Will Gregory is best known as one half of the electronic music sensation Goldfrapp, for which he is the lead keyboardist, producer and composer. Formed in 1999, the duo (of which the other half is Alison Goldfrapp) have achieved international critical, popular and commercial success. Exploring a range of musical styles in their work, their sound is in part defined by Gregory’s gorgeous multi-layered synthesiser/string arrangements. Gregory’s success does not end with Goldfrapp, though. As a saxophonist and an oboist he has toured and performed with artists as acclaimed as Tears For Fears, Peter Gabriel, The Cure, Portishead, Spiritualized and Michael Nyman. He has also written a number of works for silent film, as well as an opera – Piccard in Space – which premiered at QEH London in 2011.
In 2005 Gregory got the idea to explore something a little different. He had recently stumbled upon Switched-On Bach, a 1968 record by the American musician and composer Wendy Carlos (released under her birth name Walter Carlos). This innovative record featured synthesised arrangements of popular works by Johann Sebastian Bach. Gregory loved this idea, and realising that no-one had carried it out as a live project, reached out to a number of musicians within his network who he thought might enjoy the challenge. In 2005 at the Bath Festival, The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble performed together for the first time, recreating some of the Switched-on Bach arrangements of Wendy Carlos.
Since these early days, the ensemble have widened their repertoire greatly. In amongst transcriptions of classical works, they now play newly-composed music, as well as their own versions of music from popular culture and film. Much of this new music is written by Gregory, as well as other members of the ensemble, which includes Portishead’s Adrian Utley and composer Graham Fitkin. Though Moog synthesizers contribute a great deal to the sound, Korg and Roland synths are also used, as well as instruments by more esoteric brands such as Macbeth and Doeper. All, however, are strictly analogue, and thus possess a timbral richness which can be argued is often lacking from today’s digital equipment.
Performing works by Bach, John Carpenter, and extracts from A Clockwork Orange on a fascinating array of vintage instruments, Gregory and nine other members of the ensemble plan to dazzle an RNCM audience with the possibilities of the analogue synthesiser. Reinventing old sounds and creating new ones, this will be a bizarre and beautiful musical showcase wherein these wonderful instruments are shown at their best. And to cap it all off, there will be a free pre-show conversation in which The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble will discuss their fascinating project with BBC Radio 6 Music’s Stuart Maconie.