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November 2019 – upcoming classical concerts – Duncan Honeybourne premieres Richard Pantcheff in London (6th November); Scottish Ensemble’s ‘Elemental’ tour across Scotland with Aidan O’Rourke and Kit Downes (9th-13th November); Joby Burgess plays SOLO in London (13th November)

30 Oct

Duncan Honeybourne, 6th November 2019On 6th November, in London, Duncan Honeybourne – a longstanding specialist in British and Irish piano music – premieres Richard Pantcheff’s ‘Piano Sonata’ at the 1901 Club as part of the English Music Festival. Richard himself will be on hand to introduce the piece.

Duncan is also performing a couple of other British piano works – Frank Bridge’s ‘Piano Sonata’ (from the latter’s later post-tonal, post-impressionist compositional stage), and ‘Notturno’, by Bridge’s onetime pupil and champion Benjamin Britten (a competition piece which, rather than foregrounding performer virtuosity, challenges them to create and sustain an atmosphere involving ever-quieter dynamics). Richard Pantcheff was, in turn, Britten’s pupil – so there’s a chain of learning and of respect being explored here.

Versions of the Britten and Bridge pieces are below…



 
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Mid-month, the Scottish Ensemble embark on their four-date Elemental tour through Scotland, accompanied by Aidan O’Rourke (fiddler for striking post-folk trio Lau) and cross-disciplinary keyboard whiz Kit Downes plus guest violinist/director Simon Blendis (of London Mozart Players, Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa and Schubert Ensemble).

Scottish Ensemble: 'Elemental' tour - 9th to 13th November 2019

The program centres around a new O’Rourke/Downes co-composition ‘There is no beginning’ (written for harmonium, piano, fiddle and string orchestra) which “fuses the visceral energy and haunting beauty of Aidan’s traditional Celtic roots with wisps of jazz, folk, ambient and classical. Surrounding it will come a clutch of contemporary works that speak to us of all things elemental – space, silence, waves and air – intertwined with melodies which echo an ancient Scotland.

“The performance is inspired by Edwin Morgan’s 1984 poem ‘Slate’, generally accepted as a love letter to a politically- and environmentally-battered Scotland. Through music, alongside its two collaborators, Scottish Ensemble will explore themes of time, change and transformation, particularly in relation to our nation and our world; entities that, as with music, are subject to the constant processes of time. Sound will be used to conjure thoughts of the past, present and future of the land we all share – as well as creating a space to contemplate it.”

Several further string orchestra pieces flesh out the programme. Tansy Davies’ ‘The Beginning of the World’ was originally a 2013 BBC Proms piece and is “a variation on Sellinger’s Round, an Elizabethan theme”; David Fennessy’s 2016 work ‘Hirta Rounds’ is an unconducted piece for sixteen string player in small groups with “many different fluctuations in tempo occurring simultaneously”. From earlier on in the repertoire, there’s György Ligeti’s ‘Ramifications’ from 1968 (a “mistuned” experiment for twelve players in two groups, one of which is collectively tuned a quarter tone higher than standard pitch, and within which there are no stresses, meter or specific rhythm) and Ruth Crawford Seeger’s ‘Andante for Strings’ from 1931 (“a study in dissonant dynamics, with the overlapping of crescendos and diminuendos alone creating a sense of melody out of single pitches in each instrument.”)

Versions of the last two are below…



 

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Joby Burgess, 13th November 2019Having already made an impression this season at Daylight Music back in October, percussionist Joby Burgess is heading to Peckham’s CLF Art Café for the first in a new round of composer Alex Groves’ itinerant SOLO concerts.

As is the case with performers at all of these concerts, Joby will be playing a brand-new Groves piece (in this case ‘Curved Form (No. 18)’, one of an ongoing series) plus various other unspecified contemporary percussion pieces. There’s not much information on the latter, although there’ll definitely be some Morton Feldman and some Linda Buckley: possibly the latter’s ‘Dischordia’, played on the aluminium harp (as showcased above and below).

 
Meanwhile, there’s a Joby Q&A here, at the SOLO site, for a window into what makes him tick (and rustle, and rattle, etc.); and here are a few more Joby performances recycled from the Daylight post…



 
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Dates:

The English Music Festival presents:
Duncan Honeybourne performs Richard Pantcheff’s ‘Piano Sonata’ (première)
1901 Arts Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE
Wednesday 6th November 2019, 6.30pm
– information here, here and here

Scottish Ensemble’s ‘Elemental’ tour:

  • Aberdeen Music Hall, Union Street, Aberdeen, AB10 1QS, Scotland – Saturday 9th November 2019, 7:30 pm – information here, here and here
  • Caird Hall, City Square, Dundee, DD1 3BB, Scotland – Sunday 10th November 2019, 7:30 pm – information here, here and here
  • Galvanisers @ SWG3, 100 Eastvale Place, Glasgow, G3 8QG, Scotland – Tuesday 12th November 2019, 7:30 pm – information here, here and here
  • Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9SU, Scotland – Wednesday 13th November 2019, 7:30 pm – information here, here and here

SOLO presents:
SOLO 07: Jody Burgess
The CLF Art Café, Block A, Bussey Building, 133 Copeland Road, Peckham, London, SE15 3SN, England
Wednesday 13th November 2019, 8.00pm
– information here, here, here and here
 

October/November 2019 – upcoming London classical gigs – ‘Venus, Women And The Guitar’ (27th October); Emily Howard curates ‘Ada Lovelace: Imagining The Analytical Engine’ (2nd November); Echo Collective present Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ’12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann’ plus Félicia Atkinson (3rd November)

21 Oct

‘Venus, Women and the Guitar’, 27th October 2019As part of London Guitar Festival 2019, the International Guitar Foundation presents ‘Venus, Women and the Guitar’ towards the end of October. A concert celebrating women’s relationship with the guitar, and featuring a wide roster of performers including many significant current female classical guitar players, it also showcases an entire programme of guitar compositions by women.

Of the two main composer contributors, Errollyn Wallen has written plenty of works for guitar over the past two decades as part of a career which includes seventeen operas, music for television and assorted works for chamber instrumentation and large-scale ensembles (as well as a musical willingness to explore both standard classical settings and experiments with tape, placement and other media, plus continual rearrangements of the ideas of how we think about music and its intersections with a broader, more diverse culture).

In addition to the IGF-repertoire Wallen pieces which are being played, she’s contributed two new commissions/premieres. The Housden-Tarlton Duo will be performing ‘Two Guitars’, while Tom KerstensG Plus Ensemble (a two-guitar, string quartet and percussion group, eschewing piano parts in favour of “the unique combination of the guitars’ quickly decaying plucked sounds, the sustained bowed string sound (and) a wide range of vibraphone, marimba and other percussion sounds”) will be performing ‘Road to Strathy Point’. As regards the repertoire pieces, Tom Kerstens returns later in the program to perform the solo Wallen piece ‘Canciones’ while up-and-coming classical guitarist Shannon Latoya Simon will perform a triptych of ‘Three Ships’, ‘Walking Me To Work’ and Night Passage’ (meanwhile, here are the Kerstens versions of a couple of these).



 
The other dominant composer of the evening, Laura Snowden, hasn’t been working for nearly as long but her career’s already moving from strength to strength. Also reknowned as an exceptional and versatile performer on guitar, she’s been described by ‘Classical Guitar Magazine’ as “linking guitar’s past, present and future” and will be performing her own solo piece ‘Anpao; L’étoile et la Rose’.


 
As regards her other pieces, the Mēla Guitar Quartet (Matthew Robinson, George Tarlton, Daniel Bovey, Jiva Housden) will play ‘My Clock Is Broken’ (which they premiered at the Purcell Room earlier in the year); VIDA Guitar Quartet (Mark Eden, Mark Ashford, Amanda Cook, Christopher Stell) will be joining up with concert saxophonist Amy Green to perform ‘Light Perpetuum’; and two VIDA members will be returning in their other configuration as the Eden Stell Guitar Duo to play ‘Damn everything but the circus!; The Snow Globe’.


 
The work of five other female composers will be performed as part of the concert. VIDA’s Amanda Cook will team with violinist Liz Cooney for Effy Efthymiou’s ‘Two Reflections’ of which “(the) elliptical movement and improvisatory feel are designed to create a seductive ambience – almost like being in a dream. The lilting phrases move easily from one time signature to the next, producing a free flow of sound and a subtle feeling of repose. Light interweaving melodies rotate with rough, percussive sonorities to evoke the whole spectrum of feelings that one might experience through reflection.”

Rather magically, Effy is half of a mutually supportive duo of composing twin sisters, along with Litha Efthymiou, and the two compose both together and apart. Litha, too, is represented in this concert. Her piece ‘States Of Ice: Diamond Dust’ (like ‘Two Reflections’, originally a 2012 IGF commission) will be performed by Johan Löfving. It’s “a poetic representation of the ice phenomenon “diamond dust”… its light, ponderous beginning exploits the guitar’s delicate timbral qualities, while the second, more aggressive section is quite percussive in texture, depicting the full gamut of elements that constitute this elusive state of ice.”

Johan will return with his Flauguissimo Duo partner, flautist Yu-Wei Hu, to play another previous IGF commission, Charlotte Bray’s ‘Here everything shines’ (apparently “largely inspired by Cesaria Evora’s ‘Petit Pays’, sung in Cape Verdean Portuguese. The title comes from the translation of the line ‘ki ca ta brilha’, an idea which resonates throughout. A gritty and impassioned fast section opens the piece, the non-stop flute/violin line dashing around being punctuated by stabbing chords on the guitar/piano. The intensity grows until a lush slow section takes over, the melody singing vibrantly over an arpeggiated figure. Similar material to the opening then returns in an extended version, with the piano taking on the fast energetic figure and violin interrupting. Expressive and very free, a quiet section follows. The pace slows and lines glimmer as if caught by rays of sun bouncing off the ocean. Abruptly, the opening material intervenes one final time, with the lively melodic line heard once again in the flute/violin part, the guitar/piano seemingly edging it on.”)

Opening the concert, G Plus Ensemble will be playing Anna Meredith’s ‘Spook (for string quartet, guitar and marimba); and finally, there’ll be another premiere. Kevin Daniel Cahill (G Plus Ensemble’s other guitarist, and a passionate musical emissary and fosterer in his own right) has commissioned and will be performing a Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade piece called ‘Wallflower’. Unlike the evening’s other pieces – resolutely acoustic – this one will feature electric guitar and electronic looping (perhaps capturing in its sonics Ninfea’s love for composing for “old, new, and damaged musical instruments.”)


 
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At Milton Court on 2nd November, as part of the Barbican’s ongoing Life Rewired season, composer Emily Howard will curate ‘Ada Lovelace: Imagining the Analytical Engine’, an afternoon which she devised as “an uncompromising musical tribute to a woman who united the worlds of 19th-century romanticism and cutting-edge science… thinker, computer pioneer and enchantress of numbers…”

The concert will combine words and music to offer a post-millennial perspective on the legacy and achievement of the woman often considered to be one of the world’s first computer programmers and a considerable Victorian mathematician, as well as someone who enthusiastically united the concepts of maths, music and poetry. The Britten Sinfonia and mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons will be performing various specially commissioned works of “scientifically inspired music by Howard and her contemporaries plus music created by artificial intelligence written in tribute to Lovelace.”

‘Ada Lovelace: Imagining the Analytical Engine’, 2nd November 2019

As well as a brand-new Howard world premiere (which I can’t find anything on, but which, under the circumstances, you can expect to be replete with involved and enthusiastic scientific or mathematical references, as much of her other work is), there’ll be a performance of her 2011 speech-song work ‘Ada Sketches’ (for mezzo, flute, clarinet and percussion, with a libretto by Laura Tunbridge in which Lovelace dreams of Babbage’s Difference Engine producing notes instead of numbers).

 
There will also be world premieres of new works by sound artist/composer Patricia Alessandrini, by composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki, and by Royal Northern College’s PRiSM Team directed by Emily Howard and on this occasion led by Robert Laidlow. There’s not much news or commentary on these either, yet; but you can expect further intersections of orchestral playing with contemporary technology, and with scientific motifs and themes.

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On 3rd November – also at Milton Court – Belgian ensemble Echo Collective will perform the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ‘12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann’.

Unfinished at the time of Jóhannsson’s death last year (although an earler or work-in-progress version does seem to have been performed at Conway Hall three years ago), and exploring “arts, politics and unity” and “the communal transfer of artistic ideas beyond borders”, this string quartet piece was inspired by four years of dialogue with Jóhannsson’s friend and German painter Thilo Heinzmann (a sensual minimalist who works with more reluctant materials than most such artists – including unbound pigment, absorbent cotton, styrofoam, fur and porcelain as well as bursts of feather, fossil or other found and planned-in objects – with the aim of expanding technique and of raising the textured work off the flat plane of the canvas to present its details in a more three-dimensional manner). Unusually for a Jóhannsson piece, it doesn’t incorporate electronics, drones or treated instruments; instead relying on the unadorned strings alone.

The work was finished by the Echo Collective under leaders Neil Leiter and Margaret Hermant. Reviewing their studio recording in ‘The Guardian’ last month, John Lewis noted that “the spartan setting often enhances the grave, stately beauty, particularly when Jóhannsson starts to invokes early music. ‘Shell’ resembles a Bach partita played in ultra-slow-motion; ‘Low’ sounds like a Gregorian chant transcribed for strings; ‘Lacrimoso’ is a heartbreaking, Vivaldi-like canon. There are a few moments where Jóhannsson hints at complexity – the baroque waltz ‘Danse’ sees him shifting time signatures to disconcerting effect – and it’s tempting, if a little depressing, to imagine how he might have developed and matured in this setting.”




 
Opening the concert will be French electro-acoustic musician Félicia Atkinson. Previously known as Je suis le petit chevalier, her own compositional voyage was originally rooted in sculpture and visual arts: it has built up from her quiet near-ambient early albums based around guitar and Rhodes electric piano to more detailed and demanding works involving (according to lastmusic.fm) “concrete music, ASMR voices, minimal electronics, field recordings, improvisation with guitar and piano, abstract distortions and infra basses, always held by a strong sense of musical harmony… The problematics of sound installation, multichannel diffusion, and performance are starting to play a key role in her musical practice.”

 
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Dates:

International Guitar Foundation & Kings Place present:
Errollyn Wallen & Laura Snowden (Venus, Women and the Guitar)
Hall Two @ Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Sunday 27th October 2019, 3.00pm
– information here and here

Ada Lovelace: Imagining the Analytical Engine
Milton Court Concert Hall @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, 1 Milton Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 9BH, England
Saturday 2nd November 2019, 6.30pm
– information here and here

Echo Collective: 12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann
Milton Court Concert Hall @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, 1 Milton Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 9BH, England
Sunday 3rd November 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

October 2019 – upcoming London experimental gigs – Retrophonica at the Brunel Museum (13th); Charles Hayward presents Sly & The Family Drone, V Ä L V Ē, Timestretch Alarmsong and Atatat (19th)

5 Oct

Retrophonica, 13th October 2019

Retrophonica is a new, very accessible multi-media performance project; currently focussed on the branching aerials, primal wooo and touch-me-not anticipations of theremin playing. It’s launching itself with an evening of two (identical) concerts in the yawning brick gullet of the Brunel Museum’s Grand Entrance Chamber (also known as the top of the southern Thames Tunnel shaft).

Celebrating the instrument’s centenary, these will be an “immersive evening of music for theremin and full orchestra”, while delving into the story of the instrument’s creator, Léon Theremin. From here, it sounds as if the concerts will be a cross between a pops-orchestra occasion, a slide-show history lesson writ large and a session of nostalgic avant-garde tinkering; all of it enclosed in that bleak, beautiful and magnificently functional Victorian civil-engineering maw.

As they say themselves,“prepare for an immersive audio-visual experience, complemented by cocktails, lightshow, and narration, featuring original and adapted music for theremin by Dmitri Shostakovich, Bohuslav Martinů, Miklós Rózsa, Les Baxter, Claude Debussy and John Williams, performed by Retrophonica with thereminist Charlie Draper, new arrangements and works by Alex Palmer, and bespoke narration from author Ken Hollings.”



 
You might already know Charlie from all manner of bookings, everywhere, for both theremin and ondes martenot: here’s an earlier mention. Alex has written and arranged extensively for theatre, film and concert hall, and looks as if he’ll be adding the sweeter edge to the evening. As for Ken, although I suspect that he’ll be operating on calmer terms tonight, he’s most likely to be the one to toss in a wild card or two. Having started work in the 1970s as a literary factual editor (how ominous such a description sounds now) he went on to an early-’80s spell as vocalist and cut-up’er in Manchester post-punk band Biting Tongues, followed by an expansion into essays, libretti and experimental fiction (all of which have dipped into and across other disciplines from Japanese films to twentieth-and-twenty-first century politics to data structures).

I’ve no idea who’s contributed the orchestra. As for the cocktails, there’s no further word on them; nor on how you might mix one called a Thames Tunnel.

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Just under a week later, downriver at Deptford, London art-rock/post-punk/improvisation godfather Charles Hayward will be putting together the second of this year’s “genre-fluid” Charles Hayward Presents concerts at the Albany, unfurling “new sounds from the underground and outsider scenes of London and beyond” and massing together elements of jazz/improv, art punk, noise, contemporary classical and electronic music.

Charles Hayward Presents..., 19th October 2019According to Charles himself, his own performance centrepiece will be the project-cum-band Timestretch Alarmsong… a sequence of tunes and sound snakes that I’ve put together with Tom Challenger (Dice Factory/Ma saxophonist), Yoni Silver (multi-instrumentalist with Hyperion Ensemble and many others), Roberto Sassi (Cardosanto/Anatrofobia/Snorkel guitarist), Nick Doyne-Ditmas (double bassist and Hayward collaborator in Monkey Puzzle Trio).

“It’s tightly rehearsed and goes through a wide range of attitudes and (more importantly) emotional energies. To my ears it’s super exciting and I feel like we’ve pushed at a few barriers and come up with something new that has melody, shape and grooves from light to super heavy/dark. There’s no clips available but we will be recording the project for future release. All the players are fantastic musicians and working on the project has been a study in joyful cooperation.”

In the absence of a collective clip, here’s a scatter of solo ones and examples of related projects:





 
Three other acts join in for the night. ‘Gentle Persuaders’, the latest album from contemporary drum/noise/saxophone ritualists Sly & The Family Drone – is intended as “the politest of bludgeonings”; its creators still merge Ayler-esque free jazz, industrial rock pummel, celebratory machine hiss and the loose-hanging exploratory feel of a bass-less duo. They also still give out drums at their concerts, inviting a congregation of noise.



 
Also back in the fray is V Ä L V Ē, with music that’s less workshop than workshed. Strongly DIY (featuring reed instruments, electronics, invented gizmos, bass guitar, concert harp and singing women), it’s the sound of a trio of highly trained musical minds phasing back into spontaneity and play. A sort of three-way attempt to become idiot savants via assorted glitchery and boink, semi-spontaneous nursery rhymes and tunelets and musical devices (built out of shelves, tobacco tins, old house bells and similar Branestawmery), but via a female pattern.


 
Finally, there’s Atatat – a solo project from Liverpool art-freak music mainstay J.C. Barbara (best known as drummer/ranter for aPAtT and Barberos, and here using a very Haywardian array of drums, contact mics, loops and vocals).


 
Designer Raimund Wong (whose work has adorned posters and releases by Total Refreshment Centre, Church Of Sound and Baba Yaga’s Hut, and who shares Charles’ interest in chance theory and the ingenuity forced on artists via DIY minimalism) will be DJ-ing.

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Dates:

Retrophonica
Brunel Museum, Railway Avenue, Rotherhithe, London, SE16 4LF, England
Sunday 13th October 2019, 6.00pm & 8:30pm
– information here, here and here

Charles Hayward Presents… (featuring Sly & The Family Drone + VÄLVĒ + Timestretch Alarmsong + Atatat + DJ Raimund Wong)
The Albany, Douglas Way, Deptford, SE8 4AG London, United Kingdom
Saturday, 19 October 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

October 2019 – sundry classical and postclassical events – Carla Rees’ ‘Solo Flute Quartet: Music for Flute and Electronics’ tour of England and Northern Ireland (9th, 12th, 16th, 18th, 24th October); Xenia Pestova Bennett plays Luc Ferrari and Annea Lockwood in London (29th October)

3 Oct

Carla Rees: 'Solo Flute Quartet: Music for Flute and Electronics' tour, October 2019

Rarescale‘s Carla Rees is performing an October solo tour of England and Northern Ireland, playing music for various flutes (standard and Kingma Systems, alto and bass, baroque flute d’amour and piccolo) augmented by Kyma electronics.

Several compositions are being performed. The first, giving the evening its title, is Simon Emmerson’s ‘Solo Flute Quartet’ which employs extra-keyed Kingma System flutes (optimised for multi-phonics and quarter tone pitches) alongside live sampling and surround sound. Simon: “Following a recording session in the summer of 2017 the idea of using multiphonics as the generator of both harmony and melodic mode evolved rapidly and the piece was completed in January 2018 and performed a month later at City University. The four flutes (piccolo, concert flute, alto, bass) are played in varying rotations for the 16 short sections of the work. The live electronics freezes, spatialises, echoes and projects the live sound into labyrinths of colour on a surround sound system.”

The second piece (being performed at Coventry, London and Bristol) is ‘Islands’, by Carla’s regular Rarescale collaborator Scott Miller. According to Scott: “‘Islands’ is more about the river than the islands. The river is dynamic, in constant motion, many layered. It responds to the presence of objects – fish, birds, people, islands–and moves, transforms, and shapes these same objects. We can observe its passage and potential, and we can enter and navigate it. As a metaphor for the composition, the performer enters the river of processing and navigates it sonically, from island to island. The islands emerge from the river, made of the stuff that lies beneath the surface, providing unique environments that are a part of and separate from the river. The performer’s interactions with the river and the islands influence the environment immediately and downriver, which is really just a function of time, like in music. Islands can be understood as the confluence of many independent environments which unfold in generally predictable ways over the course of the composition.”

To represent this musically, Carla will be feeding her flute through ecosystemic programming within her Kyma system to create “a sonic environment modelled on a stretch of the Mississippi River.”


 
A third piece (being played at the Leicester, London and Belfast dates) is ‘tree flute’ by Karen Power, who has written a number of works in which specific recordings of environmental sounds inform and are played against live solo instruments. For ‘tree flute’, field recordings of wind moving through trees are paired with the baroque flute d’amour, an instrument which Karen finds “more vulnerable than its modern equivalent, which for me makes it more interesting. Each and every note has a unique character that is brought out when performer and instrument meet. The wooden and simple frame of the flute is the starting point and why I have paired it with the wind.”

Commenting further on the piece, Karen explains that “the field recordings are all sounds of wind moving through trees and the ground. They are not audible, but do surround us in every forest or park. They may not be audible, but they do adhere to their own time and pacing, which is governed not by man but by the weather. This pacing forms the basic structure of this piece. In the live performance the flautist is partially cut off from the aural score and only hears an individual private aural part, which guides her. The audience only hear the first ‘wind’ sound at 0’40’’ therefore the performer must prepare us for this. She will hear such sounds in her aural part ahead of us and so tries to add the missing context for us. This pull back and forth between the private aural part and the public aural score is a core component of this and other works, which I believe provides the perfect platform for true interpretation and active listening and responding to happen.”

The Belfast date also features Sungji Hong’s 2015 piece ‘Shine’, originally written for Carla and featuring a double performance by her (the live in-concert performance and an electronically treated recording of the same part for her to play against).


 
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Back in London, at the end of the month, inquisitive experimental pianist Xenia Pestova Bennett pops up at City University to play Luc Ferrari’s ‘36 Enfilades for piano and tape’ to celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of his birth.

Xenia Pestova Bennett: Luc Ferrari and Annea Lockwood, 29th October 2019

One of the pioneers of musique concrète (alongside his Groupe de Recherches Musicales colleagues Pierre Schaeffer and François-Bernard Mâche), Ferrari was known for his tape pieces observing and reproducing daily life and the flow of ideas. The ‘Enfilades’ (a rarely-performed duet between piano and reel-to-reel tape) are an example of this technique crossing over to link with more traditional performance, scored piano material played in time with assorted taped sonorities which alternate rapidly between the industrial and the musical, the eerie and the whimsical.

Some of the pieces last for no more than a handful of seconds. Xenia describes them as “witty, virtuosic miniatures… a whirlwind exploration of style, riven with quotations from other composers including Schumann and Brahms.” Ferrari himself noted “they start and they are already finished. Sometimes, they do not even start, do not have a beginning. Then, is it a suite? It is perhaps a theatre. Is this the old dream never to finish or that always to start again? And then, the ideas which pass so quickly and then the desire to take up the ideas already given and then the pleasure of transforming them as themes which come to give a rhythm to the travel. Then, finally, these small pieces, they make large one…”

French pianist and frequent Ferrari interpreter Michel Maurer has reinforced the idea that the entire piece is like a self-contained episode of musical theatre in which “the solo protagonist (is) a pianist playing the role of a musicologist who had discovered an anonymous manuscript”; also, that it is something like “a treasure hunt” in which both the score and the tape recording themselves contain written or spoken texts and clues from the “unknown” composer, and in which the performer (has) to question himself about the music he (is) playing.” Here’s Michel presenting his own performance of ‘Enfilades’ plus discussion.

 

Xenia will also be performing several small compositions from her repertoire of John Cage pieces, as well as two compositions by Annea Lockwood, who’s celebrating her own eightieth birthday at around the same time as the Ferrari ninetieth. While she’s gained the most attention for her conceptual “piano transplant” events (in which defunct pianos are removed from concert halls and music rooms and taken far away to meet various ritualistic but natural ends, such as immolation, immersion, or being planted into the ground like seeds), Annea is also the creator of a varied chamber music catalogue including piano compositions and tonescapes with multiple extended-technique string moves.

In this particular concert, Xenia will be playing Annea’s ‘Red Mesa’ (in which a minimal/apprehensive mood of tolling midrange notes, abrupt fanning chords, interior piano mutings and zither strums develops into a shifting and sketchy open-ended study, a stormy interlude of high drama and a fade into unresolved nothingness) and her pouncing, highly dynamic ‘RCSC’ (in which skeletal notes and silences play against strum-scurries, scratched harmonics, choked hammer mutes, slow dive-bombs and so forth).

To illustrate, before the event, here’s a Ricardo Descalzo performance of ‘RCSC’ and an Andrea Lodge performance of ‘Red Mesa’ as well as Xenia’s own performance of some Cage music on toy pianos (accompanied by her duo colleague Pascal Meyer).




 
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Dates:

Carla Rees: ‘Solo Flute Quartet: Music for Flute and Electronics’ tour dates:

  • Ellen Terry Building @ Coventry University, Jordan Well, Coventry, West Midlands, CV1 5RW, England – Wednesday 9th October 2019, 1.00pm – information here
  • IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England – Saturday 12th October 2019, 8.30pm – information here and here
  • PACE1 @ De Montfort University, Mill Lane, Leicester, LE2 7DR, England – Wednesday 16th October 2019, 7.00pm – information t.b.c.
  • Victoria Rooms, Queens Road, Bristol, BS8 1SA, England – Friday 18th October 2019, 1.15pm – information here
  • Sonic Lab @ Sonic Arts Research Centre, 4 Cloreen Park, Belfast, BT9 5HN, Northern Ireland – Thursday 24th October 2019, 1.00pm – free event – information here

City University Concerts presents:
Xenia Pestova Bennett: Luc Ferrari and Annea Lockwood
City University Performance Space @ City University Social Sciences Building, 32-38 Whiskin Street, Finsbury, London, EC1R 0JD, England
Tuesday 29th October 2019, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

September 2019 – upcoming opera – Alex Mills’ ‘Dear Marie Stopes’ in London (21st September); Keith Burstein’s ‘The Prometheus Revolution’ on film in Brighton (24th September)

14 Sep

Alex Mills‘s forty-five minute chamber opera ‘Dear Marie Stopes’, originally performed last year as part of the Wellcome Collection’s Tête à Tête opera festival, gets another pair of performances this month at Kings Place. The original performance team (singers Alexa Mason, Jess Dandy and Feargal Mostyn-Williams, cellist Lucy Railton, viola da gamba player Liam Byrne) reunite with director Nina Brazier for a special new staging to suit the new venue.
Alex Mills' 'Dear Marie Stopes', 21st September 2019

Performed by soprano, alto and countertenor in “a mixture of solemn plainchant-style singing and delicate melismatic lines above a soundworld of drones and shifting harmonies on strings and electronics”, the opera is epistolary, built up by from thousands of open and emotional contemporary letters written to Marie Stopes following the 1918 publication of her book ‘Married Love’. The latter was one of the modern world’s first frank sex manuals and the forerunner of much of today’s open sexual culture (as well as a cornerstone of first-wave feminism with its insistence on sexual equality, the appropriate use of contraception and the understanding of female desire), and its impact was both profound and global.

 
There’s a ‘Planet Hugill’ feature on the opera here, written by Alex himself, in which he explores the context and method of the work:

“Each letter is a vivid snapshot into sex lives a century ago, full of unfiltered, raw emotion and moving personal stories, many of which resonate powerfully with life and society today. I felt that an operatic context would provide the perfect platform to explore and unpack the inherent drama and high emotion in the letters, and bring their fascinating content to a wider audience. There is no conventional, linear narrative. Instead, the libretto, by Jennifer Thorp, pieces together vignettes and extracts to form a tight dramatic structure, held together by the central figure of Marie Stopes herself.

“The three singers have their work cut out for them – taking on multiple roles and characters, sometimes within the same section, to show the very wide spectrum of opinions and attitudes to sex and birth control in 1918. The intention was to draw out the emotional content of the letters while being sensitive to the original context in which they were written – very private missives in a time of need.”

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For those who missed seeing Keith Burstein’s opera ‘The Prometheus Revolution’ while it was being performed at last year’s Grimeborn, there’s an opportunity to catch it again. Admittedly this will be on film – one particular evening of the run was recorded by Jason Harris of Piñata Studios, the footage has now been edited and subtitled, and the results are premiering at Brighton’s Verdict Jazz Club later this month, preceded by a short introductory talk by Keith himself.

Here’s what I wrote about ‘The Prometheus Revolution’ when previewing it last summer:

Fulham Opera's 'The Prometheus Revolution' - 7th/8th/10th August 2018Fulham Opera are premiering ‘The Prometheus Revolution’, the first new opera by composer/librettist Keith Burstein since his anti-War On Terror work ‘Manifest Destiny’. The latter blew up a pile of controversy at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe with its suicide bomb-vest scenes, its agit-prop metaphysics and its pungent criticism of Western motives, and eventually led to a wrangle over free speech and alleged promotion of terrorism at the Royal Courts of Justice.

‘…Prometheus…’ looks set to extend at least some of the ideas behind ‘Manifest Destiny’. Like the earlier piece, it’s a politically-heated metaphysical examination of where we are as a society, and what we might do about it, It’s set in an alternative present which closely mirrors our own, with democracy decaying into corrupt war-mongering authoritarianism and economic meltdown, with a peace movement “standing between tyranny and chaos, (although) they too are cleft by internal struggles.” Inspired by the 2012 Occupy Movement’s “99% versus the 1%” ideology, it’s billed as a “dark parable” of “star-crossed lovers, rebellion and revolution against the backdrop of a corrupt political class… shot through with pathos and ironic humour.” As with ‘Manifest Destiny’, you can also expect more of the vigorously tonal Burstein approach to music and tunes, with a post-Britten-and-Berg score additionally laced with the sounds of vaudeville, Broadway musicals and pop ballads.”

Arranged for solo piano (played by Ben Woodward) and presented in a minimal-stage manner by director Sophie Gilpin in one of the Arcola Theatre’s stripped-brick-box performance rooms, ‘The Prometheus Revolution’ was sung by Alex Haigh, Caroline Carragher, Robert Garland, Olivia Barry, Gerard Delrez,James Schouten, Christie Cook, Lucie Louvrier, Nick Dwyer, Luci Briginshaw, Ian Wilson-Pope, and James Bowers. At the time, the reception and reviews were mixed: Burstein’s always been a polarising artist, and you either buy into his passion for vividly revived tonalism, torrents of romantic futurist melody and illuminated left-wing metaphysics, or you don’t. Personally, I remember it as being an interesting fable: a contemporary political fantasy with a dash of both verismo and Verdi domestic drama crossing through.

Here’s the promotional video for the original production.


 
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Dates:

Alex Mills: ‘Dear Marie Stopes’
Hall Two @ Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Saturday 21st September 2019, 4.00pm & 7.30pm
– information here and here

Keith Burstein: ‘The Prometheus Revolution’ (film premiere)
The Verdict Jazz Club, 159 Edward Street, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 0JB, England
Tuesday 24th September 2019, 7.00pm
– information via email request to Anna Beketov @ Damson PR
 

June 2019 – assorted upcoming London gigs – Block4 and Lynda Beckett’s multi-media recorder concert (15th), Arch Garrison, Charles Bullen and Kavus Torabi play Clapham Library (15th); cellotronics-and-percussion improv with BirdWorld at Wigmore Hall (18th June); North Sea Radio Orchestra, John Greaves, Annie Barbazza and others reinvent Robert Wyatt in ‘Folly Bololey’ (27th)

11 Jun

Classical/experimental recorder quartet Block4 (featuring Emily Bannister, Lucy Carr, Katie Cowling and Rosie Land on a variety of instruments from bass to sopranino) are offering a mingled kids’ workshop and multi-media live concert – ‘The Art Of Sound’ – this coming Saturday down in Lewisham. Exploring links between music and visual art, the ‘Stargazing’ concert is a live collaboration with line artist Lynda Beckett, who’ll be creating spontaneous artwork (pursuing “sensual, the rhythmic and the non-binary” via line art in which “the glitch and the eternal return are welcome”) during the course of the show.

Block4 & Lynda Beckett: 'The Art of Sound' - 15th June 2019

While I’ve not got much info in terms of a programme, the music will be in keeping with Block4’s wide-spanning approach to genre, which in the past has mixed Renaissance and Baroque music with reinterpretations of Jimi Hendrix, “contemporary consort” ideas involving electronics, and more. It will include a new piece by Andrew Crossley, a composer whose inspirations include Zen Buddhism and a sheaf of hybrid forms of criticism (so expect something with plenty of silences and digressions, perhaps). Here’s an earlier electro-acoustic minimalist piece which Andrew wrote for sub-great bass recorder (travelling from borderline-subliminal low register to a resonant temple-horn call and back again), along with a couple of examples from Block4’s existing repertoire.

 

The workshop, taking place in the morning, ties in with the concept – allowing kids (from six-year-olds upwards) to “explore music performance, composition, drawing, and (to) creat(e) their own unique work of art to take home.” Best to book early for that one.

* * * * * * * *

Arch Garrison + Charles Bullen + Kavus Torabi, 15th June 2019The timing of the Block4 events also gives you time to slip across London (from the south-east to the south-west) on the same day, in order to take in one of the Lambeth Readers & Writers Festival gigs taking place in the atrium at Clapham Library. Back in April, they hosted the Peter Blegvad Quintet. This month, even as Craig Fortnam limbers up his North Sea Radio Orchestra for an upcoming Café Oto show, he and fellow NSRO-er James Larcombe slip on their guise as the Arch Garrison duo and head down Clapham-wards.

Arch Garrison take the implied baroque in folk baroque and draw it fully out into the light. Craig’s amplified gut-strung fingerstyle acoustic guitar playing has as much Spanish classical to it as it does bullish John Martyn counterpoint (though he’ll more readily cite African-Arabic inspirations like Ali Farka Touré), while James’ dextrous post-classical work on vintage-sounding monosynths makes joyously assured connections between chapel organ studies, progtronic flourishes and psychedelic sound webbings. The Garrison have sometimes been compared to Robyn Hitchcock and Nick Drake, and draw from Tim Smith’s eccentric, unlikely folk wellspring, but they don’t sound like anyone nearly as much as they sound like themselves. The songs, sung in Craig’s soft demotic Wyatt-esque sprawl, start with a lone walking man and travel downwards into conceptual strata of history, geography, familial relationships, art and ageing.



 
There will also be sidestepping solo support sets from Gong/Knifeworld expostulator Kavus Torabi (continuing to mine the unsettled psychedelic angst of his dark-sun guitar-and-harmonium solo EP ‘Solar Divination’ and a related upcoming solo album) and from Charles Bullen, one of the triumvirate behind Camberwell proto-punk experimentalists This Heat during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s (and, more recently, behind the band’s recently-retired latter-day reimagining This Is Not This Heat). I’ve no idea whether Charles will be singing; whether he’ll be playing along with guitar, viola, a mess of programmed samples or his clarinet: whether and how the music will connect to This Heat’s experimental jazz-prog collage polemics, the pocket-dub work he explored with Lifetones or the bright and mellow synth-rock sparkle of his Circadian Rhythms project; or even whether he’s going to be starting anew with a completely fresh slate. Anticipate anything.

* * * * * * * *

North Sea Radio Orchestra/John Greaves/Annie Barbazza, 27th June 2019

Returning to Craig Fortnam – and indeed, to Robert Wyatt – his North Sea Radio Orchestra concert is on 27th June. It’s the live British debut of the NSRO’s ‘Folly Bololey‘ project, which also incorporates Henry Cow bassist/art-rock chansonnier John Greaves and rising prog/art-ensemble singer Annie Barbazza.

North Sea Radio Orchestra/John Greaves/Annie Barbazza, 27th June 2019‘Folly Bololey’ has been around in one shape or form for half a decade, being played at arts concert and Rock In Opposition events in continental Europe, but has only just now crossed the Channel to be performed in Britain. Gently picking up, re-arranging and re-performing various Wyatt works (centring on a complete performance of the ‘Rock Bottom’ song cycle), it sets Wyatt’s flowing, unspooling songs of love, grief, plaintive nonsense and recovery against the pastoral raincloud tug of NSRO’s alt.crossover sensibilities. The results are an interesting blending of Wyatt’s mouth-music jazzing and his deliquescing, playfully vulnerable search for meaningfulness against NSRO’s own softly-yielding Anglo-pastoral formalism (which in turn echoes the open-to-all concert music of another Fortnam forebear, David Bedford).

With Craig acting as master of ceremonies on guitar and Farfisa organ, rounding out the ensemble are NSRO reed and cello regulars Nicky Baigent, Luke Crookes and Harry Escott plus Greaves band member Laurent Valero on strings and recorders and William D. Drake (the former Cardiacs keyboard wizard who turned into a touchingly surreal, avuncular chamber-folkster). Handling the tuned and untuned percussion are Gong drummer Cheb Nettles and vibraphonist Tommaso Franguelli (from Piacenza percussion group Tempus Fugit).


 
* * * * * * * *

On Tuesday 18th, cello/electronics/percussion duo BirdWorld are playing an informal set at the Wigmore Hall’s Bechstein Bar. (When I last touched on them here, they were playing the Frome Festival three years back – too long ago.)

BirdWorld, 18th June 2019

Migrating between twin home-bases of London and Oslo, BirdWorld are cellist/effects twiddler Gregor Riddell and drummer/percussionist Adam Teixeira. For a while, guitarist Alex Stuart was also in the picture; but it’s always been about the core duo, who met in Canada, discussed electronic/acoustic blendings and built from there. Aspects of improvisation, jazz, field recordings and cross-cultural music – plus experimental rock and classical and a battery of kalimbas – wing lightly in and out of their work, which has included film scoring and radio work; and (as of this year) their five-year-delayed debut EP ‘TING TAR TID’, released (in keeping with BirdWorld’s folkloric leanings) on the vernal equinox.


 
* * * * * * * *

All dates:

Block4 & Lynda Beckett: ‘The Art Of Sound’
St Mary the Virgin Parish Church, 346 Lewisham High Street, Lewisham, London, SE13 6LE, England
Saturday 15th June 2019 – children’s workshop 10.00am, concert 3.00pm
(concert free for under-18 year olds) – information here

Lambeth Readers & Writers Festival presents:
Arch Garrison + Charles Bullen + Kavus Torabi
Clapham Library, 91 Clapham High Street, Clapham, London, SW4 7DB, England
Saturday 15th June 2019, 7.00pm
– information here and here

BirdWorld
Bechstein Bar @ Wigmore Hall, 36 Wigmore Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 2BP, England
Tuesday 18th June 2019, 6.15pm
– information here and here

North Sea Radio Orchestra/John Greaves/Annie Barbazza play ‘Folly Bololey’ (Robert Wyatt’s ‘Rock Bottom’)
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Thursday 27th June 2019, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

June 2019 – upcoming London opera – National Opera Studio’s ‘Voices Of Now’ (7th, 8th) and the premiere of Robert Hugill’s ‘The Gardeners’ at Conway Hall (18th)

31 May

Passing on some opera news…

* * * * * * * *

This coming Friday, National Opera Studio brings their ‘Voices Of Now’ to London for a couple of days (playing the old gay Bloomsbury theatre haunt The Drill Hall – now RADA Studios – which certainly saw plenty of operatics of one kind or another during its previous life).

'Voices of Now: Scenes From Contemporary Operas' - 7th & 8th June 2019

“Directed by award-winning director Michael McCarthy (Artistic Director, Music Theatre Wales), ‘Voices Of Now’ celebrates scenes from contemporary opera written in English. This programme will showcase 21st century operas, with scenes from works by John Adams, Judith Weir, George Benjamin, Philip Glass, Emma Ruth-Richards, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Stuart MacRae and Unsuk Chin, and hark back to one of contemporary opera’s pioneers with an extract from Michael Tippett’s King Priam. Featuring our four talented Young Artist répétiteurs at the piano, the scenes will be conducted by NOS Head of Music, Mark Shanahan.

The opera excerpts are from:

“On Friday 7th June at 6.15pm there will be a pre-performance talk with Michael McCarthy as well as some of the composers and publishers behind the contemporary opera scenes. Discussing both the creative process behind the works and how this is translated onto the stage, this exclusive talk will be hosted by NOS Director of Artist Development, David Sulkin. Tickets for the talk cost £5.00; however they are free to members of the Friends of the National Opera Studio.”

* * * * * * * *

On 18th June, composer Robert Hugill presents the world premiere of his new opera ‘The Gardeners’ at London’s humanist/ethical fortress Conway Hall.

Robert Hugill: 'The Gardeners' - 18th June 2019

“Following the stunning productions of ‘The Genesis Of Frankenstein’, ‘When A Man Knows’ and ‘Garrett’, one of the UK’s most distinguished composers, Robert Hugill, presents the world premiere of his latest chamber opera ‘The Gardeners’. With a libretto by Otradek Records and ‘Notes Upon Notes‘ editor Joanna Wyld, this enduring modern opera sees tensions rise between three generations of the same family who look after war graves in a politically divided region.

“Inspired by a newspaper article about a family of gardeners tending war graves in the Middle East, the opera is set within a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, amongst the family which maintains the gardens in the cemetery, and it deals with issues of remembrance, tolerance, and brotherhood. The graves belong to the Dead, who once invaded the land in which they lie. Tensions rise between three generations of the same family who look after war graves in a politically divided region. The Dead communicate with the Old Gardener, to the bewilderment of his family, who cannot hear them. The Gardener works with his father, trying to keep the peace, whereas his son, the Angry Young Man, resents the Dead and is on the cusp of being radicalised. His Mother and Grandmother try to resolve the divisions within their family.

“After the Gardener discovers that the graves have been vandalised, and suspects his son may be the culprit, the conflict between the Angry Young Man and his family escalates, culminating in the Old Gardener collapsing and dying. Filled with remorse, the Angry Young Man reflects on his actions. As he does so, he starts to hear the voices which had spoken to his grandfather: the voices of the Dead.”

“The way the family maintain the gardens in the cemetery against difficult odds, and with graves of a variety of different religions, provides a metaphor for the current tensions in the Middle East; and in Joanna’s libretto the garden provides a further metaphor for the easing of tension and the creation of harmony and brotherhood.”

“This concert performance features Julian Debreuil (Wingate Foundation Award winner), Peter Brathwaite (English National Opera 2017 / 2018), Magid El-Bushra (Orchestre de Radio France), Flora Mcintosh (Anne Zeigler Award winner) and Georgia Mae Bishop (Opera Holland Park young artist 2019); with an instrumental quintet ensemble (harpist Oliver Wass, violinist Charlotte Amherst, viola player May Dolan, cellist Sophie Haynes and clarinettist Anthony Friend) conducted by the Artistic Director of the London English Song Festival William Vann.”

‘The Gardeners’ has a dedicated website and a Facebook page with further background and developing news. Joanna Wyld has also written in ‘The Cross-Eyed Pianist‘ about the construction of the libretto. Here’s a clip from Robert’s previous opera ‘When A Man Knows’.

 
* * * * * * * *

Dates:

National Opera Studio presents:
‘Voices of Now: Scenes From Contemporary Operas’
RADA Studios, 16 Chenies Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1E 7EX, England
Friday 7th June 2019, 7.30pm / Saturday 8th June 2019, 3.00pm & 7.30pm
Pre-concert talk: Friday 7th June 2019, 6.15pm

– information here and here

Conway Hall Sunday Concerts presents:
‘The Gardeners’
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, England
Tuesday 18th June 2019, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here
 

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