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June 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Scandinavian and British folk and sea-songs with Åkervinda and The Ballina Whalers (June 13th)

28 May

A quick note about what looks as if it’ll be an enchanting concert-for-voices in one of north London’s most atmospheric venues. This is also the first show presented by London folk/acapella label LaLaLa Records, who got in touch recently claiming to have been following and picking up on new music via this blog (it’s always encouraging to hear that that’s happening). I’m happy to give them their own opportunity to be found in turn…

Åkervinda + The Ballina Whalers, 13th June 2017

LaLaLa Records presents:
Åkervinda + The Ballina Whalers
The Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street (corner of Clissold Park opposite St Mary’s New Church), Stoke Newington, London, N16 9ES, England
Tuesday 13th June 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

“An evening of new vocal music curated by LaLaLa. Both Åkervinda and The Ballina Whalers will take your breath away with their contemporary interpretations of traditional folk songs.

“Jazz singers at heart, Linda Bergström, Agnes Åhlund, Lise Kroner and Iris Bergcrantz (the four singers of Swedish/Danish vocal quartet Åkervinda) give new life to ancient Scandinavian folk music and stories of women throughout the ages, through improvisation and their own original arrangements: beautiful, vivid and engaging. The group’s name is inspired by a Swedish wildflower whose roots spread far and wide like rivers under the ground. Like the flower, gracefully entwining melodies, rock solid groove, and ever-intriguing harmonies take root in your mind. Like the flower, they will be impossible to remove. Iris, Lise, Linda and Agnes share a deep love of folk music. They released their debut album ‘Kära Mor’ (Dear Mother) in 2014 and have been touring in Sweden, Denmark, the USA and Canada ever since.



 
“The Ballina Whalers (Pete Truin, Jamie Doe and Sam Brookes) are three musical barnacles clinging to the creaking hull of a vocal tradition stretching back hundreds of years. Using just their voices they explore ballads, shanties and seafaring songs in hearty three-part harmony. They’ve become one of the most sort after shanty bands around, playing folk clubs, harbour sides, beaches, boat sheds and festivals up and down the country. Between December 2012 and April 2015, they released a series of three EPs (‘Lowlands’, ‘Haul The Bowline’ and ‘Pull Down Below’ the last of which was recorded in the rolling belly of the bright red Lightship95). Having already charmed the Nest Collective, Mark Radcliffe and Late Junction, they’ve taken a couple of years away from live performance, but reunited in November 2016 to continue their adventures.”



 

May 2017 – upcoming gigs – Brian Madigan’s ‘Think Of A Song’ experiment in Bath (May 31st)

22 May

Former members of cult ’90s psychedelic folk band The Wise Wound always tend to have gone on to do something interesting. Their musing percussionist/flautist/interjector Brian Madigan’s been no exception, but for this show (for this year’s Bath Fringe Festival) he’s excelled himself…

'Think Of A Song', 31st May 2017

Brian Madigan: ‘Think of a Song’ (+ Paul Bradley)
The Old Theatre Royal, 12 Old Orchard Street, Bath, Somerset, BA1 1JU, England
Wednesday 31st May 2017, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

“When we go to a show or concert, what are our expectations? To what extent do we, the audience, create the performance? How does the space affect us? How do other audience members impact on our experience? ‘Think Of A Song‘ sets out to explore these and other questions in a unique, collective, experimental-theatre experience.

“Singer-songwriter Brian Madigan is famed for his lengthy, spoken intros. Indeed, during a previous Fringe Festival performance, he got the biggest cheer of the night when he introduced his last song but ran out of time to perform it. So what if he were to remove the songs altogether – only thinking them “out loud” as the audience were invited to imagine them? Would that be deeply uncomfortable? Transcendental? A brief moment of sanity amid the cacophony of everyday madness? Or an evening wasted?

“There is, of course, only one way to find out. If you only go to one high-risk, experimental, participatory, silent-music performance this Fringe, make it ‘Think Of A Song’. One thing is for certain: you won’t forget it in a hurry… A unique journey – not only into the mind of a performer but also into the audience’s own. Inspired by the works of John Cage and Marina Abramovic, this is powerful, immersive and unforgettable experimental performance at its experimentalist!”

If you’re planning to attend, note that ‘Think Of A Song’ is also going to be recorded by filmmaker Martin Tomkins. Brian: “The show comprises two performances: one with and one without audience. The first will take place in advance of the public show on May 31st, in the empty space, before it is set up for the Fringe. This will be filmed and recorded, the audio then presented to audience members after the live show on a complementary CD. The film will capture and blend the two parts. In the first , I will be thinking the intros and singing the songs out loud in the empty space. In the second, I will be speaking the intros, then thinking the songs “out loud” in front of an audience (including you, hopefully…) As well as providing a document of this unique event, the filming will serve to underline the role of audience as participants. In essence, you are the show.”

Support comes from “the incomparable Paul Bradley – right-strung left-handed guitarist, bandleader, composer, triple-octave singer, improviser, sessioneer, collaborator, children’s musician and multi-instrumental livelooper-cum-raconteur. If you have never encountered Paul before, you are in for a real treat. It would be no exaggeration to say that he alone is worth the ticket price.”



 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – selections from the Sheffield Classical Weekend (17th-19th)

6 Mar

There’s plenty going on at the three-day mid-March Sheffield Classical Weekend, with the city permeated with music including many old and new favourites. Among what’s on offer are two different performances of Arvo Pärt’s ‘Fratres’ (one by a wind band, one by a host of strings), two Dreams of China concerts covering formal Chinese classical compositions) and a host of choral shows (the classic monk’s-debauchery of Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’ via Schubert’s ‘Mirjam’s Siegesgesang’ and Brahms’ ‘Ziguenerlieder’, through to a variety of pops choirs.) Though I’d advise checking out the entire, pleasingly diverse programme, here are my own brief and subjective picks from it, if you’re interested.

* * * * * * * *

Oliver Coates & cellists: ‘Canticles of the Sky’ – Kelham Island Museum, Alma St, Sheffield, S3 8RY, England, Saturday 18th March 2017, 3:30pm & 5.00pminformation

“A UK premiere featuring star cellist Oliver Coates (Radiohead, ‘Under The Skin’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’). Olly and a host of cellists will surround the Kelham Island audience and lift you skyward with this ethereal and dreamy work from Pulitzer and Grammy-winning composer John Luther Adams. Also featuring extracts from J.S Bach’s Cello Suites.”

* * * * * * * *

Five Choirs: Sounds From Heaven – St Marie’s Cathedral, Norfolk Row, Sheffield S1 2JB, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 2:30pminformation

“Perched around the sides of the excellent acoustic space within the Cathedral Church of St Marie, five Sheffield chamber choirs – Abbeydale Singers, Sheffield Chamber Choir, Sterndale Singers, Sheffield Chorale and Viva Voce – will “create a swoonsome heart-lifting soundscape of song.” As well as old and new choral standbys by John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, Felix Mendelssohn and others, the concert will include the premiere of ‘Kraal’ a commission for five simultaneous choirs written by Jenny Jackson (a member of Sheffield’s own contemporary composer collective, Platform 4).”

* * * * * * * *

More music fostered by Platform 4 will be popping up a few times over the weekend. Flautist Rachel Shirley performs “a selection of colourful and inventive works for flute, piano, blown bottles and saxophone“; there’s an evening date at Yellow Arch Studios with players from Sheffield Music Academy, performing the collective’s own “imaginative cutting-edge compositions”. There’s a “mind-bending” collaboration with Opera On Location in which “stories are turned upside down and endings become beginnings in (a) selection of operatic palindromes, where the music is the same both backwards and forwards… featuring Paul Hindemith’s short opera ‘Hin Und Zurück’ (‘There And Back’), plus new bitesize and puzzling pieces…” Platform 4 also contribute the cello-and-electric keyboard piece ‘Upright Stance’ to be performed alongside Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto at Oliver Coates’ concert with Sheffield Music Hub Senior Schools.

  • Opera On Location with Platform 4 – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 8:30pminformation (contains strong and sexually explicit language – recommended for 18+)
  • Rachel Shirley: ‘Hooting & Drinking’ – Channing Hall @ Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, Saturday 18th March 2017, 3.30pminformation
  • Oliver Coates & Sheffield Music Hub Senior Schools: ‘From The Heart: Shostakovich’ – City Hall Ballroom @ Sheffield City Hall, Barkers Pool, Sheffield, S1 2JA, England, Sunday 19th March, 12:00pminformation
  • Platform 4 with Sheffield Music Academy – Yellow Arch Studios, 30-36 Burton Road, Neepsend, Sheffield, S3 8BX, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 6:30pminformation

* * * * * * * *

On the Friday and the Saturday, there are some thoughtfully programmed Sound Laboratory events centring on the music, ideas and influence of Pierre Boulez. Saturday sees a triple-banked set featuring pianists Beate Toyka and Matthew Odell, violinists Darragh Morgan and Lucy Phillips, clarinettist Sarah Watts and the University of Sheffield New Music Ensemble.

Each of these mini-concerts sets one of Boulez’s first three Piano Sonatas against another piece. ‘The Conflict And The Passion’ pitches ‘Piano Sonata No. 1’ against Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata in a study of thwarted passions. ‘Deconstruction & Digitalisation’ presents the classical deconstruction of ‘Piano Sonata No. 2’ and the electro-acoustic contrasts of ‘Anthemes II’. ‘Choice And Chance’ (the only one of the concerts to feature two Boulez compositions) offers ‘Piano Sonata No. 3’ and the clarinet-and-orchestra piece ‘Domaines’, contrasting a piece in which major options are available to the performer and one which is considerably more ordered and regimented.

The series opens on Friday with a special Boulez-inspired concert in which “the avant-garde becomes child’s play… primary school children from across the city explore the curious frontiers of contemporary electronic music and present the results of their musical experimentation.”

Sound Laboratory:

  • ‘Computer Music’ – Firth Hall @ University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 1:30pminformation
  • ‘The Conflict & The Passion’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 1:30pminformation
  • ‘Deconstruction & Digitalisation’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 3:30pminformation
  • ‘Choice and Chance’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 5:00pminformation

* * * * * * * *

Among the Chinese-inspired events is one in which Chinese and European chamber music merge as celebrated guzheng zither soloist Xia Jing teams up with The Fidelio Trio (Darragh Morgan on violin, Adi Tal on cello and Mary Dullea on piano). They’ll be presenting a concert of brand-new musical premieres – Gao Ping’s ‘Feng Zheng’ (‘Kite’), Jeroen Speak’s ‘Silk Dialogues 7’, Dylan Lardelli‘s ‘Shells’, and ‘Time Bends In The Rock’ by Sheffield-based composer Dorothy Ker.

Fidelio Trio & Xia Jing: ‘Global Soundtracks: Silk Dialogues’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 9:30pminformation

* * * * * * * *

In addition, there’s a variety of pop-up performances across the three days, featuring abbreviated sets by event headliners plus showings by small instrumental and vocal groups. It’s an open-minded spill moving out from classical forms to embrace folk, alt.chamber and other kinds of music.

One promising set of contributors are Manchester quintet Kabantu, who’ve thankfully dropped their previous name Project Jam Sandwich and who also “throw away the rulebook to bridge countries and cultures, creating an exuberant and joyful soundworld… vocal harmonies from South Africa coalesce with everything from Celtic reels and Brazilian samba to Balkan folk music and beyond.” Featuring violin, guitar, cello, double bass and percussion in addition to voices, they’re playing a pop-up show but also two separate consecutive-but-entirely-different sets at Yellow Arch Studios.

Classical by Night – Kabantu @ Yellow Arch Studios, 30-36 Burton Road, Neepsend, Sheffield, S3 8BX, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 6.30pm & 9:30pm – information here and here
 

March 2017 – upcoming London experimental music gigs – Pefkin, Bell Lungs, Russell Walker and David CW Briggs on the 12th; Yoni Silver, Eden Grey and |V|I|O|L|E|N|C|E| at openJack on the 15th; Magnus Loom, Alex Douglas, Zoey Gunshot and Flying Saucer on the 16th

5 Mar

Sundry experimental music shows in London during mid-March:

* * * * * * *

Pefkin + Bell Lungs + Russell Walker + David CW Briggs, 12th March 2017Pefkin + Bell Lungs + Russell Walker + David CW Briggs
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Sunday 12th March 2017, 7.00pm
information

Words from the organiser:

“Scotland comes to New River and it’s going to be a spooky psychedelic affair.

Pefkin is the alter ego of Gayle Brogan, one half of Glaswegian vintage synth duo Electroscope and ex-proprietor of the Boa Melody Bar mail order. She has been recording as Pefkin since 1999 and released albums on Morc, Wild Silence, Reverb Worship, Pseudoarcana etc. More recently she has been recording with the Kitchen Cynics‘ Alan Davidson, creating psych-folk hymnals inspired by a mutual love of folk songs and nature, and has been recording with United Bible Studies. On her own Gayle creates a dreamy rural psychedelia from looped vocals, guitar, analogue synth and violin. She is currently recording an album inspired by the recumbent stone circles of Aberdeenshire.


 
Bell Lungs (vocals/electric guitar/electric violin) is from Scotland and has previously performed in the USA, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, in curious locations such as an abandoned grain silo, a hydro-electric power station inside a mountain, the top deck of a double-decker bus and amidst the eerie, moving sculptures of Sharmanka Kinetic Theatre. She will be playing an immersive continuously-morphing set that will carry you from the Western Isles of Scotland to the rainforest and outer space.


 
“Support from Russell Walker of Pheromoans fame and Bomber Jackets infamy. He has also written a book. The book is great, very funny. I saw Russell play at Tatty Seaside Towns‘ most recent event in the famed ‘Naughty Corner’. Me and Barney Wakefield were trying to have a serious conversation but it was IMPOSSIBLE because of this set. He was reading some very funny, misanthropic, storioes/poetry about some ‘people’ either real or unreal. Scathing and mundane in equal measure which is the sign of a good cook. Great with kids. (His son is the spitting image of my nephew… I didn’t want to mention it at the time, ‘cuz that’s probably a strange thing for stranger to bring up on first meeting).


 
David CW Briggs will open the proceedings! Dave used to play in Unlabel band Cove and was playing solo under the moniker Hills Have Riffs for a while. He drinks a lot of tea and is great with kids.”


 
* * * * * * * *

openJack, 12th March 2017

Ellis Gardiner presents:
openJack – Yoni Silver + Eden Grey + |V|I|O|L|E|N|C|E| + guests
New River Studios, Ground Floor Unit E, 199 Eade Road, Manor House, London, N4 1DN, England
Wednesday 15th March 2017, 7.30pm
information

Yoni Silver is a multi-instrumentalist (specialising in bass clarinet and electronics), composer, improvisor and performer. He plays in a number of projects, including the Hyperion Ensemble. This is Yoni’s first openJack appearance, but he’s back a few weeks later with his trio, Denis D’or.


 
Eden Grey‘s music is an experimental mix influenced by electro, dub, d’n’b, techno, drone, ambient and hip-hop. Her music took a major shift towards the collage-based methods of the historical avant-garde while earning her Masters’ degree in music technology and after she began building her modular synthesizer in 2013. Eden also hosts the CV FREQS meetups for the London Modular Synthesis Group.


 
|V|I|O|L|E|N|C|E| is a solo electronics project by Tim Cowlishaw, one of the people behind Walthamstow’s avant-music evening More News From Nowhere.”


 
* * * * * * * *

Magnus Loom, 16th March 2017Chlöe Herington presents:
Magnus Loom + Zoey Gunshot + Flying Saucer
The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England
Thursday 16th March 2017, 7.00pm
information

This is another of the leftfield gigs organised by reedswoman/noise-fiddler and curator Chlöe Herington (Chrome Hoof, Knifeworld, V A L V E, Half The Sky), and here’s what she has to say about it:

Magnus Loom wildly turns and tumbles through a cornucopia of brightly burning pitches and rhythms, howling and whispering, in his own world of avant-punk cabaret. According to his Facebook page, “Magnus Loom makes a noise, and lives in hope that one day others might enjoy it as much as he does.” It’s really good noise. I reckon you’ll enjoy his noise.



 
“The two support acts are both performing debut gigs. Zoey Gunshot is political noises and anti-folk; Flying Saucer is experimental noises, a bit Jonathan Richmond tinged with Bob Drake.“

 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree, 3rd March – guitars, sopranos, art-pop, poets etc

28 Feb

The third of the year’s Society of Imaginary Friends soirees takes place in north London on the first Friday in March – the usual cosy-glorious, thought-provoking mishmash of sundry singer-songwriters, poets, classical musicians and people with ideas, encouraged and topped off by the all-bases-covered chamber pop of the Society themselves.

SOIF Soiree, 3rd March 2017

Society Of Imaginary Friends present:Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree: “A Breath Of Fresh Air” (featuring Society of Imaginary Friends + Anne Corrigan + David Skinner + Martin Wakefield + I Am Her + Duet Diana + Millie George
Kabaret @ Karamel Restaurant, The Chocolate Factory 2, 4 Coburg Road, Wood Green, London, N22 6UJ, England
Friday 3rd March 2017, 8.00pm
– free event – information

Word from SOIF’s Alfie and Louise:

“People have said “my goodness, Soif Soirees are unpredictable,” “Soif Soirees are like nothing I have experienced before,” or even ‘Soif Soirees feature some of the most moving and talented performers in London,’ and that Soif Soirees are a ‘a breath of fresh air.’ So this is our theme for our March Society of Imaginary Friends Soiree. A breathe of fresh air… remember what that used to feel like? Sweet oxygen hitting your lungs?… Your body aching with gratitude for the relief of it?… Yes, that’s good old Soiree wholesomeness… brought to you by our sponser TOYFE inc (Turn Off your Fucking Engine).

“Like a breeze from the mountains, we have new work from the incredible Millie George (poet laureate of the new generation); Duet Diana (a.k.a. Katie Morel Orchard and Sarah Lenney with their gorgeous operatic duets); punk mistress I Am Her (a.k.a. Julie Riley); god of small things Martin Wakefield. David Skinner is coming all the way from Cork, Ireland to delight us with his velvety tones and virtuosic guitar playing; the extraordinary Anne Corrigan will be reciting her poetry and – like a glass full of magical Listerine – we have the Society Of Imaginary Friends, so breathe deep and tune in. Remember the Piccadilly line is now running twenty-four hours, and there will be incredible vegan food on sale by the master chefs Kathy and Roger. We hope to see you on Friday for fun and a breath of fresh air…”

There are a few tasters below. I’m sorry that I couldn’t find more.




 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – Coven ’17 English tour, 2nd-13th March (fightin’ women’s folk from O’Hooley & Tidow, Lady Maisery and Grace Petrie)

17 Feb
Coven, 2017

Coven, 2017

Last month’s astonishing Women’s March laid bare a fairly fundamental truth – that the backbone and much of the driving force of protest movements (certainly the successful ones) are made up of women.

Historically, one of the binding factors of this has been folk music – women singing, women playing, women writing or interpreting, and women inspiring from the stage. Though this kind of music’s often had a rough ride from the fashion police who drag it in and out of style, generally the performers have treated this as little more than an incidental matter – noted, grunted at, and set aside while the serious matter of talk’n’listen is gotten on with. Similarly, there’s nothing saying that folk performers whose public image might mostly be that of making pretty sounds on the radio won’t also retain, sustain or develop deep commitments to social politics, and thereby draw in anyone who’s prepared to think of them as more than an aural accessory to go with the wallpaper. At any time there are plenty of tours and shows taking place and reinforcing this, although I, for one don’t get to hear enough about them. Here’s one which I did get to hear about – six outspoken women on tour in March with a brace of songs and collective commitment, stirring up discussion and solidarity. Past craft; present engagement.

Woven from the usual brace of press releases:

“Coven are a collective of three of the British folk scene’s finest, most formidable and forthright female acts, taking to the stage to celebrate International Women’s Day in a week of unforgettable concerts. The exquisitely harmonic songwriting duo and BBC 6 Music favourites O’Hooley & Tidow (described as “defiant, robust, political, Northern, poetical folk music for the times we live in” by the ‘Independent’) will be joined by the enchanting BBC Radio 2 Folk Award Finalists Lady Maisery (“women with ideas, purpose and urgency… powerful, enthralling work” – ‘Songlines’) and the irrepressible Leicester songwriter, activist and performer Grace Petrie (“a powerful new songwriting voice” – ‘The Guardian’).

“Three years ago, they all got together to celebrate International Women’s Day in March with a series of three concerts. Since then, the tour has extended year on year… Experience these thought-provoking, entertaining and enthralling women debuting the music from their first collective EP, ‘Unholy Choir’ (recorded at Frome’s Cooper Hall in the early part of 2017), and performing both individually and collectively on one stage.”

Here are examples of work by each of the three Coven components; followed by a clip of all of them together, performing an extended harmony-folk take on Kate Bush’s This Woman’s Work. A version of the latter is on ‘Unholy Choir’ along with the Maisery’s Rowan Rheingans’ resetting of female labour anthem Bread & Roses, a cover of the late Maggie Roche’s Quitting Time, an a capella version of Pat Humphries ’ Never Turning Back, a new version of Grace’s If There’s A Fire In Your Heart and a full sextet version of Coil & Spring (O’Hooley and Tidow’s Pussy Riot tribute, co-written with former Chumbawamba mainstay Boff Whalley). So far, the plan is for the EP to only be available at the gigs. Early on, at least, you’ll need to attend one to get one.





 

Full tour dates:

Coven, 2017
 

February 2017 – upcoming London gigs – ORA’s ‘Tallis & The Tides of Love’ (1st) – Renaissance and Renaissance-inspired singing in the heart of the Cutty Sark

29 Jan

ORA - 'Thomas Tallis & The Tides of Love" - 1st February 2017ORA presents:
‘Tallis & The Tides of Love’
Michael Edwards Studio Theatre @ Cutty Sark, King William Walk, Greenwich, London, SE10 9HT, England
Wednesday 1st February 2017, 7:30pm
information

There are still some tickets remaining for this coming Wednesday’s son-et-lumiere concert by vocal ensemble ORA at the Cutty Sark on the Greenwich waterfront. Sadly, they’re not siting themselves under the ship’s famous copper hull – so I’ll still have to wonder what that might have done for the acoustics – but the ship’s studio theatre, embedded in the framework of the lower hold, should provide enough atmosphere of its own. (At the very least, you could think of it as an upmarket Thekla.)

While the concert will feature various Renaissance choral masterpieces – including several by Greenwich’s most famous composing son, Thomas Tallis) eight brand new pieces will be receiving their world premiere, in keeping with ORA’s belief that we’re entering a second golden age of choral composition. Five of these will be using Tallis works as a compositional springboard, while the other three take inspiration from other Renaissance creations and translations.

  • Richard Allain presents his own reflection on Tallis’ cantus firmus ‘Videte Miraculum’ which echoes and develops the original’s musical ingredients (including plainsong, false relations, polychoral writing and an antiphonal diffusion of one of the opening harmonies).
  • Alec Roth’s ‘Night Prayer’ is a “macaronic” answer to Tallis’ plainsong hymn ‘Te lucis ante terminum’: a triple treatment in which Latin and English versions of the text run in parallel both to each other and to a wordless vocalese interpretation of the plainsong, each with its own appropriate and different rhythmic approach.
  • Ken Burton’s ‘Many Are The Wonders’ is a layered “gospel-influenced reflection (in) traditional and contemporary choral styles” on Tallis’ ‘Loquebantur’, drawing creative inspiration from the original’s “fluid jazz-like motion, interspersing of solo and group, the false relations in Tallis’s harmonies… akin to the ‘bluesing’ of notes in gospel music, and of course the subject matter – the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts chapter 2, which describes a mighty rushing wind filling a room and those present simultaneously declaring the wonders of God in different languages – (which) gave much scope for painting a musical picture.”
  • Before studying under Robert Sherlaw-Johnson and Francis Pott (and long before a career including work as soundtrack composer and cello-playing mainstay for North Sea Radio Orchestra), Harry Escott was a young chorister at Westminster Cathedral chorister. Having recently returned to choral music (this time as a composer), Harry’s contributing ‘O Light of Light’, a salute to Tallis motets and in particular a development of ‘O Nata Lux’, from which he’s “borrowed a handful of melodic clippings and some of my favourite harmonies… to create a piece that, I hope, amplifies my interpetation of ‘O Nata Lux’: a heartfelt plea to be accepted into heaven at the end of life on earth.”
  • Frank Ferko’s ‘Reflection on Thomas Tallis’ If Ye Love Me’ is another piece founded on a Tallis motet, but this time feeding the work through “updated forms of modality” and “a twenty-first century aural prism”, dividing the choir between four-voice Tallisian counterpoint and the harmonically-compressed tone-clusters approach more familiar from the works of Béla Bartók, Charles Ives, Lou Harrison and Cecil Taylor.
  • Jonathan Dove’s ‘Vadam et circuibo’ builds on the first eight bars of Counter-Reformation composer Tomas Luis de Victoria’s epic motet ‘Vadam et circuibo civitatem’, twirling out a more frenzied interpretation of the original.
  • The enthusiastic, cleverly irreverent polystylist Kerry Andrew (who performs experimental folk music as You Are Wolf, as well as working with a capella trio Juice, “joyfully anarchic jazz/classical/rock collective” DOLLYman and jazz-folk sextet Metamorphic) offers her setting of ‘Archbishop Parker’s Psalme 150’ using (a) basic verse form which begins to be pulled apart by the choir, all the while aiming to retain a feel of rowdy celebration. The setting is in the ‘vulgar tongue’ (e.g, that dreadfully uncouth Middle English) and has quite a peculiar form that I tried to reflect in the musical rhythm. I do imagine that this is sung by slightly drunken sixteenth-century peasants, happy to be singing in their own language.”
  • Onetime Birtwistle student John Barber – who now divides his time between classical compositions, his acclaimed avant-folk-pop band Firefly Burning and the Woven Gold singing project (which unites refugees and asylum seekers with established British jazz and classical musicians) – provides a setting of the “flower-amongst-thorns” text ‘Sicut Lilium’ (offsetting the Renaissance-era Antoine Brumel setting which may or may not also be performed at the concert) John’s explanation of his own interest in the central image is that “to me it suggests that you can’t have faith without doubt and you can’t have love without the possibility of losing it.”

Most if not all of these pieces will have been recorded for ORA’s upcoming third and fourth albums (following last year’s double-whammy of their William Byrd-inspired collection ‘Upheld By Stillness’ and their Savonarola-influenced collation of Renaissance Miseres, ‘Refuge From The Flames’). Both of these new recordings will be launched as part of the event.
 

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