

When did you first become aware of Mike Oldfield’s work?
When Tubular Bells was first released – 50 years ago it had a massive impact on me. Having been trained classically, but with a love of all other types of music, the release of Tubular Bells was something very, very special. To have a contemporary piece of music that had the length and structure of a classical composition was fascinating and unique.

How were you and Mike first introduced?
I met Mike via his sister, the singer, Sally Oldfield. I was working for her as a sessions musician and arranger on her albums and had arranged one piece for her with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. It was the perfect vehicle for her to introduce me to Mike when he needed a musical arranger for the premier of Tubular Bells II at Edinburgh Castle which incidentally was broadcast live around the whole world.

How did it feel to perform Tubular Bells at the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony?
It was an unbelievable experience and I was deeply humbled to be part of the event and to be around the amazing volunteers too. The whole experience, working with Danny Boyle, the organisation, the numbers of people, the occasion was just mind-blowing. Mike invited me to be Musical Director for his part because by then he was living abroad – so I worked in London coordinating the recordings and the organisation of the Tubular Bell’s segment. On the night it was an utterly amazing event and really great to perform on stage with Mike again. (Other stories are available.)

How does the tour bring the album to life?
Well, of course it is great to introduce this wonderful work to new audiences and to reinvent the sound of the album 50 years onwards and with Mike’s blessing.
Tubular Bells has so many amazing musical episodes that it’s impossible to ever tire from finding new and magical elements in the work. I’ve tried to capture some of this for Mike’s amazing fans all over the world but also, hopefully to extent Mikes legacy as one of the world’s great composers.

Why do you think Tubular Bells is such a timeless album that was both successful at the time, and something that still resonates to this day?
It’s a hugely important album for many reasons. Historically it is totally unique to have a work written, played and recorded by one person. Mike used the limited technology that was available at the time in conjunction with his Producer, Tom Newman to create one of the most unique recordings ever made. Tubular Bells as a work covers so many musical genres from the iconic serialisation of the introduction section to the many broad folk melodies, alongside jazz, rock and the emergence of ambient music as can be heard in the second part of the work.

Does the show feature any of Mike’s other work?
Yes – in the first half we are highlighting the wealth of Mike’s compositions with everything from Moonlight Shadow, To France and Family Man, an we are featuring re-imagined versions of Ommadawn and Tubular Bells II. I am working closely with the musicians who are performing, (and performed at the premier of this version at the Royal Festival Hall/South Bank) especially Jay Stapley, who of course performed with me at the original Tubular Bells II premier at Edinburgh and has been a huge supporter of Mike’s work through his playing over the years.


To find out more and book now, click here.