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July 2018 – upcoming London gigs – Léscines, Oscar Mic, Crooked Weather and Rivers Johansson & The Deemed Unrighteous at Paper Dress Vintage Takeover (26th July); Alexia Chambi, Charlie Draper, Jared Rood, Johnny Crooks, Tom Bright and William. at BOX Live (27th July)

22 Jul

A couple more London gigs in small places…

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Paper Dress Vintage Takeover: Léscines + Oscar Mic + Crooked Weather + Rivers Johansson & The Deemed Unrighteous, 26th July 2018

A distorted rootsy evening, first, at Paper Dress in east London. Léscines have been stirring up and churning out mongrel reggae-rock, cartoon Americana and scrawny blues licks for about five years now, throwing in a touch of psychobilly noir and webbed folk. Jay Fraser’s joyously unhinged songwriting pulls in a palette of people and extra instrumentation from banjo to brass, Wurlitzer organ to djembe, and songs about wolves, crows, border country, assorted dooms. If Ted Hughes and Nick Cave had run away to be cowboys, shared a bottle of toxic mescal together and then co-written a stark children’s book a couple of days later, it might have ended up a little like this. With a new album in the can and expected soon, they’re headlining with gusto.


 
Expansive rock-tinged folk group Crooked Weather hail from east Yorkshire. Their multi-instrumentalism, and their willingness to take a song idea for an introspective yet expansive run, has seen them compared to The Incredible String Band; but perhaps that’s a bit of a stretch in the wrong direction. For better or for worse, Crooked Weather conspicuously lack several of the ISB’s more outrageous qualities, both good and bad (the saucer-eyed eclectic musical grabbing, the eccentric psychedelic perspective, the baffling sectional song-mozaics… the poisonous family antagonism).

Instead, they’re a soberer breed of folk mystics – content not to burn out their inspirations, and to be diverse while being careful with their craft. It’s difficult to imagine them vanishing down the Scientology manhole, or losing shedloads on money on theatre dance projects. Searchers they may be, but they keep their vision handy and controlled; like a lens tucked away into a pocket, always available to focus in on a subject.Though they’re prepared to pursue a history or a batch of intimations to the horizon, Crooked Weather are less inclined to drop over the edge into another country.


 
Crooked Weather’s fellow east Yorkshire band, “deathblues collective” Rivers Johansson & The Deemed Unrighteous (at one time “compiled of a villain, a heathen, and a velvet doll” and apparently still “God-fearin’ nectophiles”), are coming down from Hull, bringing their gutter slide, buzzsaw punk bass and preacher warnings of imminent doom. Also racing into place is Seamus Hayes, a.k.a Oscar Mic dubbed “the freakish love-child of The Beastie Boys and Little Richard, birthed at a grunge orgy” and bringing assorted busker-hip-hop ideas to the stage with his verbal flow, his cartoon-spattered guitar, his pedal-board and his beatboxing.


https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtNU4ZhhsiunEN711FHY2ow

 
Roundtable Collective presents:
Paper Dress Vintage Takeover: Léscines + Oscar Mic + Crooked Weather + Rivers Johansson & The Deemed Unrighteous
Paper Dress Vintage Bar & Boutique, 352a Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8 1HR, England
Thursday 26th July 2018, 7.45pm
– information here and here

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BOX Live: Alexia Chambi + Charlie Draper + Jared Rood + Johnny Crooks + Tom Bright + William., 27th July 2018About twenty minutes walk from ‘Misfit City’, Crouch End-based recorders and artist developers BOX Recording Studios are coaxing their clients out into the nearby, freshly-refurbished pub for performances this coming Friday.

London-based Danish-Cypriot singer-songwriter Alexia Chambi is just twenty years old, but has already fitted in six years of round-the-world travel, This in turn inspires her footloose songs, with their tussles between fluid freedom and rooting oneself, and her dark-toned jazz guitar. Following previous collaborations with Ralph Taylor and Hotel Avra, Alexia will be releasing her debut solo EP, ‘Bolivia’ in the autumn. Juice You (below) may well be on it. Meanwhile, Tommy Hill (a.k.a. William.) floats in the space between singer-songwriter guitar rock and contemporary R&B, his beat-slink punctuated by bursts of flammable fretboard. He, too, has an EP due for release later this year.



 

Two members of London urban rockers Tom Bright & The Dynamite – lead singer/songwriter Tom Bright and lead guitarist Jared Rood are also playing. It’s unclear whether they’re going to be working separately or whether this is going to be a two-piece Dynamite: meanwhile here’s the parent band playing a couple of their pieces, demonstrating their upfront protest songs and their growling skimming of the edge of folk punk. A grain of Rory McLeod, a dash of Richard Thompson or Tom Robinson; perhaps a twist of Jason Feddy.



 
A key member of Bruce Wooley and Andy Visser’s “modular space-age pop ensemble” Radio Science Orchestra, Charlie Draper is a British specialist in the gestures and techniques needed to control the antique electronic whoops of theremin and ondes Martenot. He’s played with just about every theremin/ondes-requiring orchestra and ensemble in the country. Come and hear him extract various classical and pop tones from each of the instruments. German-based beatmaker Johnny Crooks is also going to be playing a separate set of his own aural confections.

 
BOX Recording Studios presents
BOX Live: Alexia Chambi + Charlie Draper + Jared Rood + Johnny Crooks + Tom Bright + William.
The Harringay Arms, 153 Crouch Hill, Crouch End, London, N8 9QH, England,
Friday 27th July 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

June/July 2018 – upcoming London classical gigs – ‘The Women Musicians of Conway Hall’s Past’ (24th June); Gabriella Swallow’s SOLO 05 performance (12th July)

16 Jun

Small, dignified assertions – often backed by blazing indignation. Discreet steps and consolidations, keeping one’s powder dry and one’s skills honed. A land claimed by determination and inches. During the period covering the Victorian era up until the First World War, the fight for women to get their concert music taken seriously was one of stamina rather than spectacle; of battles fought mostly against fathers and propriety and a condescending musical establishment, and mostly behind closed doors. The struggle for space for women to compose in and to be considered ran alongside – and in some cases intermeshed with – struggles for other suffrages.

Today, with the work of women like Judith Weir and Tansy Davies now respected and filling concert halls – Conway Hall looks back at some of their British forebears during leaner and stonier years for female composers, in a concert celebrating those women’s work and Conway Hall’s own part in encouraging it, perhaps retrospectively mining some commonality of purpose from the assorted voices and perspectives (carried in pieces that range from the parlour music which most composing women were restricted to, up to a string quartet by the redoubtable Ethel Smyth, Suffragette and prolific composer of assorted works from solo pieces to full-blown choral works and operas).

'The Woman Musicians of Conway Hall's Past', 24th June 2018

“The Sunday Concerts at Conway Hall have been running since 1887, previously under the name of the South Place Sunday Popular Concerts, making it the longest running series of its kind. This concert will celebrate the special platform that South Place offered to women musicians during the first thousand concerts between 1887 and 1927.

“Victorian London was a difficult place for women to carve a successful career as musicians, particularly composers. However, during this forty-year period a wealth of opportunities emerged. South Place made an important contribution to these improvements by programming a still-small, but significant, number of women composers – many more than appeared at similar concerts in the capital. Their works were programmed alongside famous international composers as well as other lesser-known contemporary British composers, thus offering audiences of the day a unique and diverse breadth of repertoire for their Sunday evening entertainment.

“All of the works in this one-off concert were written by British women and were performed in the early years of the chamber music concerts. Most of the music has been rarely performed since, despite being popular in its day and still offering compelling sounds to a modern audience. For further insights into the history of the concerts, the women and their music, Jessica Beck (a Ph.D student at the Royal Northern College of Music, who’s been researching and blogging about the women in the concert, from the records at Conway Hall) will be giving a free pre-concert talk at 5.30pm.”

The performers for the evening are baritone Simon Wallfisch, violinist Eulalie Charland and Emanuela Buta, viola player Judith Busbridge, cellist Gabriella Swallow, and pianist Maiko Mori.

The works being performed are Alice Verne-Bredt‘s ‘Phantasie Trio’, Maude Valérie White‘s ‘To Mary’, Liza Lehmann‘s ‘Myself When Young’ (from ‘In a Persian Garden’), Amy Grimson‘s ‘Canzona’, Josephine Troup‘s ‘Kleines Wiegenlied’, Edith Swepstone‘s ‘Spectral Hunt’ and Ethel Smyth‘s ‘String Quartet in E minor’.

A few preview versions of pieces in the programme, plucked from various times:




 
Conway Hall Sunday Concerts presents:
‘The Women Musicians of Conway Hall’s Past’
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, London
Sunday 24th June 2018, 6:30 pm
– information here and here
 
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The evening’s cellist, Gabriella Swallow has her own one-woman concert coming up in early mid-July, when she teams up with Alex Groves‘ ‘SOLO’ concert series.

SOLO 05: Gabriella Swallow, 12th July 2018

Performing in Handel’s music room at Handel & Hendrix In London (formerly the Handel House Museum) she’ll be playing contemporary works by Kaija Saariaho and Helmut Lachenmann, improvisations on baroque works, and delivering the world première of a new Alex Groves piece.

 
SOLO presents:
SOLO 05: Gabriella Swallow
Handel & Hendrix In London, 25 Brook Street, Mayfair, London, W1K 4HB, England
Thursday 12th July 2018, two concerts (6:30pm & 8:30pm)
– information here, here and here
 

March 2018 – a psych/noise cavalcade in London for Rocket Recordings’ 20th anniversary (9th to 11th March)

28 Feb

There are still some tickets left for the rollicking, rampaging twentieth-anniversary concerts for venerable yet vital psychedelic noise label Rocket Recordings. These will be packing out the Garage and its sister venue Thousand Island in north London for three consecutive days over an early March weekend.

It’s not the first time that Highbury Corner’s been rammed with psychoactive weirdness and well-plumbing musical explorations. In its earlier incarnation as Upstairs at the Garage, the smaller Thousand Island saw hundreds of strange and wonderful leftfield acts pass through; to pick just one example, twenty years ago the building hosted occult ensemble Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels and their ‘Highbury Working’ “beat seance” in which Alan Moore and David J explored and mined the hidden histories of the Holloway Road from the horse goddess Epona to the rapidly poisoned utopianism of the Black House, from the schemata of Aleister Crowley to the madness of Joe Meek. So the Corner’s no stranger to strangeness… but it’s good, for a full weekend, to see strangeness rise so outrightly overground amongst the traffic fumes, creeping gentrification and salsa nights.

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The Rocket days kick off on Friday 9th. Fluxus-inspired Italian garage groove-band Julie’s Haircut mingle smearing, chuckling Ash Ra Tempel guitars and flutes with a Georgio Moroder wobble, while from Sweden there’s creamy-toned garage darlings Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation (whose more recent recordings pulse along on a fluting, closed-eyed Can patter) and the detailed anticipations of Flowers Must Die, who burst shining locked disco grooves through hanging tapestries of improvised “oriental-influenced” psychedelia (like an unexpected frug in a Tibetan temple). A couple of spinoff acts from Salford industrial/sociological alchemists Gnod are playing– the fleshy beats, brutual mechanisms and cellar drones of Chris Haslam’s electronica project Dwellings and the “slow burning vocal loops (and) devotional mindscapes” of A.P Macarte’s AHRKH. Also on the bill is the spontaneous, impulse/emotion-driven semi-improvised “dirty techno” of Coldnose, swilling in acid house, industrial, electro, drum and bass and distorted vocal snarls. For the after-show winddown, there’s DJ-ing from assorted Teeth Of The Sea members, but more on them later…







 
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Sorry, but it’s returns only for Saturday 10th. Although Hills (with their gruff and deafening meditational rock, like Joy Division trapped inside a raga) have had to pull out, their Swedish compatriots Goat (costumed acid/world fusioneers who’ve already made a big splash at Glastonbury) are still in play. So are Italian “kosmitronic” rockers Mamuthones – a delightful confection of slippery tinkling rhythms, chatterbox riffage explosions of lateral noise and sing-song babble, they’re what Dutch Uncles might have sounded like if they had less of a taste for arch Roxy-isms and had taken more of a liking to Pere Ubu. There are also slots for the onetime heavy doom-psych of Hey Colossus (who, like their spiritual forebears The Birthday Party, are evolving steadily out of the chaotic London murk they began in and starting to tell stories) and the bellowing, unreconstructed Tyneside sludge-acid of Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. Minimalist Malmö trance-rockers Ved preview their imminent Rocket EP ‘DDTT’, and there are sets from amelodic No Wave revisitors Housewives, block-partying noise duo Gum Takes Tooth and the elasticated buzzing Russian “stargaze” band Gnoomes.









 
In addition, there’ll be a rare solo appearance by Teeth Of The Sea’s modular analogue synth guy Mike Bourne who – in parallel to his band work – has recently put out a couple of odds and ends on Bandcamp including the gradually-evolving ‘pætʃ’ album of electronic experiments (including black-and-white vampire music and harmonium/Harmonium-esque sketches with a dash of Geiger-counter, and the vast shadow-steeped minimalism of his soundtrack to Ben Lister’s horror short ‘Wine Dark Sea’). Opening the evening, the blipping electronics, kettle-banging, forceful ranting and rises to aggressive crescendos of Temple Ov BBV (a collaboration between Gnod and Dutch experimental psychedelicists Radar Men From The Moon) resemble a more spacious meeting between early Swans and cultural rhythmatist John Chernoff). DJ-ing for the evening comes from a four-strong squad of Cherrystones, Jamie Paton, Mike Keeling and Chris Reeder.



 
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The highlight of the Sunday show – at least as far as Rocket themselves are concerned – has been their success in securing the British live debut for the duo project by Polish reeds/keyboard player Wacław Zimpel and his compatriot, the “magic brutalistStara Rzeka guitarist/singer Kuba Ziołek, as Zimpel/Ziołek. They’ll be showcasing the psychoactive-minimalist jazz-folk stew of last year’s eponymous album.



 
That said, there’ll be pretty strong competition from trumpet-toting electronic rock partisans Teeth Of The Sea. Having DJ-ed on the first night, they’re returning at full band strength for what will presumably provide another exhilarating set and another chance for us all to slither around in a puddle of non-stick definitions (are they noise? are they rave? are they dream-metal? are they what you might’ve had if Miles Davis had rashly agreed to a Foetus production job?). Also returning are Gnod – this time in person, playing a “greatest hits” set, which you can vote for here).



 
There’s further Gnodness via yet another pair of spin-offs: Paddy Shine’s immersive “tantric vocal loop” project Ayn Sof and Marlene Ribeiro’s work as Negra Branca (around which circulates various splutters including “squashy analogue”, “temple goddess” and “dreamscape”). Veteran psych bass player Gareth Turner is making two appearance – one as a third of the Anthroprophh trio (in which he’s joined by Heads guitarist Paul Allen and drummer Jesse Webb to blend “garage-bound filth (with) wayward, abstract artistry”), and the other as half of Kuro (in which he grabs a double bass and joins forces with violinist Agathe Max for electrically-enhanced string-drones). Finally, there’s also space for Liverpudlian heavy-psychedelic noise-rockers Bonnacons Of Doom and shamanic ritual trio H.U.M. (Mark Wagner, Heloise Zamzam and Uiutna) whom I last described as “a kind of psychic cross-cultural art coven, citing “alchemical practice, incantation, chanting, drones, ritual drumming, French variété” as both inspiration and activity.”







 
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Further details and ticket/info links below… if you’re reading about this for the first time, you’re already stragglers, so get going…

Rocket Recordings 20, 9th-11th March 2018

Baba Yaga’s Hut & DHP present:
‘Rocket Recordings Twenty’
The Garage/Thousand Island, 20-22 Highbury Corner, Highbury, London, N5 1RD, England
Friday 9th March 2018, 7.30pm
Saturday 10th March 2018, 3.30pm
Sunday 11th March 2018, 7.30pm

– information here and here
 

January 2018 – upcoming London classical gigs – the Baroque At The Edge festival (5th to 7th January); three string quartet premieres and a Shostakovich from London City Quartet (27th January)

23 Dec

News on an intriguing long-weekender of a festival coming up next month…

Baroque At The Edge, 5th-7th January 2018
“Imagine if Bach was a jazzman, Vivaldi a folk-fiddler, or Handel a minimalist… A brand-new event from the creators of the highly successful London Festival of Baroque Music (artistic director Lindsay Kemp and manager Lucy Bending, working in partnership with LSO St Luke’s) the Baroque At The Edge festival invites leading musicians ranging from classical to world, jazz and folk to take the music of the Baroque and see where it leads them. No rules, no programme notes, no lectures: all you need to know is how to listen.”

There are three virtuoso duet concerts. The first features German recorder player Tabea Debus and theorbo lutenist Alex McCartney performing Telemann’s Solo Fantasias, alongside specially commissioned new pieces from Colin Matthews (‘Meditation’), Laura Bowler (‘TV Man’) and Fumiko Miyachi (‘Air’). The second is a part-improvisational teamup of lutenist Thomas Dunford and Persian percussionist Keyvan Chemirani, crossing and blending the sounds of sixteenth-and seventeenth-century European Baroque masters with similarly dazzling and spiritual Persian compositions. The third and last brings together Bjarte Eike (of raw folk/Baroque crossover ensemble Barokksolistene) and jazz pianist Jon Balke (of Magnetic North Orchestra).







 
Opening the festival, delightfully eclectic pianist, programmer and prime musical communicator Joanna MacGregor will deliver a concert “celebrating birds, ground basses and chaconnes” and consisting of nineteen pieces spanning four-and-a-half centuries – not only the Baroque (handsomely represented by Alessandro Poglietti, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Henry Purcell, Louis-Claude Daquin, François Couperin and Johann Pachelbel), but the Renaissance (William Byrd), the Romantic movement (Franz Liszt, Leoš Janáček), Modernism (Olivier Messiaen), minimalism (Philip Glass) and the fanning-out of contemporary classical (Harrison Birtwistle, Hossein Alizâdeh, Sofia Gubaidulina).


 
Warm, witty universal percussionists O Duo (Oliver Cox and Owen Gunnell) will be leading a family-friendly open-to-all percussion workshop with a baroque twist, while Paolo Pandolfo gives a solo viola da gamba recital embracing fantasies and popular dance-tunes of the sixteenth century, brushes with Bach, Telemann and the French baroque, and Paolo’s own captivating 21st-century improvisations.



 
Perhaps most absorbingly, vocal ensemble The Marian Consort (accompanied by lutenist Jamie Akers and solo actor/onetime ‘Casualty’ star Gerald Kyd) will deliver the London premiere of Clare Norburn’s concert-drama ‘Breaking the Rules‘, an acclaimed concert-drama exploring the last agonies of the seventeenth-century composer Carlo Gesualdo (a boundary-crossing influence on artists including Igor Stravinsky, Aldous Huxley, Werner Herzog and Frank Zappa). Having jealously murdered his first wife Donna Maria D’Avalos (along with her lover), Gesualdo poured his pain into deeply and unconventionally expressive music of torture and regret. ‘Breaking The Rules’ promises “(a) sound-track to Gesualdo’s mind on the final night of his life, as he contemplates his own mortality and the tumultuous events which have led him to this moment.”


 
Dates for ‘Baroque at the Edge’ (all other information is here):

  • Joanna MacGregor – LSO St Lukes, 161 Old Street, St Lukes, London, EC1V 9NG, England, Friday 5th January 2017, 7.30pm
  • Tabea Debus & Alex McCartney – St James Clerkenwell, Clerkenwell Close, Clerkenwell, London, EC1R 0EA, England, Saturday 6th January 2017, 1.00pm
  • Paolo Pandolfo – LSO St Lukes, 161 Old Street, St Lukes, London, EC1V 9NG, England, Saturday 6th January 2017, 4.00pm
  • The Marian Consort: ‘Breaking the Rules’ – LSO St Lukes, 161 Old Street, St Lukes, London, EC1V 9NG, England, Saturday 6th January 2017, 7.00pmtickets
  • Thomas Dunford & Keyvan Chemirani – LSO St Lukes, 161 Old Street, St Lukes, London, EC1V 9NG, England, Saturday 6th January 2017, 9.30pm
  • O Duo Family Workshop – LSO St Lukes, 161 Old Street, St Lukes, London, EC1V 9NG, England, Sunday 7th January 2017, 10.30am
  • Bjarte Eike & Jon Balke – LSO St Lukes, 161 Old Street, St Lukes, London, EC1V 9NG, England, Sunday 7 January 2018, 12.30pm

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London City Quartet, 27th January 2018Much later in the month, over in a lofty Arts & Crafts Movement Anglo-Catholic church in west Kensington, the London City Quartet will be playing four string quartets: one of them an established twentieth century classic, the other three brand new works.

West Kensington Music Team presents:
London City Quartet: “Bomafescho.”
St. Cuthbert’s Church (Earls Court), 50 Philbeach Gardens, Earls Court, London, SW5 9EB, England
Saturday 27th January 2018, 5.00pm
– tickets & enquiries via email here or via telephone (020 7101 4479)

Programme:

Dmitri Shostakovich – String Quartet No. 1
David Bozzo – String Quartet No. 2
Brian Martínez – String Quartet No. 1
Peter Fender – String Quartet No. 1 (Thredony Quartet) Op. 30

There hasn’t been much more that I could dig up about this, either from the slightly bewildering WKMT homepage or elsewhere; but as appetite-sharpeners here’s a recording of David Bozzo’s previous string quartet (as played by the Billroth Quartet), a Martinez piano prelude, and a rendition of the Shostakovich by the Fitzwilliam Quartet. (Peter Fender, modestly, seems to restrict his own video output to examples of his conducting and training rather than his compositions.)



 

October 2017 – upcoming London classical gigs – Music-in-Motion & Gildas Quartet immersive show, and the Ligeti Quartet’s ‘Remembering the Future’ (both 28th October)

8 Oct

There’s a couple of classical concerts at the end of the month: not necessarily groundbreaking in what they play (although there is one premiere involved) but interesting in how they arrange their programme or in how they perform it.

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Music-in-Motion, 28th October 2017

Conway Hall Ethical Society presents:
Music-in-Motion Ensemble & Gildas Quartet, directed by John Landor
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, London
Saturday 28th October 2017, 3.30 pm & 7.30pm; Tuesday 31 October 2017, 7.30pm
information

“Following his powerful staging of Janáček’s ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ with the Gildas Quartet at Conway Hall last May, John Landor returns with the quartet and the newly-formed Music-in-Motion Ensemble of thirteen string players to present an eclectic programme of music from Purcell to Pärt.

“Immersive, visual and theatrical, Music-in-Motion brings a bold new aesthetic approach to the traditional classical concert. Turning the whole auditorium into a “theatre of music”, the musicians become embodied channels of the musical drama, dissolving boundaries between performers and audience. You are welcome to sit, stand, or even lie down pretty much anywhere during the performance, so you can bring your own cushion or mat, or use ours. It’s a social event too! At the evening concerts, you can bring in drinks from the bar, and everyone is invited to the ‘after-party’ where audience and performers can mingle and discuss the performance, or indeed anything else!”

What this means in practise is the exploding of the orchestral positioning and of orchestral uniformity – while retaining the hidden discipline of the orchestral units, the musicians wander out on their own across the performance space and through the audience as individuals rather than remaining en bloc, with each performer free (and encouraged) to act out the emotionality of the music. The set’s a selection of well-known repertoire war horses: the presentation and implications are less familiar.

Programme:

Johann Sebastian Bach – Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G BWV1048
Antonio Vivaldi – Sinfonia al Santo Sepolcro in B minor RV169
Arvo Pärt – Fratres
Leoš Janáček – String Quartet No. 1 ‘Kreutzer Sonata’
Henry Purcell – Chacony in G minor
Edward Elgar – Introduction and Allegro Op. 47

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The Ligeti Quartet present “Remembering the Future: Tradition and the Contemporary String Quartet”
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 28th October 2017, 7:30pm
information

Since their formation in 2010, Ligeti Quartet, 2017The Ligeti Quartet (violinists Mandhira de Saram and Patrick Dawkins, viola player Richard Jones and cellist Val Welbanks) have commissioned multiple new works and collaborated with artists from all types of musical backgrounds including Anna Meredith, Elliot Galvin, Kerry Andrew (Juice Vocal Ensemble, You Are Wolf), Laura Jurd, Meilyr Jones, Neil Hannon (The Divine Comedy), Seb Rochford (Polar Bear), Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet, The Comet is Coming), Shed 7 and Submotion Orchestra. They are currently working on a long-term project with Ernst von Siemens prize-winning composer Christian Mason to create a series of ‘Songbooks’ for string quartet, based on overtone singing traditions from around the world.

For this performance, the Ligeti Quartet are performing traditional (20th century) and contemporary pieces. These include two Bach related works (a Sofia Gubaidulina tribute and a Birtwistle rearrangement of fugues, , a revival of the debut composition by http://www.plusminusensemble.com Plus-Minus Ensemble co-leader/Cut and Splice curator Joanna Baillie (originally written for Apartment House, and performed here in its 2006 string quartet version) and a brand new piece by former Unthanks member/ Streetwise Opera composer-in-residence/Timeline Songs director Stef Conner (whose body of work as a composer has revealed her as a walker and crosser of fine lines between classical, folk, jazz and antiquity).

Programme:

Johann Sebastian Bach (arr. Harrison Birtwistle) – Three Fugues from the Art of Fugue
Anton Webern – String Quartet, Op. 28
Joanna Baillie – Five Famous Adagios (2006 string quartet version)
Stef Conner – (LQ Commission, title tbc) (premiere)
Igor Stravinsky – Concertino for String Quartet
Sofia Gubaidulina – Reflections on a Theme B-A-C-H
Georg Friedrich Haas – String Quartet No. 2
 

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.

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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.”

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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).”

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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

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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
 

November 2016 – upcoming gigs – iamthemorning’s two shows with Tim Bowness in London and Ulft (12th, 14th) and three more in the Netherlands (16th-18th)

10 Nov

iamthemorning, November 2016 tourOriginally hailing from Saint Petersburg, iamthemorning is the partnership of self-taught, progressive-rock-inspired singer Marjana Semkina and meticulously-taught classical pianist Gleb Kolyadin; it’s also what happens when their conflicting backgrounds and sympathetic musicalities merge. Using pick-up ensembles of classical and rock musicians, they stage their music in multi-media chamber shows; swelling out to small orchestral arrangements, efflorescent electric guitar and tape inserts. Whenever this isn’t possible, they’ll strip themselves back to a string-augmented quartet. When that‘s not possible either, they’ll revert to the original duo, trusting in Gleb’s virtuosic St. Petersburg Conservatory piano skills to cover (or at least intimate) the orchestral role behind the lustrous drama of Marjana’s voice.

Marjana and Gleb’s burnished, budded musicality shows a clear affinity with the British literary mythoscape. Their burgeoning pre-autumnal songs certainly possess, amongst other things, tints of English and Breton-Celtic folk and a certain pre-Raphaelite glow; recalling, on a surface level, that billowing school of female-fronted prog-folk which includes Renaissance or Mostly Autumn (or, on the arresting death-lays which bookend this year’s ‘Lighthouse’ album, the glimmering Celtic feytronica of Caroline Lavelle). All of this probably had a lot to do with ‘Lighthouse’ scooping up ‘Prog’ magazine’s Album of the Year award for 2016.


 
Chamber-prog is the term the band themselves choose, and the one that’s usually applied to them. Tagging them with the prog label, however (complete with all of the blowsy, blustering AOR associations which got gummed to it during the 1980s), seems a little reductive. iamthemorning‘s meticulous immersion in advanced harmony and arrangement puts them square into the tradition of florid electro-acoustic neoromantics – the densely skilled ones who own a strong affinity to the tail-end of Romantic music but arrive several generations too late; the ones who often fall into prog by default, through a love of rock amplification and of what happens when song meets electric surge). Consider the dogged grand orchestralism thundered out by Robert John Godfrey in The Enid. Consider Kerry Minnear, slipping his haunting yet sophisticated quiet-man ballads through the busy humour of Gentle Giant (referencing romanticism and modernism as he did so: deeper rills through the romping). Consider the late Keith Emerson and how (behind ELP’s circus vulgarities and rollicks through baroque, Bach and barrelhouse) he too maintained a fascination for the rich harmonic and melodic upheaval where romanticism meets modernism; capturing it in his brash adaptations of Ginastera and Rodrigo, and listening towards the eastern European strains of Mussorgsky, Janáček and Bartók.


 
This last, in turn, brings us to Gleb and his own deep immersion in the likes of Stravinsky (there are videos of him playing ‘The Rite Of Spring’ and clearly adoring it); one of the reasons why, however much an iamthemorning song may slip along like a scented bath, there’s always more shading and detail in its depths. The other reason is Marjana’s growing determination to back the petal-sheened sonic prettiness and concert-hall glamour with more profound psychological resonance, turning the ‘Lighthouse’ concept into a diary of mental illness and the struggles to survive it. The band might still be in the early stages of establishing a lyrical and conceptual maturity to match the breadth of their musicality, but there’s plenty of space and opportunity to do this. The currents of invention under the lush surface slickness, and the clear willingness of Gleb and Marjana to challenge each other and to grow together, make iamthemorning a band to watch.

iamthemorning & Tim Bowness, 12th-18th November 2016Tim Bowness, on the other hand, has been through much of this already, having persistently edged and developed his visions from the turbulent romantic moodism of his earlier work to his current, exquisitely-honed portraits of human vulnerability. Forced in part by increasingly long gaps in the open musical marriage of his main band no-man, he’s been demonstrating himself, step by step, to not be merely a band singer blessed with a rich, poignant whisper of a voice and a sharp sense of understated lyrical drama, but a formidable solo artist with a mind for matching and fusing together diverse sounds and musical elements.

Erstwhile/ongoing no-man partner Steven Wilson may get more of the plaudits these days, but Tim’s growing list of solo albums are every bit as good. Bridging Mark Hollis with Mark Eitzel, Robert Wyatt with David Sylvian and Peter Gabriel with Morrissey, they work off a confidently-expanding sonic palette of spiky caressing art-rock guitar, luxuriant keyboard and drum work, strings and atmospherics. As ever with Tim, the subject matter is tender and bleak – including thwarted ambitions, the shaping and stripping of love by time and mortality, and (increasingly) shades of the north-western landscapes and dilemmas to which Tim owes his own initial artistic formation.


 

While he’s currently brewing a welter of projects (including a long-overdue second duo album with Peter Chilvers, the resurrection of his angsty 1980s Mersey art-pop quartet Plenty, and assorted work with Banco de Gaia, contemporary classical composer Andrew Keeling and Happy The Man’s Kit Watkins), Tim’s main focus is his still-in-progress fourth solo album, ‘Third Monster On The Left’. This is sounding like his most ambitious project to date: a conceptual musical memoir centring on the backstage thoughts of a fictional, fading classic-rock musician, awash in the garden and graveyard of talent that was the 1970s. For ‘Third Monster On The Left’, Tim promises (as part of the context-appropriate crafting) a more explicit version of the progginess that’s always fed into his art pop since the beginning: specifically, “the harmonic richness and romanticism of 1970s Genesis, and the Mellotron-drenched majesty of early King Crimson.”

All of this makes the declared prospect of a Bowness/iamthemorning set of collaborative “shared bill, shared songs” concerts an interesting one. There’s already a connection via Colin Edwin, who’s played bass for both of them. On this occasion, Tim will be bringing along band regulars Michael Bearpark (guitar), Stephen Bennett (keyboards) and Andrew Booker (electronic drums) plus returning cohorts Steve Bingham (violin, loops) and Pete Morgan (bass). Some or all of these will be pulling double duty backing iamthemorning, alongside whoever Gleb and Marjana brings along. What’s most intriguing, though, is what this hand-in-hand teamup is going to bring out in both parties. Beyond the luxuriant tones, there’s useful artistic tinder in their differences, their similarities, and their internal contradictions alike.

At its best, there ought to be push-and-pull. Tim’s austere taste for unvarnished modernism and stark realism is ever compromised by a sensual greed for the textures of romance: Gleb and Marjana swim in an ocean of effusive orchestral indulgence, but now want to grap stone and dirt. He’ll give them an exquisitely pained art-pop ballad, pared clean of fairytale delusions and as slender as a greyhound; they’ll polish and expand it back into dreamscape. They’ll give him a perfumed Edwardian garden: he’ll slouch in, with his Beckett and Kelman paperbacks, to lay a grit path. He’ll bring out their darker, less-resolved deep chords. They’ll bring out his blushes.

The odds are fair that they’ll make a collective attempt at the title track from ‘Lighthouse’ (though they’ll probably not risk a medley with the no-man epic of the same name). I’m also hoping for a Gram-and-Emmylou-shaded prog harmony on Tim’s heart-breaking Know That You Were Loved; or perhaps a morningification of Dancing For You. We’ll see…




 
* * * * * * * *

iamthemorning with Tim Bowness:

  • IO Pages Festival @ Poppodium DRU Cultuurfabriek, Hutteweg 24a, 7071 MB Ulft, Netherlands, Saturday 12th November 2016, 2.30pm (with Gazpacho + Anekdoten + Lesoir + Marcel Singor + A Liquid Landscape + Anneke van Giersbergen) – information here and here
  • Bush Hall, 310 Uxbridge Road, Shepherds Bush, London, W12 7LJ, England, Monday 14th November 2016 – information here and here

Immediately after the Bowness shows, iamthemorning embark on three more shows on their own in the Netherlands – details below. Depending on which one you attend, you could see the band in any one of its three main playing configurations.

  • Hedon, Burg Drijbersingel 7, 8021 DA Zwolle, The Netherlands, Wednesday 16th November 2016, 8.00pm (chamber gig with violin & cello)information
  • De Pul, Kapelstraat 13, 5401 EC Uden, The Netherlands, Thursday 17th November 2016, 9.00pm (duo gig)information
  • Patronaat, Zijlsingel 2, 2013 DN Haarlem, The Netherlands, Friday 18th November 2016, 7.30pm (full band gig)information

 

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