Montana Strange - The main feature of the evening was Radio 3's new commission by Belfast-born composer, Brian Irvine. Montana Strange was written for two simultaneous groups of musicians. The first, conducted by Irvine, involved Paul Dunmall on solo saxophone, Irvine's own ensemble, including drum kit with hanging saucepans, solo cello, guitar and bass, brass, and man on decks. The second was the BBC Concert Orchestra. Used to slightly more conventional works like those featured on Friday Night Is Music Night, it was more than amusing to see their conductor beating a very straight time signature with his baton, whilst Irvine stood in his shirt sleeves, arms flailing, reaching for the sky, sneaking looks to the orchestra to ensure all was well. This piece was a completely wonderful ebb and flow of chaos and calm. The strings underpinned with long, drawn-out landscapes, occasionally tremoloing underneath the squawking, spluttering improvisations of Dunmall. In the climax of the piece we were subjected to an a capella cadenza of such force that it was of shivering proportions. Irvine took us through a whirl of big-band show time tunes, with off-beat snare and triangle, clearly in a different time signature to everyone else. A melodic cheery piece by the ensemble alone, with a slightly Hawaiian-guitar part, spiky cross-rhythms between all instruments, assembling into an oom-pah section, punctuated by crash cymbal and tuba. At one point, the ensemble chant, "just cut 'em up like regular chickens". "Regular chickens?" ask the orchestra, and so the music drives on, disintegrating, organically and swiftly, into tiny fragments, before pulling itself back together into a comic pastiche. Jez Nelson introduced the piece as an insight into the mind of Brian Irvine. And this mind is a microcosm of huge energy and chaos, intricately engineered to blow your head off!

Lucy Davies