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January to March 2020 – assorted London gigs – Holly Penfield at 100 Club (8th March) and with Ian Ritchie at the Fiddler’s Elbow (10th January); skewed surf, pop and acoustica with Kenny Process Team, Keith John Adams and The Happy Couple (13th January); Balkan/Gaelic folktronics with Arhai (18th January); plus Minute Taker’s ‘Wolf Hours’ in Manchester (24th January)

7 Jan

Holly PenfieldIf you missed Holly Penfield’s London launch gig for her ‘Tree Woman’ album back at Halloween last year – or if you attended and wanted to see it again – then she’s looping back on herself and staging another one at the 100 Club on 8th March. For those unfamiliar with her, here’s what I wrote (indeed, here’s what I recycled) last time.

“Raised in San Francisco (and a veteran of the 1980s LA pop scene with the scars to prove it) Holly spent much of the ‘90s writing and performing the psychodramatic one-woman pop show ‘Fragile Human Monster’ in London and elsewhere. A show with such troubled and intense undercurrents that it eventually blew itself apart, it’s now spawned a return… but under very different circumstances. The whirling mirror-glass synths and saxophones of the old days have been replaced by a gritty post-Americana rock band (which growls, gnaws and struts through her songs like a Cash or Waits ensemble) while Holly herself has mostly forsaken standing behind a keyboard (except for when a grand piano ballad calls for that set of skills).

“It’s funny, sad, uplifting and stirring all at once. Once the very embodiment of storm-tossed waif and precarious survivor, Holly’s now a wiser and much happier woman. She still absolutely owns the stage, though, helping herself to a big dollop of the jazz and blues flavourings which shaped her initial development, playing a dash of ukulele and engaging in some zestful shimmying (and some delightfully ludicrous party outfits, worn with wit and flair – it seems as if her recent steps away from cabaret involved at least one sly step back).

“What hasn’t changed is the quality of her singing, and of her songs. While old FHM standards like Misfit, The Last Enemy, puddle-of-grief ballad Stay With Me, and slinking fingersnapper You Can’t Have The Beauty Without The Beast have shed skins and made the transition to the new show, Holly’s also been dipping into a trunk of neglected and mostly previously unheard work, including the tremendous state-of-the-world song Confessions (based around a lyrical hook she once dangled in front of an intrigued Joni Mitchell) and the vivacious Tree Woman (a more recent effort in which she vigorously embraces both her own ageing and the resilience that comes with it).”



 
Holly Penfield & Ian Ritchie, 10th January 2019If you can’t wait until March, Holly and her multi-instrumentalist husband Ian Ritchie (the latter an ex-Deaf School member recently fresh off playing sax on the Roger Waters tour) will be playing another London gig this coming Friday, up at the Fiddler’s Elbow. This one will be an “experimental thirty-minute duo gig of originals with vintage ‘80s drum machine… interesting, quirky,and challenging!”

Although Holly and Ian are going out under their Cricklewood Cats moniker (under which they’ve previously released a few synth-jazz swing songs), theirs has been a long and varied partnership also encompassing cabaret, out-and-out jazz balladry, noisy rock diva songs and the bewitching sequencer-torch-pop of the ‘Parts Of My Privacy’ album. So you could expect takes on all of the above and more, including some of Holly’s newer songs. At the moment she’s on a serious creative upswing, and there’s rarely been a better time to see her than now.


 

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Kenny Process Team + Keith John Adams + The Happy Couple, 13th January 2020On the following Monday, the reunited and reinvigorated Kenny Process Team launch their own new album, ‘Travlin’ Light With… Kenny Process Team’. Actually, it’s an old one, recorded as a live session over twenty years ago with the band’s 1998 lineup but lost in the abstracted shuffle of the band’s history, which has seen members swap out, disappear, impale themselves on fences and even join Oasis.

Part avant-surf, part Afro-prog and compared in their time to both The Ventures and Captain Beefheart (while proggies will also find parallels with Television and The League of Gentlemen), there’s more on the Kenny Process back story here. In the present, with the addition of Rhodri Marsden as new guitarist (replacing the late Simon King) and thanks to his existing connections with Lost Crowns and Prescott, they’re further cementing their links with London’s current crop of art/prog/psych/cellularists.



 
Also playing is KPT labelmate Keith John Adams. Once Rhodri’s bandmate in zestful 1990s avant-skifflers Zuno Men, for twenty years now Keith has been a solo act coming at acoustic pop from a gently skewed angle, buffeting around friendly lyrical ideas like a sozzled housefly bumping against a lampshade and turning out understated little song-gems as he does so. His accidental forebears might include Robyn Hitchcock, Kevin Ayers; you might also pretend that he’d been dreamed up from some lazy Walthamstow afternoon when Leon Redbone shared a sofa with the young Bill Oddie.



 

Opening the evening is The Happy Couple, the languid instrumental duo formed by Kenny Process drummer Dave Ross and his life partner Judith Goodman, born out of two decades of inseparable love mingling with the inspiration of the Epping Forest woodscapes where they live. Judith plays a variety of open-tuned guitars, predominantly a Weissenborn acoustic slide guitar but also a 4-string tenor and a 3-string cigar box model (plus a mysterious “early English” example which suggests a rewriting of instrumental history). Leaving his drumkit behind, Dave plays a variety of mouth-held lamellophones: a classic American jaw harp, Indian morchangs in both brass and iron, a Norwegian Munnharpe and a mouth bow harp created in Devon. As for the music, it’s a relaxed evocation of companionship, glissando and boing and intersecting rhythms: or, as Judith comments, “it’s about the sounds that happen when we put our sounds together. We just create a world we want to be in.”



 
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Arhai, 18th January 2020

The following Saturday, British/Serbian electronic folk project Arhai slip into the little cellar at the Harrison to deliver their own electro-acoustic atmospheres. A two-decade-long project led by singer/composer Jovana Backovic, they were a traditional Serbian acoustic octet for their first ten years, gradually shifting into electric terrain before dissolving and allowing Jovana to form the current duo with British multi-instrumental specialist Adrian Lever (mediaeval dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, guitar, tambura, Bulgarian lute etc). Now they’re Balkan-cum-Gaelic, intertwining ancient and technological: or, as they put it “rethinking the archetypal modes of music performance in the context of modernity”. Which sometimes means they’re ultra-accessible and synth-quilty in the familiar Clannad model, and sometimes means that they’re off and racing like a cross between izvorna and a hyperspatial hip hop track.




 
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All of the above events will be in London: for the next one, you’ll need to head up to Manchester, where singer, songwriter and electronic pop creator Ben McGarvey, a.k.a. Minute Taker, is unveiling his multi-media performance ‘Wolf Hours’. Ben is no stranger to mixing theatre and music, having already presented a love-and-ghosts story on tour with ‘To Love Somebody Melancholy’ featuring animations from Ana Stefaniak. ‘Wolf Hours’ is an even more ambitious undertaking – “a unique performance combining mesmerising film with a dynamic live soundtrack. From forbidden love in the First World War, to the pain and rage of AIDS, to contemporary hedonism and heartbreak, ‘Wolf Hours’ explores the stories of gay men at different points in time through their dreams. This series of stunning new short films (directed by John Lochland, Joe Stringer, Kirk Sylvester, Raphaël Neal and Ben McGarvey) are accompanied throughout by Minute Taker performing an intimate musical and vocal score that both builds the atmosphere and pulls on the heartstrings. Visually explosive and emotionally thrilling, ‘Wolf Hours’ transports the audience through pleasure, grief, lust, joy and our collective historical imagination.”



 
In this interview with ‘Superbia’, Ben expounds on the approach he took when putting together ‘Wolf Hours’, which he describes as “jumbled-up memories, fears and fantasies.. It’s presented a bit like late night TV from back in the ’80s and ’90s (when anything queer was relegated to an after-midnight slot!) with different programmes and images emerging out of the static as you drift in and out of sleep… I also decided to include lots of archive footage in the show, which explores the way homosexuality has been portrayed in the media over the years… all of the stuff that finds its way into the subconscious minds of the characters as they lie awake at night, having an effect on how they view themselves and the gay community.” He’s hoping to take the show out on a broader tour much later this year, but for now this is all that you’re getting…

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Dates:

Holly Penfield & Ian Ritchie: The Cricklewood Cats
The Fiddler’s Elbow, 1 Malden Road, Kentish Town, London, NW5 3HS, England
Friday 10th January, 2020, 8.20pm
– no information links, just turn up…

Kenny Process Team + Keith John Adams + The Happy Couple
Servant Jazz Quarters, 10a Bradbury Street, Dalston, London, N16 8JN, England
Monday 13th January 2020, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Folk and Roots presents:
Arhai
The Harrison, 28 Harrison Street, Kings Cross, London, WC1H 8JF, England
Saturday 18th January 2020, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Minute Taker presents ‘Wolf Hours’
Hope Mill Theatre, 113 Pollard Street, Beswick, Manchester, M4 7JA, England
Friday 24th January 2020, 8:00pm
– information here and here

Holly Penfield
The 100 Club, 100 Oxford Street, Soho, London, W1D 1LL, England
Sunday 8th March 2020, time t.b.c.
– no information links yet
 

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
 

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…

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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.”

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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’.

 
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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
 

March 2019 – music and theatre as ‘The Marchlands Arms’ takes over London’s transmigrational pub Ye Olde Mitre for a couple of evenings of border culture (23rd & 24th March)

19 Mar

A little way into the western edge of the City of London, between the jewellers’ quarter of Hatton Gardens and the gated enclave of Ely Place, there’s an inviting little alleyway – a tuckaway court still marked by Victorian streetlights, a little like an urban Narnia portal. As you wend your way up it, negotiating the gentle kink in the middle, a pub appears – a pub which gives the damnedest impression of having materialised from elsewhere and wedged itself into the cut-through.

Ye Olde Mitre (photographer unknown)

Ye Olde Mitre (photographer unknown)

This pub, Ye Olde Mitre, has actually been around in some shape or form since the middle of the sixteenth century – and for a long time it was perhaps London’s only example of a place which was in another place. Specifically, it was legally a part of Cambridgeshire. The beneficiary of a legal agreement regarding land jurisdiction set up around the London estate of the Bishop of Ely, it was the drinking establishment for his London servants. There are tall tales about people on the run from the City of London coppers claiming sanctuary in there, and arguing that the City police had no jurisdiction within the pub walls; no more than the Met did either.

Obviously this is a quirk of law, power and accommodation – mostly a long-standing in-joke for pint-supping conveyancers dropping in from the Inns of Court. Nonetheless, visiting Ye Olde Mitre always feels like taking a step into another kingdom, one which disregards standard unities of time and place in favour of fashioning its own. There’s the mythic touch added by the resident cherry tree, of course (which dates back to Elizabethan times and comes complete with its own Queen Elizabeth legend); but even when you’re not looking for magical signifiers – and long before you’ve become swimmy-headed on beer – the pub has the relaxed, self-contained air of somewhere entirely separate from the London bustle. Many pubs strive to become places in their own right; friendly drop-in nations. Content as its own little capsule of peace, Ye Olde Mitre manages it much better than almost anywhere else I know.

The Marchland Arms, 23rd & 24th March 2019

It’s unsurprisingly that such a place – one that flaunts and celebrates its quirky liminality – has drawn the attention of Marchland, the music-and-theatre production alliance which fixes and thrives on ideas of history and borderlines (as evidenced in their previous festival at the Bridewell a year ago.). This coming weekend, they’ll be taking over the pub, recasting it as “The Marchland Arms” and filling it with nine performances in three separate sections, turning the different spaces within the pub into murmuring, discursive rooms within which performance, music and song will gently ricochet.

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Marchland Arms - 'Once & Future Europe'

Marchland Arms – ‘Once & Future Europe’

Three pieces make up the ‘Once And Future Europe’ section, triggered by Marchland’s “fascinat(ion with) the cultural history of the legendary states that once straddled Europe’s borders. For the three shows that make up this session we asked the artists involved to, in the words of Rimbaud, remember Europe and her ancient ramparts. This is work that explores the influence of those half-imaginary places on the European psyche, and how their legacy continues to influence our notions of identity and belonging.”

The first of these pieces, ‘Lyonesse’, appears to be (at root) a conceptual celebration and exploration of the mythical drowned kingdom between Cornwall and Brittany – in other words, the sunken link in the geographical continuity of the broader Celtic nation. On spec, that sounds like a dusty old disinterral of Edwardian romanticism; but judging by the participants and their preoccupations, it won’t be. Poet-ecologist Dom Bury will, I guess, be mingling Lyonessean legend from his own West Country roots with contemporary concerns about flooding and dissolution, bolstered interjections and engagements from Katharina Engel, a German academic and theatre director whose preoccupation with hills and climbing may also feed into the work. The two will be accompanied by music from singer Sophia Brumfitt and veteran percussionist/hammer dulcimer player Dhevdhas Nair in a rich blend of European Early Music, Indian subcontinental music, jazz and African elements: Euromyth interfolding with full-world diaspora.

 
The pub snug will house ‘The Capital of Europe’ in which Charles Webber – whose two-decade-plus career as a sound artist has seen him write multimedia sound/light-and-music operas (he’s the artistic director of operaNCV), plus work with Crass’ Eve Libertine and innumerable experimental musicians and theatre companies – and Strasbourgian poet/Théâtre Volière co-director Mick Wood collaborate on “an installation of treated sound, found objects, and cut up poetry”, providing “an unguided tour through the abandoned corners, quiet squares and restless banlieues of an ideal, unreal city on the Rhine.” Sounds delightfully like an old pub story, but one which unfolds into multiple additional dimensions and textures; like that European flaneur’s collaboration between Johnny Morris and China Miéville which never actually happened.

Transforming the lounge, the last of the three ‘Once And Future Europe’ pieces – ‘Ionic’ – asks us to reimagine the space as“a café in fin de siècle Alexandria” in which a new dance theatre piece will play out. Rambert School graduate Janacek Wood choreographs an episode of interweaving texts and movements based around the work of Cairo-based, Alexandria-born Egyptian-Greek poet Constantin Cavafy, whose early life saw his family relocate between France, England and Constantinople in their own mournful, economically-driven private diaspora.

Cavafy himself ended up writing a body of work that’s a Hellenistic re-examination of what Wiki summarises as “uncertainty about the future, sensual pleasures, the moral character and psychology of individuals, homosexuality, and a fatalistic existential nostalgia.” The best-known of these poems is the sardonic Waiting For The Barbarians, in which an external exotic threat serves as both spice and hollowing-out of a moribund politics: I can’t think what that reminds me of now. Music comes from two Greek musicians – singer Savina Yannatou and classical guitarist Nikos Baroutsakis – and from electric guitarist/composer/personal ethnologist Alex Roth, who’s recently been pursuing his own Jewish diasporan heritage on a three-cornered journey that’s taken in Manchester, London and his current dwelling place of Warsaw.

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Marchland Arms - 'Customs & Duty'

Marchland Arms – ‘Customs & Duty’

Three more pieces make up ‘Customs & Duty’, “a session of shows exploring the interaction between folk culture and high art, and how identities shift when the lines between arbitrarily imagined communities are blurred… Must we declare our customs at the customs post? Is it our duty to pay duty on them? To whom do they belong? Who decides what they’re worth? What will they cost us when they’re taken away, dissected, repackaged, and sold back to us?”

For this, there’ll be a variation on the ‘Before and After Schengen’ piece which was one of last year’s Marchland centrepieces: Hungarian-born poet George Szirtes responses to Spanish photographer Ignacio Evangelista’s photos of border facilities, with guests and actors from the Marchland Arms Company contributing to a staging of the outcome, making the room “the Kafka-esque border post of a once or future East-European regime.”

Last time around at Marchland, Carneval String Trio’s viola player Shiry Rashkovsky contributed the ‘Shengen’ music. This year, she’s reviving a nineteenth-century middle-European tale with storyteller James Peacock in the shape of ‘Fritz and the Bohemian’ a tale of kindness, cyclic events and wanderings (“each year, on the first day of Spring, an itinerant musician comes to play beneath Fritz Kobus’ window…”).

Rounding off this section is a new Théâtre Volière play, ‘Goethe in Alsace’ – a one-act historical tale of cultural enrichment, “careless play-acting (and) casual cruelty” set around the border region of France and Germany, and questioning the assumptions and entitlements surrounding nascent male artists and the women whom they select as muses.

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Marchland Arms - 'The Northern Marches'

Marchland Arms – ‘The Northern Marches’

The three final Marchland Arms pieces comprise ‘The Northern Marches’ and focus specifically on the Scottish and English border country “(a) region, rich with the history of the Border Reivers of the debatable lands, the Roman garrisons of Hadrian’s Wall, and dramatic elopements to Gretna Green, has other, fresher stories to tell. How does its often romanticised past inform the Scottish borders’ present, and to whom do its stories old and new actually belong?” For this section, there’s a play (of sorts), a talk and a musical session.

Théâtre Volière return – teamed with poet Katie Hale and singing, fiddle-playing Scottish music specialist Lori Watson – to deliver a preview of ‘Gretna’: an actors/reciter/musician performance and ongoing project “exploring the culture of the region from the perspective of the women so often written out of its history.”

On the trail of linguistics and naming, University of Glasgow professor Eila Williamson provides ‘The Meaningful Merse’; throwing a little light on her REELS project work (Recovering the Earliest English Language in Scotland) in “a fascinating look at how history’s great, long term shifts in ethnic and cultural identity are often written in to the localised place-names, folk memory and dialects of Europe’s border regions.”

Finally, Lori Watson returns with her own set, performing in duo and bringing Scottish coastal and border folk music to close out the section in “a haunting collision between traditional music and found, ambient sound, in a performance ranging from the intimate to the epic.”

* * * * * * * *

There’s a general preview here:

 
Dates and times:

Marchland presents:
‘The Marchland Arms’
Ye Olde Mitre, Ely Court, off Ely Place/Hatton Garden, Holborn, London, EC1N 6SJ, England

January 2019 – upcoming London classical gigs – baroque, folk and present-day music intertwine at the second Baroque At The Edge festival (4th to 6th January)

2 Jan

Baroque At The Edge festivalAs regards classical music, this month appears to be opening with London’s second annual Baroque At The Edge festival across the 4th, 5th and 6th January. Dividing its time between the Clerkenwell classical-church venues of LSO St Lukes and St James Clerkenwell, it starts from a baroque basis but roughly postulates (as it did last year) along the genre-blurring lines of “imagine if Bach was a jazzman, Purcell a folk-fiddler, and Monteverdi a minimalist…”

Following on from 2018’s debut festival, there’ll be a return engagement with concert dramatist Clare Norburn. Having tackled the murderous guilt and glory of Carlo Gesualdo last time around, Clare’s new work ‘Burying The Dead’ (premiered in the West Country last May) is another deathbed dream drama: this time set in 1695 and focusing on the final protracted thoughts and hallucinations of Henry Purcell as “dream-like memories of the Plague, the Fire of London, family life and the vibrant Restoration stage merge seamlessly with his exquisite vocal and instrumental music.” Said music will be provided by London-based baroque ensemble Ceruleo, who commissioned the play, while actor Niall Ashdown features as Purcell.


 
There’s more Purcell-related goings-on via Cecil Sharp House choir director and Wing-It Singer leader Sally Davies, who with her chorally-minded pianist daughter Holly Cullen Davies is running an open-to-all English folksong workshop, focussing on the songs Purcell would have known and referred to. In a similar spirit, the festival’s closing concert features a team-up of Dipper Malkin (John Dipper on fourteen-string viola d’amore, Dave Malkin on guitar and vocals) and singing storyteller Nick Hennessy – all three keen folk-steeped reinventors, on this occasion exploring how “the sophistication of Purcell meets the soul of English folk.”



 
Several more cross-disciplinary players are taking part. Violist Liam Byrne promises a concert in which you can “expect anything, anyhow, from (Marin) Marais to (Nico) Muhly, although he’s keeping schtum on whether he’s playing pure and acoustic or with the electronics or conceptual tricks which make up the other side of his playing. Path-forging post-classical singer Nora Fischer, accompanied by theorbo lutenist Mike Fentross, will delve into the world of seventeenth century song with “intimate and exquisite re-imaginings of works by Purcell, Peri, Monteverdi and others.”




 

Elsewhere in the festival, vigorous violinist Elicia Silverstein will join the dots between Bach and Biber (representing the baroque) and Luciano Berio and Salvatore Sciarrino (representing the contemporary), as demonstrated on her 2018 debut recording ‘The Dreams And Fables I Fashion’. Replacing a planned baroque piano concert from Gabriela Montero (after she had to drop out following surgery), her fellow pianist David Greilsammer provides his ‘Scarlatti:Cage:Sonatas’ dual keyboard programme which constantly interlaces the music of Domenico Scarlatti with the twentieth-century prepared piano compositions of John Cage (hardware, wood and rubber resonating and burring between the strings).




 
Less compressed information, plus full dates and ticket info, can be found at the festival’s homepage and Facebook page.

‘Baroque At The Edge’
LSO St Luke’s, 161 Old Street, St Lukes, London, EC1V 9NG, England
St James Clerkenwell, Clerkenwell Close, Clerkenwell, London, EC1R 0EA, England
Friday 4th January to Saturday 6th January 2019 (various times)
– information here and here
 

August 2018 – upcoming London gigs – flexi-clectica at Apple Tree: The Live Lounge Vol II with Rudi Douglas, J. Aria, Awkward Ndure, DJ Sonikku, Martell O’Neill, Daryl Fox-Huxley and DJ Kevin Morosky (2nd August)

31 Jul

Apple Tree: The Live Loung Vol. II, 2nd August 2018Since its launch earlier this year, broad-based London music-and-performance event Apple Tree has set itself a bold framework. Curated by tireless promoter and club personality Mark-Ashley Dupé and by cross-disciplinary designer/film-maker Samuel Douek, its Live Lounge event is dedicated to celebrating LGBTQIA musicians and artists from across the city (that’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex and asexual/allies, for those having trouble keeping up with those ever-burgeoning inclusive acronyms). It’s also happily intersectional in both intent and in entertainment. The convergence of queerness and blackness already seems to be a specialty, offsetting the compressive grinding of racism and the bristling aggression of homophobes by providing a stage for some fiery and assertive performers.

If this is starting to sound too specialised, too academic, or too much like a sexual/political cul-de-sac, I should reign things in a bit. In fact, the backbone of the debut Apple Tree evening back in June (which I only caught up and heard about recently, several months after the event) seems to have been electric/eclectic soul, provided by singer-songwriters Miggy Dela Rosa, Albert Gold and Awkward Ndure. Gay electro-acoustic composer Daniel McBride was also on hand, his work bridging that gap between the capital’s young classical scene, its queer-arts scene and the electronic music continuum which unites (in both work and play) pop, dance culture and high-art experimentalism. Bringing the words was topical poet and fervent discursor Black Ops Poetry; bringing the costumes and personae was queer cabaret sensation Rhys Holis (performer of Rhys’ Pieces and founder of Dalston cabaret night Queefy); and bringing damn near everything was operatic/discursive costumed electro-acoustic performance artist Oberon White (who considers himself “part of an eclectic tradition incorporating shamans, clowns, automata, cyborgs and drag artists”).

In other words, Apple Tree’s shaping up to be an event that’s equally comfortable with party pop and far-out high art concepts, unifying them through a flexible, diverse queer lens. There aren’t that many places where you can see a happy, possibly camp singalong immediately followed by a text-spouting man dressed as a mythical Greek bird-god.

The upcoming second Apple Tree Live Lounge show at the beginning of August is perhaps a tad less adventurous than the debut was, but it’s all part of the ebb and flow, and comes packaged with dinner care of Shoreditch’s Hoi Polloi brasserie and a DJ set from photographer/film director Kevin Morosky. As for the performers, Awkward makes a return from the launch event with her Latin-tinged folk-soul – at least I think it’s her, since some of the publicity suggests that it might be Evan Williams from MTV teen comedy ‘Awkward’ (which in turn makes me feel as if I’m slipping down some rabbit hole of an involved in-joke). Assuming that I do have the right Awkward, here’s a clip of her performing with guitarist Sim Chappelle a couple of years ago. I’m on more solid ground with the billing for accomplished soul’n’stage singer Martell O’Neil (whose past and current work includes the travelling Motown revue ‘How Sweet It Is’); and for Daryl Fox-Huxley, the current/former guitarist for house-tinged indie pop act The Hook, now concentrating on solo work with a folk-pop base, “his own East London twist and lyrics to match” and probably at least a few other hints and approaches brought in from his abiding love for reggae, techno and techhouse.



 
Headliner Rudi Douglas is a onetime ‘X Factor’ contestant (he was in the 2006 series when he was nineteen) but don’t hold that against him, or allow it to constrain him. Instead, take a look at and have a listen to this – ‘He Won’t Swim In My Ocean’, a four-year-old but evergreen song which proves that Rudi doesn’t need the Cowell circus to help him make grand heartbursting pop, with a gay theme but a universal touch.


 
For this session, the more experimental kudos is provided by DJ Sonikku (who mashes ‘80s house into chiptune with the aid of the purloined and repurposed guts of Sega Mega Drive consoles) and even more so by Jacob Aria – a.k.a non-binary soundscaper J. Aria. Interested in “tension, desolation, morbidity and eroticism”, J. creates intricate, absorbing musical washes, beats and tapestries via sampler, turntable and voice in which hauntology, psychedelic ambience and hints of house engage in a spectral, full-bodied mysterious dance: a ghostly neighbourhood of percolating histories for “a world of heterotopic ‘otherness’, pushing senses of horror and psychosis within queerdom and the incidental beauty of the fractured”.

 
Apple Tree Live presents:
Apple Tree – The Live Lounge – Vol. 2: Rudi Douglas + Jacob Aria + Awkward Ndure + DJ Sonikku + Martell O’Neill + Daryl Fox-Huxley + DJ Kevin Morosky
Miranda @ Ace Hotel London Shoreditch, 100 Shoreditch High Street, Shoreditch, London, E1 6JQ, England
Thursday 2nd August 2018, 6.00pm
– information here and here
 

June 2018 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Neil Luck & ARCO plus Oliver Coates/Eliza McCarthy/Tom McKinney performing Laurie Spiegel, Neil Luck and Alexia Sloane at Kammer Klang (5th June); Anyanna Witter-Johnson, Cecilia Bignall, Beth Higham-Edwards, Gabriella Swallow and others play Midori Komachi, Zoë Martlew, Freya Waley-Cohen, Charlotte Harding and others at Nonclassical EP launch (6th June); Jenni Roditi & The Improvisers’ Choir at Club Inégales (7th June)

26 May

Kammer Klang, 5th June 2018The first full week of June sees a three-in-a-row set of London gigs combining the contemporary classical and the outright experimental.

The Kammer Klang season bridging 2017 and 2018 now comes to its summer close with a double ensemble show featuring the unconventional trio of Oliver Coates (cello), Eliza McCarthy (piano) and Tom McKinney (banjo), and Neil Luck‘s ARCO quartet (Neil on voice and objects, joined by fellow composer/squib-box founder/ vocalist Adam de la Cour, violinist Chihiro Ono and viola player Benedict Taylor).

The Coates/McCarthy/McKinney trio will be playing chamber music by American composer Laurie Spiegel, who divides her time between professional programming and automation and writing the original music which the other two activities both inform and fund. Along with Suzanne Ciani, she’s a precursor of many latterday women immersed in and shaping music tech, such as Holly Herndon.

Once a leading light of the New York New Music scene, Laurie distanced herself from it just as it hit its public heyday in the early ’80s, having come to believe that it had sacrificed artistic integrity in favour of pumping out a readily consumable project. Since then, working for or in collaboration with various giant American communication technology firm, she’s followed her own interactive/algorithmic-inspired path primarily on electronic instruments, ranging from the Buchla synthesizer to early software synths or samplers. Among other things, she’s the conceiver and programmer of Music Mouse, mid-’80s compositional software with a “built-in knowledge of chord and scale convention and stylistic constraints” in order to encourage those who use it to think about other musical factors.

Despite Laurie’s usual focus on electronic sound production and methodology (plus its expansion into visual components), she began her musical life very much as an acoustic player – self-taught on mandolin, banjo and guitar, later moving on to lute – and has continued to write for traditional acoustic instruments either solo or in groups, and it’s this area of her work that gets an airing at this particular Kammer Klang. Seems it’s difficult to dig up examples of her acoustic work on Youtube, so instead here’s a quick, rare clip of her playing guitar followed by the New Music USA documentary from four years ago which it’s taken from, investigating Laurie’s work in broader terms (including the concept of her as a “grassroots technologist”).



 
Accompanied by a video work by Anders Bigum with Neil Luck, ARCO will be performing the British premiere of Neil’s new work ‘Live Guy Dead Guy’. One of Neil’s fields, loosely speaking, is musical theatre, but not of the ‘Oklahoma!’ or ‘Hamilton’ side. Rather, it’s peculiar, sometimes comical or unsettling interactions between live musicians and noisemakers, performance artists and (sometimes) whoever happens to be present in the venue at the time. One of his previous pieces, ‘Submission (Rear Naked Choke)’, is scored for “guitarist and stagehand”, while his choral work ‘PA’ features a standard choir plus speaker but also “optional audience participation”.

‘Live Guy Dead Guy’ has been described as “a batty display of his thoughts around digital identity and avatars.” Here’s a baffling clip from his earlier, similarly-themed lo-budget experimental work ‘Perfect Geek’, in which “a prodigal son returns home from Silicon Valley to visit his traditional Danish parents… he’s brought his fiancé with him; a digital avatar he’s programmed himself. Using a sort of reverse motion-capture/bad-puppet performance technique the scene classical contemporary post-digital fears via jarringly conspicuous non-digital means.”


 
The opening Fresh Klang item will be a solo cello performance (by Oliver Coates) of ‘Gate, gate’ by emerging synaesthetic British composer Alexia Sloane, whose inspirations are “nature, philosophy and psychology. She also enjoys exploring the setting of texts from a wide range of cultures and languages. Her method of composing involves very strongly imagining the pitches she wishes to be played or sung both melodically and harmonically away from any instrument. She writes the pitches down in Braille music and then dictates them to an amanuensis. The use and effect of silence in music fascinate her, perhaps as a result of her love of Buddhism.”

Here’s her earlier ensemble piece ‘Colour’ from the 2016 Aldeburgh Young Musicians apprentice weekend.


 

Kammer Klang presents:
Oliver Coates/Eliza McCarthy/Tom McKinney play Laurie Spiegel + Neil Luck/ARCO + Oliver Coates plays Alexia Sloane
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 5th June 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

* * * * * * * *

The following night, there’s a launch concert for Nonclassical‘s new EP release – ‘Outside The Lines – Vol. 2’.

Nonclassical, 6th June 2018“The ‘Outside The Lines’ series showcases new and emerging artists, bringing interesting, boundary-pushing music to the fore, and spanning the breadth of the new classical music scene in London and beyond. Curated by radio DJ, tastemaker and all-round musical adventurer Nick Luscombe, the EP celebrates the diverse breadth of new classical music being created in scenes in London and beyond.

“A selection of artists from the EP will perform live, alongside sets by Nonclassical DJs. There’s a new work by Midori Komachi for violin and field recordings, plus a new composition by Zoë Martlew for cello and tape performed by Cecilia Bignall – both of which will be performed live, alongside other artists and sets by Nonclassical DJs.

“Also featuring contributions from singing cellist Anyanna Witter-Johnson, percussionist Beth Higham-Edwards, cellist Gabriella Swallow, and composers Freya Waley-Cohen and Charlotte Harding, the release is available for streaming and download from 8th June. It’s an EP full of artists that are bending the rules and finding their voice – artists that aren’t afraid to colour outside the lines. Enter the secret bookcase at the back of The Victoria in Dalston to join us for the launch party.”

There’s not much more information on the EP just yet, so here are some previous pieces and performances by some of the associated composers and performers:




 
Nonclassical presents:
Outside the Lines #2 EP Launch: Anyanna Witter-Johnson + Cecilia Bignall + Beth Higham-Edwards + Gabriella Swallow etc. (playing Midori Komachi, Zoë Martlew, Freya Waley-Cohen, Charlotte Harding etc.)
The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, Hackney, London, E8 3AS, England
Wednesday 6th June 2018, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

* * * * * * * *

…and the evening after that, Club Inégales continues its Song Of Songs sequence (I’m a bit disappointed that I’ve missed the existence of the preceding ones…)

Club Inégales, 7th May 2018

“…Drawing inspiration from Middle Eastern and Asian poets such as Rumi and Khalil Gibran, and that exceptionally sensual chapter in the Bible ‘The Song of Solomon’, our house band and talented guests will be celebrating music and poetry that expresses love and devotion, in both human and mystical ways.

“In the fourth of five shows, we are very lucky to be showcasing the talents of Jenni Roditi‘s The Improvisers’ Choir, who recently won the Non-Classical Battle of the Bands Competition. They are truly impressive, and we can’t wait for them take us on spontaneous journeys of vocal invention from our Euston HQ.

“As always, our ever-adventurous house band Notes Inégales will be on hand to help bring both artists’ exciting sonic explorations to life. As always, there’ll be delicious food from Taste of India available on the day, and free WiFi.”

 
Club Inégales presents:
Jenni Roditi & The Improvisers’ Choir
Club Inégales, 180 North Gower Street, Euston, London, NW1 2NB, England
Thursday 7th June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 

April 2018 – folk-theatre in progress in London and Bristol: ‘Travelling With Thomas’ (12th, 23rd, 24th April)

8 Apr

I can’t believe that, up until now, I’ve managed to miss news of this. A team gradually workshopping a brand-new folk musical and bringing it to the public in Bristol and London this month – a folk opera, really, based on an old, old story (in fact, one of my favourites of its kind, about a man given the twisted gift of prophecy along with the inability to lie, often with the proviso that the results will come back and hit him).

'Travelling With Thomas', 2018

“An ancient tale. A new twist. A musical journey. ‘Travelling With Thomas‘ presents an interactive gig that presents beautiful new songs, music and artwork to explore the legends and folklore of Thomas the Rhymer. Forced to travel to Fairyland, Thomas is helped and hindered as he tries to find a safe way home. It is a tale of fairness, love, truth and time. Come and join the journey!

“Composer Laurel Swift and designer Lizzie Watts invite you to share their journey with some of the finest performers on the scene as they start to create a new folk musical, and conclude their first year-long collaborative project. This fourth and final showcase is a summary of the perilous journey so far and a tantalising insight into what’s to come. It’s a unique, behind the scenes insight into the artistic development of ‘Travelling with Thomas’. Through an exhibition and concert, view Lizzie’s distinctive artwork and hear Laurel’s contagious music performed by a captivating cast of leading folk performers.”

Laurel’s already an inspiring (or intimidating) talent – the founder, leader and choreographer of the self-explanatory Morris Offspring dance troupe; ceilidh fiddler and singer in The Gloworms; double bassist in Gadarene; and clogdancer in pretty much everything she does. She’s dipped into storytelling before, telling a semi-improvised selkie tale as the instrumental/dancing half of the ‘Under Her Skin‘ team (alongside performance storyteller Debs Newbold). Lizzie is even more deeply embedded in tale-telling, probably being best known as a third of the three-woman core of Thimble Theatre who assemble physical theatre out of circus, music and traditional arts.

In addition, the ensemble putting the music together is a pretty fantastic cross-section of British folk, classical and theatrical crossover. It features singer and fiddler Ben Moss (Lauren’s partner in both Ben & Laurel and the spring-themed touring show ‘A Branch of May’), plus Lizzie’s Thimble Theatre cohort Harriet Riley (marimba and percussion, also in Spindle Ensemble and Tezeta). Other members are Hazel Askew (voice and flute, from Lady Maisery and The Askew Sisters), Nick Janaway (a.k.a. Newton Disc, voice and guitar), Deb Chalmers (fiddle and viola, from Stepling, The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra and innumerable sessions), Sarah Moody (cello and voice, from The Devil’s Violin), and finally the Bellowhead/Faustus duo of Benji Kirkpatrick (voice, bouzouki) and Paul Sartin (fiddle, oboe, voice).

Dates and places:

  • Horsefair (formerly the Alliance Boots store), 49 The Horsefair, Broadmead Shopping Centre, Bristol, BS1 3JY, England, Thursday 12th April 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • Gunnersbury Park Museum @ The Small Mansion, Gunnersbury Park, Acton, London, W3 8LQ, England, Monday 23rd April 2018, 1.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Cecil Sharp House, 2 Regents Park Road, Camden Town, London, NW1 7AY, England, Tuesday 24th April 2018, 7.30pm – information here, here and here

Sadly, I’ve picked this up too late to bring news of opportunities for you to get involved in the early developments, but at least you now get to see the work in something close to a finished form. Here are a couple of videos to explain more of the concept…

 

February-March 2018 – music and more from across the European borderlands and migrations, as part of the ‘Marchland’ performance season in London (various dates between 7th February and 3rd March) including KultNett, Sefiroth, Carneval String Trio, Åkervinda, Nikos Baroutsakis, Maiden In The Moor, Shiry Rashkovsky, Fran & Flora and Bardos Band…

1 Feb

Sprawling out over a long month between early February and early March, Théâtre Volière’s Marchland performance season will transform the City of London’s Bridewell Theatre into a recreation of “a secluded European theatre” aiming – via discussion and performance, music and acting, photography, discussion and art – “to explore what it means to be European today… everything that is good and bad about the human response to being pushed up against “otherness”…. (to) come together to share and unpick these European stories in an attempt to answer the question, “how do we live together?”…” Slipping in under the frowning threat of a hard, bruising Brexit and the rising of surly, xenophobic British fences, it’s a welcome and timely thing.

In principle, ‘Marchland’ is theatrical. Threaded through the season are performances of Volière’s own ‘Arnika’ dealing with the corrosive effects of dreadful secrets and guilt, post-Nazi occupation, in an Alsace town (exemplifying “the tragic choices forced on a border community trapped in a cycle of international vengeance” and of its quadralingual companion piece ‘Retour au pays‘, “exploring the multi-lingualism of border regions and its effect on their cultures” via the story of Alsatian poet Andre Weckmann and his journey – as a forced military draftee – through the Wehrmacht, the Russian front and the Free French). Also on offer are two pieces by La Soupe Compagnie: ‘Macao et Cosmage‘ (their headphone-driven children’s tale of colonialism – “part Japanese kamishabaï paper theatre, part pop-up storybook” – performed in a tiny twelve-person booth), and their poetry-and-puppetry-incorporating ‘Evocation’, a transposition of ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ (Albert Giraud’s Symbolist poem-cycle of conscious, candid estrangement and displacement) to a Victorian-era Brighton Beach where it’s fed through the experience and cyclic memories of a traumatised young female refugee (scored by electro-acoustic composer Antoine Arlot). There’ll also be a festival-spanning interactive attempt (featuring the combined efforts of Marchlands artists and audience) to create and represent a borderland country of the imagination.

Yet – point for point and performer for performer – the majority of the festival is musical, bringing together a fascinating sweep of players from across Europe and interspersing them with British musicians exploring transcontinental roots and history (whether these are their own – as in the case of British-based Sephardic ensemble Sefiroth – or where their curiosity, studies and sympathies have led them.

Here’s a breakdown of the musical events, condensed from various bits of the programme text.

Carneval String Trio

Carneval String Trio

Carneval String Trio (made up of violinist Kamila Bydlowska, viola player Shiry Rashkovsky and cellist Timothée Botbol) have created a fascinating programme of twentieth-century music for us. Vanished kingdoms and shifting borders here, in an Eastern Europe where identities and allegiances were torn apart under the most savage circumstances imaginable.

“They’ll be playing pieces by Zoltán Kodály, Ernő Dohnányi and Gideon Klein, works that shock and mesmerize in equal measure. Each of these composers used folkloric themes to express their unique national identities, and yet these identities were rewritten for them many times as borders shifted and ideologies fought over their homelands. This is music that challenges us to ask “what is left of our identity when it is warped and usurped by the forces of nationalism?”

“The cultural and political history of the former Yugoslavia features large in this year’s ‘Marchland’. Greek guitarist Nikos Baroutsakis joins the conversation with a recital of music from the Balkans and the wider region, where Europe meets the Middle East. He’ll be playing pieces inspired by the folk culture of Armenia, the Balkans (including the former Yugoslavia) and Turkey.

“Carlo Domeniconi’s Variations on ‘Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım (I’m On A Long Narrow Road)’ – a Turkish folk song of pain and suffering – opens the programme. It is followed by four traditional Armenian dances arranged for guitar by Iakovos Kolanian. Finally, a rare performance of Dusan Bogdanovic’s ‘Six Balkan Miniatures’, composed for and dedicated to, world peace during the Yugoslavian Civil War.


 
Fran & Flora are cellist Francesca Ter-Berg and violinist Flora Curzon. BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction described them as fiercely passionate and a string duo bound for glory, and that says it all about their approach to music making and their musical influences. For ‘Marchland’, they will be exploring musical styles from Eastern Europe, and how they are influenced by ongoing exchanges and tensions across borders and migrating communities. Expect soulful laments, exquisite songs, irresistible dance tunes, and tales of their musical adventures as outsiders intent on incorporating traditional music-making into their own, unique style.


 
“In addition, they’ll also perform in a double bill of music and conversation with Nikos Baroutsakis (extending their programme, their distinctive music-making interspersed with anecdotes and insights from their musicological travels in the Balkans) and, in another event, pairing up with Alex Batesmith’s dramatised talk ‘Blackbirds and Blue Helmets’ (about his experiences as a UN war crimes prosecutor in Kosovo and his travels in the former Yugoslavia).

Bardos Band

Bardos Band

“We were keen to programme work for ‘Marchland’ that explores the way culture is transformed as it crosses borders. ‘The Oak of Two Greens’ (from mediaeval music specialists Bardos Band, combining the talents of Sophia Brumfitt, Rebecca Austen-Brown, Corinna Silvester, Arngeir Hauksson and Leah Stuttard) shows us that this is an ancient and ongoing process.

“This is a melting-pot of rare and deeply-affecting music, woven around an ancient folktale. A resourceful harper charms his audience to sleep in order to steal their magical harp – The Oak of Two Greens. The harp belongs to the king of the Tuatha da Dannan; a legendary tribe which, according to legend, brought music to Ireland. Bardos Band follow the route this music might have travelled, using voice, harp, medieval fiddle, gittern, flutes and symphony to create an enchanting wash of sound.”

(Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any embeddable examples of the Bardos’ treatment of ‘The Oak Of Two Greens’, but it’s close enough to Christmas for me to offer you this…)


 
“The Bardos Band’s Sophia Brumfitt and Leah Stuttard also make up the early-music due Maiden In The Moor. For their own ‘Marchlands’ performance they’re reviving the music of Occitania, a vanished kingdom that once straddled Southern France and Northern Spain.

Maiden In The Moor

Maiden In The Moor

“The Occitan Troubadours sang of loyalty, love and longing, and their language and music survived through travelling poets and illuminated songbooks long after their culture was devastated by the Albigensian Crusade. Their work had a profound influence on European music and culture, and echoes of it can be heard in lieder, folk music, and the work of the singer-songwriters of our own time. The programme includes Troubadour and Trouvère songs, songs from the courts of Aquitaine and the Languedoc, and Spanish pilgrim songs.”

(Although there’s not much Maiden In The Moor material online, here’s an example of Occitan songcraft…)


 

“Norway’s KultNett bring together some of the foremost folk musicians and storytellers from beyond the Arctic Circle to examine the history of the peoples of Northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and Sápmi, the land of the Sámi people. Storytelling, a fast and furious fiddle and the traditional ‘joik’ of the Sámi are interwoven to create a performance that explores and interrogates the dynamics of cultural and ethnic hegemony in the Nordic region of Europe.


 

Ignacio Evangelista: 'After Schengen'

Ignacio Evangelista: ‘After Schengen’

“Adapted especially for Marchland and illustrated by a multi-media presentation, this is a truly immersive experience; a rare insight into a rich and vibrant borderland culture from the Northernmost reaches of Europe. They’ll also play in a separate double bill with Bardos Band, presenting an extended version of their Marchland programme.

“Inspired by Ignacio Evangelista’s photography sequence ‘After Schengen’, we brought together three artists to create an interdisciplinary event, ‘Before and After Schengen’, exploring the politics and the poetry around notions of the vanishing border.

Shiry Rashkovsky

Shiry Rashkovsky

“In front of a screening of his work, Ignacio will be talking about his fascination with Europe’s disused border posts. His talk will be interwoven with poems by Hungarian-born poet George Szirtes, written in response to Ignacio’s images and read by George himself. The whole will be framed by a unique performance of musical fragments and improvisations devised by Carneval String Trio violist Shiry Rashkovsky (also an associate member of the Philharmonia Orchestra).

This is a truly international collaboration that encapsulates perfectly the spirit of ‘Marchland’). Expect to find yourselves pondering the ephemeral and often arbitrary nature of borders. ‘Before and After Schengen’ will also be performed as a separate double bill with another extended performance of Kultnett’s ‘Sound of the Arctic’.


 
Sefiroth is an international collective of musicians founded by brothers Nick and Alex Roth to explore traditional Sephardic repertoire. music from the descendants of the Jews who left Spain or Portugal after 1492. Sung in Ladino (a language primarily spoken by Sephardic Jews), these ancient songs weave stories of love, loss and yearning for home, and evoke the lands where the diaspora settled: Iberia, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

“The group’s arrangements are as porous and wide-ranging as the history of the Sephardim, combining acoustic and electric instruments, improvisation, modern harmonies and trance-inducing rhythms. They’ll also be performing separately alongside Maiden In The Moor in a double bill; setting the revived music of a vanished culture alongside the living, evolving traditions of a banished people.


 
“Sweden and Denmark’s Åkervinda perform their unique, modern Scandinavian folksongs. Jazz singers at heart, and influenced by artists such as Björk and The Real Group, they share a deep love of folk music. Through improvisation, they breathe new life into traditional songs, singing stories of women through the ages in a programme of haunting harmonies and dazzling improvisations inspired by women’s history and the shifting populations of Europe. Their appearance at Marchland marks the opening of a UK tour and the release of their latest album. They’ll also be performing in a separate double bill with Maiden In The Moor.


 
“What can we say about our show ‘A Vanished Kingdom’? Not much, since it’s actually mostly your show and you’ve yet to devise it! Come and help make a season-long, open-access interdisciplinary event to be presented on the closing day of the season.

“On three consecutive Saturdays we’ll be meeting to create our own Vanished Kingdom – an imaginary borderland with its own culture, geography, history, language… All devised by you. If you’re a visual artist, writer or performer, if you’re someone who wants to share ideas in a supportive and respectful environment, if you’re someone who enjoys playing and make believe, then join us and artists from the Marchland season to help make something truly unique. You are welcome to come and go as you please for the duration of each workshop, and even to just quietly observe the controlled chaos! It’s completely free to participate.

On the 3rd March, we’ll be presenting the audience with a free ‘Vanished Kingdom’ event featuring the stories, songs, dances, artwork, history, geography of a European borderland of our participants’ collective imagination. As an opener to the presentation, there’ll be another chance to hear a performance by Åkervinda (giving us their perspective on women’s history and cross border co-operation) plus a one-off set from three members of Sefiroth (Alex Roth, Alice Zawadzki & Olesya Zdorovetska).

“Expect, perhaps, robust and lively debate about the tensions between regional identity and cross-cultural fertilisation, absurd flights of fancy and charming anecdotes, and a rich tapestry of differing viewpoints and traditions. Looking forward to meeting you at the crossroads!”

All events are at The Bridewell Theatre, 14 Bride Lane, Blackfriars, London EC4Y 8EQ, England. Dates are as follows.

Single concerts:

  • Carneval String Trio – Wednesday 7th & Wednesday 14th February 2018, 1:15pm
  • Nikos Baroutsakis – Thursday 8th February 2018, 1:15pm
  • Fran & Flora – Friday 9th February 2018, 1:15pm
  • KultNett’s ‘Sound of the Arctic’ – Friday 9th February 2018, 7:30pm; Tuesday 13th February 2018, 1:15pm; 16th February 2018, 1:15pm; 17th February 2018, 9:00pm
  • Bardos Band’s ‘The Oak of Two Greens’ – Monday 12th February 2018, 1:15pm
  • Before and After Schengen – Thursday 15th February 2018, 1:15pm
  • Sefiroth – Friday 16th February 2018, 7:30pm; Saturday 17th February 2018, 2:00pm; Friday 23rd February 2018, 7:30pm
  • Maiden in The Moor – Wednesday 28th February 2018, 1:15pm
  • Åkervinda – Friday 2nd March 2018, 1:15 pm

Double-bill concerts:

  • Nikos Baroutsakis + Fran & Flora – Saturday 10th February 2018, 2:00pm
  • Bardos Band’s ‘The Oak of Two Greens’ + KultNett’s ‘Sound of the Arctic’ – Saturday 10th February 2018, 7:30 pm
  • ‘Before and After Schengen’ + KultNett’s ‘Sound of the Arctic’ – Thursday 15th February 2018, 7:30 pm
  • Alex Batesmith’s ‘Blackbirds and Blue Helmets’ + Fran & Flora – Tuesday 20th February 2018, 7:30 pm
  • Maiden in the Moor + Sefiroth – Thursday 22nd February 2018, 7:30 pm
  • Åkervinda + Maiden in The Moor – Thursday 1st March 2018, 7:30 pm

‘A Vanished Kingdom’:

  • Free-entry workshops – Saturday 10th February 2018, 9.30am; Saturday 24th Feburary 2018, 2.00pm, Saturday 3rd March 2018, 10.00am
  • Presentation concert (plus pre-concert performances by Åkervinda + Alex Roth/Alice Zawadzki/Olesya Zdorovetskaya) – Saturday 3rd March 2018, 2:00 pm


All further details at the festival website, the Marchland Facebook page and the Bridewell event pages, with blogging here throughout the course of the season.
 

Marchland logo
 

November 2017 – upcoming London classical gigs – the 20th London New Wind Festival including Giorgio Coslovich and Michiko Shimanuki premieres (17th); Daniel Okulitch, Lucy Schaufer and Kim Criswell join an evening of the songs of Glen Roven (22nd November)

10 Nov

London New Wind Festival, 17th November 2017

Every Sunday on Oxford Street a bland corporate doorway disgorges a full Salvation Army wind band which, rain or shine, tramps up and down past the shoppers, playing hymns on busy corners or (at Christmastime) adding a numinous aural glow to the grandeur of Selfridges storefront. Should you choose to sneak inside the same door, you’ll find yourself in Regent Hall, a five-hundred-and-fifty seat venue, once a Victorian rollerskating rink but subsequently transformed by Sally Army founder William Booth into a worship hall. It’s one of central London’s hidden-away concert glories, much like the splendid Bolivar Hall tucked away at the Venezuelan Embassy ten minutes northwards (which you’re only likely to have heard of if invited to a Latin American event).

London New Wind Festival, 17th November 2017I’ve only recently discovered that Regent Hall hosts the annual London New Wind Festival, directed by oboeist and composer Catherine Pluygers, and that the 2017 concert takes place next Friday. The evening sports a double-quintet ensemble of Simon Desorgher and Gavin Morrison (flutes), Judy Proctor and Catherine Pluygers (oboes), Phil Edwards and Ian Mitchell (clarinets), Henryk Sienkiewicz and Gillian Jones (horns), Glyn Williams and Anna Feild (bassoons) plus pianist Robert Coleridge and conductor David Sutton-Anderson; promising “a concert in our usual style… a varied and memorable programme of new music with focus on wind symphony orchestras, brass ensembles, new music by women composers and improvisation.”

The concert notes add “as is our trademark, we are presenting an exciting concert of new pieces especially written for double wind quintet (ten wind players) as well as piano and electronics, composed in a huge variety of styles ranging from the edgy ‘Rape Of The Moone’ by Elisabeth Lutyens (for eight wind instruments), and the mobile ‘Shadow Play’ (for flute and clarinet) by George Nicholson, to the atmospheric ‘Windchanges’ (for ten wind instruments) by Michael Christie and the dynamic ’Metropolis’ (for all eleven players and electronics) by Catherine Pluygers.”

Full programme:

George Nicholson – Shadow Play for Flute and Clarinet
Giorgio Coslovich – A Winter’s Tale (world premiere)
Michiko Shimanuki – Ordinary Things in My Garden (world premiere)
David Sutton-Anderson – Nachtritt
Elisabeth Lutyens – Rape of the Moone (Op.90)
Catherine Pluygers – Metropolis
Michael Christie – Windchanges
Paul Patterson – Phoenix Sonata (2nd movement) for oboe and piano

London New Wind Festival, The Hinrichsen Foundation, Holst Foundation & the Performing Rights Society present:
The 20th London New Wind Festival
Regent Hall, Salvation Army, 275 Oxford Street, London, W1C 2DJ, England
Friday 17th November 2017, 7.30pm
information

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With his roots and his heart in Broadway (where he debuted as a musical director at the tender age of nineteen), recognition which includes four Emmy Awards, and skills that span piano, composing, lyric-writing, conducting, opera translation and producing, Glen Roven is pretty much the complete musician.

This is particularly true if you start by looking at things through the rosy lens of adult contemporary music. Glen’s a globetrotting polymath of those spangled and sometimes self-regarding spheres within which Presidential inaugurations and all-star galas, light and heavy concert music blend with tuxedo-donning pop stars, power brokers and opera premieres. His adventures include writing a musical with Armistead Maupin, conducting high-profile live Steven Spielberg extravaganzas and Leonard Bernstein tributes, and leading orchestras for (among others) Sinatra, Domingo, Sammy Davis Jr and Kermit the Frog.

Yet for all of the pops-gala glitz that can surround Glen, he’s also deeply embedded in the formal classical world, translating Mahler, Schubert and Mozart and generating prolific amounts of his own original work – notably, thirty-five different song cycles which have worked their way into repertoire around the world). In part, he’s the deliverer of a kind of sumptuous, sugarplum American classical – deceptively complex and with a shrewd mind brought to bear on its audience, bridging the inclusive easy-listening dynamics of pop-orchestral and classical fusion with the edgier harmonic depth of unsublimated modern music. He’s arguably best known these days for his adaptations of classic children’s narratives ‘The Runaway Bunny’ and ‘Goodnight Moon’, both of which are latterday successors to the likes of Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ and Don Gillis’ ‘The Man Who Invented Music’ (and, all right, Kleinsinger and Tripp’s ‘Tubby the Tuba’) – accessible and dramatic music full of colours, moods and ready universal emotion: functioning both as stepping stones into a wider classical world and as witty, heartfelt works in their own right. On a harder note, his taut and emotional contributions to ‘The AIDS Quilt Songbook’ project suggest a man who’s anything but lost in showbiz.

The Music of Glen Roven, 22nd November 2017If you fancy an up-close London evening in which Glen himself pares his work down to its greatest simplicity and directness – just his own piano plus three leading singers from classical and musical theatre – you’ve got a chance to attend one. At Waterloo’s 1901 Arts Club, Glen will be joined by Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch (soon to be seen in the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s ‘Marnie’ at English National Opera), and international mezzo sopranos Lucy Schaufer and Kim Criswell for various UK premiere performances, including a world premiere.

Jonathan Blalock & Tintagel Music present:
Kim Criswell, Daniel Okulitch and Lucy Schaufer sing The Music Of Glen Roven
1901 Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Wednesday 22nd November 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

Programme:

Two Songs by Edna St. Vincent Millay (Love Is Not Love, An Ancient Gesture) (performed by Lucy Schaufer) (UK premiere)
Saraband from ‘Symphony No.2’ (performed by Glen Roven) (world premiere)
Songs from the Underground (performed by Daniel Okulitch) (UK premiere)
The Hillary Speeches (performed by Kim Criswell) (UK premiere)
Goodnight Moon (performed by Daniel Okulitch) (UK premiere)

For examples I’ll leave you with performances of ‘Goodnight Moon’ in its full orchestral/soprano version, a Roven Yeats setting and the AIDS Quilt piece ‘Retro’ (the latter two sung by Daniel Okulitch) plus a hour-long interview with Glen himself, which ought to throw his work into a more detailed light as well as displaying his own confident, breezy pragmatism about his method and motives (pragmatic enough to make most of my critical hopscotching above a little redundant).

 

October 2017 – upcoming London experimental gigs – the Radiophonic Workshop takes over the British Library (13th October)

3 Oct

A quick reposting…

Radiophonics Workshop, 13th October 2017

The British Library presents:
Late at the Library: The Radiophonic Workshop & Guests
Entrance Hall @ The British Library, 96 Euston Road, Kings Cross, London, NW1 2DB, England
Friday 13th October 2017, 6.30pm

information

“The Radiophonic Workshop are one of the most influential electronic music groups of all time. Founded in 1958 by Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram, it was home to a maverick group of experimental composers, sound engineers and musical innovators including the late Delia Derbyshire. In a series of small studios within the labyrinthine corridors of the BBC Maida Vale complex, the Workshop set about exploring new ways of using – and abusing – technology to create new sounds.


 
“Their influence on popular music has been profound. As the in-house composers of music and effects for the BBC they created the sonic backdrops for ‘Doctor Who’, ‘The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’, ‘Tomorrow’s World’ and countless others. From The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Prince and Pink Floyd through to some of the most innovative contemporary electronic artists and DJs, the Workshop’s legacy continues to grow as new generations of musicians discover their catalogue of extraordinary recordings.

“Now, nearly two decades after the Workshop was decommissioned, original members Peter Howell, Roger Limb, Dr Dick Mills, Paddy Kingsland and long-time associate composer Mark Ayres are back working together. They soundtracked the childhoods of several generations, now they’re back to soundtrack your Friday night with a two part set. The first is a live version of their first studio album for twenty-five years, the improvised work ‘Burials On Several Earths’, with guest collaborator Martyn Ware (Heaven 17, The Human League and BEF). The second is a heritage archive set in which the Workshop perform some of their best known material – including the high water mark of early British electronica – the signature tune for ‘Doctor Who’.

“Join the Radiophonic Workshop at 6.30pm for a special in-conversation event ‘Soundhouses: The Radiophonic Workshop at 60’. Tickets include entry to the Late event. Visuals for the night are performed by Obsrvtry, a collaboration between Michael Faulkner (founder of D-Fuse) and Ben Sheppee (creator of Lightrhythm Visuals), with a guest DJ set from Tom Middleton of Global Communication.”


 

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

22 May

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

'Think Of A Song', 31st May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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



 

May 2017 – upcoming London classical gigs – polygender opera with ‘Binary Optional’ at CPT (May 25th & 26th)

21 May

One of the month’s more interesting London opera events…

'Binary Optional', 25th & 26th May 2017

Oedipa & Lucia Lucas present:
‘Binary Optional’
Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, Euston, London, NW1 2PY, England
Thurday 25th & Friday 26th May 2017, 9.00pm
information

From the press release, spliced with a little more research:

Oedipa collaborates with the extraordinary female baritone Lucia Lucas (Wuppertaler Bühnen, Deutsche Oper, Chicago Opera Theatre) on an evening of song in transition: from masc to femme, classical to queer and oppression to freedom.

“A freelance opera singer based in Germany (who has previously held full-time contracts with the Badisches Staatstheater, Kalsruhe, Theater und Orchester Heidelberg and the Deutsche Oper, Berlin), Lucia Lucas is a strong dramatic baritone specializing in Verdi roles, and has sung roles including Ford in ‘Falstaff’, Iago in ‘Otello’, Escamillo in ‘Carmen’, Le Grand-Prêtre in ‘Samson et Dalilah’, Jochanaan in ‘Salome’, Alberich in ‘Das Rheingold’, Thoas in ‘Iphigenie en Tauride’, Figaro in ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, Leporello and Giovanni in ‘Don Giovanni’, Mephistopheles in ‘Faust’, Don Pizzaro in ‘Fidelio’ and Nick Shadow in ‘The Rake’s Progress’.

“Beyond this, Lucia is one of the small but growing number of transgender woman performing significant operatic roles (a list of singers which includes Breanna Sinclairé and Emily De Salvo, whose own unusual range covers baritone to soprano). As Lucia commented in an interview in ‘Slipped Disc’ a couple of years ago, “I am performing all of the same things. Still singing angry old men on stage, but fringe projects have also started appearing as possibilities”. ‘Binary Optional’ is one such project – singing Bizet, Britten, Wagner, Purcell and Adams, flirting with Sarah Vaughan and ‘Rocky Horror’, Lucia draws on her experience singing classical repertoire across the world to tell her incredible story and celebrate the fluidity and plurality of gender in opera.


 
“Oedipa is the alter ego of writer/director Finn Beames (who’s dedicated himself to working “against the male perspective”) and a diverse range of varying collaborators. As Oedipa, groups of artists create and produce live performances in theatre, opera and related forms, often with an emphasis on music.

“Based in London and working internationally, Finn won the 2015 Genesis Future Directors Award at the Young Vic for his production of Man: 3 Plays by Tennessee Williams in the Clare theatre. He also holds the 2015 Lina Bo Bardi Fellowship, granted by the British Council for research into the eponymous Brazilian architect and the creation of a piece of theatre. For his own company, bodycorps, he recently directed a sold-out run of a new opera about depression, funded by The Wellcome Trust and ACE. Finn has commissioned further new work for bodycorps, including a musical based on The Sorrows of Young Werther. In 2014 Finn wrote, directed and designed a new music theatre work for the London Sinfonietta with composer Gavin Higgins, which they are currently expanding into a triptych. Finn is a director/librettist on the Jerwood Opera Writing Programme at Aldeburgh Music, and a member of the Young Vic Directors Network and Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York.”
 

May 2017 – upcoming London gigs – The Magic Lantern, Nick Ereaut, Amy Walker and Sky Coloured at Rain Today (May 18th); Vanishing Twin and Dijf Sanders at Total Refreshment Centre (May 19th); Quiet Boy, Roxanne Tataei and Brigitte Aphrodite at Total Refreshment Centre (May 25th)

9 May

Pulled out of the bag for today’s post of “soon-to-arrive” shows in the capital – a free baroque pop songwriter’s night and a pair of oblique pop evenings with fairly diverse bills. Almost entirely cut’n’pasted info here, since I’m up against time again.

* * * * * * * *

The Magic Lantern + Nick Ereaut + Amy Walker + Sky Coloured, 18th May 2017Rain Today and Sky Coloured present:
Rain Today: The Magic Lantern + Nick Ereaut + Amy Walker + Sky Coloured
The Junction, 171 Coldharbour Lane, Loughborough Junction, London, SE5 9PA, England
Thursday 18th May 2017 , 7.00pm
– free event – information

The Magic Lantern is the musical moniker of Jamie Doe. A multi-instrumentalist with an immediately arresting voice, he is currently recording his third album ‘To The Islands’, mostly written during a tumultuous journey to Australia, where he was born, after nearly ten years away.

“Following the stripped-back intimacy of Jamie’s second album, ‘To This Islands’ features a powerful new ensemble exploring memory, hope and our perennial search for acceptance with an intriguing variety of musical textures. ‘To The Islands’ is due for release in the winter of 2017/18.


 
Nick Ereaut is an East London based singer-songwriter and jazz musician. He grew up studying classical piano and double bass before becoming a jazz bass player by trade. Aside from these roots, his influences include Joni Mitchell, Paul McCartney, Donny Hathaway, Nik Bärtsch and the poetry of Allen Ginsberg and Ted Hughes. He’s currently working on his debut EP, featuring a string quartet.


 
Amy Walker‘s slow, folky songs tell tales of dropping out of university, facing adversity in the workplace and the treasures and trials of love. Born in London in 1984 (and recently returned after a decade in Paris) she originally studied songwriting and the physics of sound in Dartington, Devon: she has gone on to record in an aircraft hangar and a mine, and her piano duet ‘My Head Is A Piano’ called for the pianists to sit cross-legged under their pianos.

“Her first studio album, ‘Unravel’, tells the story of the last decade of her life, from abandoning university (Michael And The South West Useless Brigade), to being paid less than her male counterpart (Filthy Little Shrew), to finding peace (Angels Come Down), and losing it again (She Did Tell You).

Sky Coloured are a symphonic pop band from south-east London. A collective of brilliant musicians playing songs of outstanding craft and originality, they put out their debut LP, ‘Starting Time’, in December 2016.”



 
* * * * * * * *

Vanishing Twin + Dijf Sanders, 19th May 2017Total Refreshment Centre presents:
Vanishing Twin + Dijf Sanders
Total Refreshment Centre, 2a Foulden Road, Shacklewell, London, N16 7UR, London, England
Friday 19th May 2017, 7.00pm
information

“Oblique pop ensemble Vanishing Twin formed in 2015 over a love of unusual instruments, freaky records and the irresistible seduction of A Good Groove. Founder Cathy Lucas, after releasing a string of conceptual cassettes on her own RAM* label under the name Orlando, put a band together and named it after her Vanishing Twin, a sister absorbed in utero, when they were both still a cluster of cells.

“For the launch of the project’s new EP, Cathy is joined by drummer Valentina Magaletti (Tomaga, Shit and Shine, Raime, Neon Neon), bassist Susumu Mukai (a.k.a. primitive electronic producer Zongamin), library music head Phil M.F.U. (Man From Uranus) on strange sounds, and film-maker/visual artist Elliott Arndt on flute and percussion.


 
Dijf Sanders‘s last album, ‘Moonlit Planetarium’, takes you to a trip of yet undiscovered regions where the most diverse individuals have met in a flawless vibe to retire in harmony and peace whilst wondering what so-called civilization has done to their former planet. Tribal rhythms, warm melodies, electronics, deep melancholy and spoken word fused to a seamless and beautiful musical work in utopia. Dijf is based in Gent, Belgium and produced ‘Moonlit Planetarium’ in collaboration with brass and flute players Nathan Daems and Jon Birdsong.”


 
There’ll also be a DJ set helmed by psychedelic “out-of-this-world music” band Flamingods.

* * * * * * * *

Quiet Boy + Roxanne Tataei + Brigitte Aphrodite, 25th May 2017Quiet Boy presents:
Quiet Boy + Roxanne Tataei + Brigitte Aphrodite + Gemma Cairney (DJ set)
Total Refreshment Centre, 2a Foulden Road, Shacklewell, London, N16 7UR, London, England
Thursday 25th May 2017, 7.00pm
information

“Multi-instrumental pop quintet Quiet Boy (offering a heavy poly-rhythmic punch, weaving lines, pretty piano, romantic strings and deep bass webs) are celebrating the release of their first EP, ‘Earwig with an evening of new material and video projections. It’s an incredibly important night for the Quiet Boy project, which has been in the making for over three years.


 
Roxanne Tataei (a.k.a. Rox) describes herself and her new music as “the lovechild of Minnie Riperton and Stevie Nicks, by way of South London”: her critically acclaimed debut album ‘Memoirs’ was released in 2010 on Rough Trade and led to tours with Mark Ronson, Paul Weller and Nitin Sawhney.

“Wanderlust sated, the last few years have been dedicated to writing and recording new material. Her second album’s on the way with new creative collaborators including Nick Trepka (Emmy the Great), Grammy award winning producer Al Shux (Lana Del Rey/ Alicia Keys) and NTS maverick Lord Tusk (Dean Blunt, Hyperdub) in tow. Roxanne Tataei is gearing up for 2017 – more expressive, exploratory and emancipated than ever before.


 
Brigitte Aphrodite is a multifaceted punk showgirl and performance artist committed to social expression. She is most recently known for her critically acclaimed show ‘My Beautiful Black Dog’ a part-gig/part-theatre punk musical exploring depression. The show sold out at the Edinburgh Fringe, featured on the BBC 10’O Clock News and in the Guardian and Elle magazine, and toured the UK with sold-out shows at Southbank Centre and The Wellcome Collection in London.

“Brigitte is soon to release her debut album, book and second theatrical show (‘Parakeet’).”

 
To round things off there’ll be a DJ set by Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney.
 

April 2017 – upcoming gigs – Billy Bottle & The Multiple bring ‘The Other Place’ to Exeter (2nd)

26 Mar

Pastoral jazzers and questioning songmakers Billy Bottle & The Multiple are bringing their show ‘The Other Place’ (a kind of Brexit-themed pilgrimage-cum-road movie, dealing with questions of connection, national moods and democracy) to Exeter at the beginning of April.

I wrote something extensive about the show’s roots and methods back in mid-2016, so you can read more about that here.

In other news, the band have launched a Pledgemusic crowdfunding campaign to fund the recording and release of the album version of the show – more on that here.

Billy Bottle & The Multiple: 'The Other Place'

‘The Other Place’ by Billy Bottle & The Multiple
The Barnfield Theatre, Barnfield Road, Exeter, Devon, EX1 1SN, England
Sunday 2nd April 2017, 7.00pm
– information here and here
 


 

 

November/December 2016 – upcoming music theatre – sounds from Billy Bottle & The Multiple’s ‘The Other Place’ and a rundown of the other shows in the All The Right Notes multi-media music theatre festival (15th November to 3rd December)

15 Nov

This just in – Lee Fletcher, touring soundwizard for Billy Bottle & The Multiple, just tipped me off about this Bandcamp montage he’s just made of their currently touring show ‘The Other Place’.

There should be a YouTube version shortly, which I’ll paste in when it’s available. Meanwhile, there’s more on the show in general here, and more on its current dates here.

* * * * * * * *

One of the ‘Other Place’ dates is in London this weekend – taking place at Camden People’s Theatre, as part of their ‘All The Right Notes’ “gig-theatre” festival exploring the interaction, interweaving and intersectionality of theatre and music on the fringes. While on the subject, I should post up a little more about the festival, since it’s starting today.

So here’s a rapid rundown of what’s on offer in ‘All The Right Notes’ between 15th November and 3rd December. Most of the text is stripped and compressed from the homepage (where there’s full dates, times and details if you want to pursue the shows in depth). I’ve added or rearranged a few things where necessary, including some personal impressions. Because performance artists aren’t the only people who can mash up texts… oh yeah… (postures)

Some of the shows are pretty much straight musical gigs, with the theatre inherent in the performance rather than explicitly mounted as part of the staging. Digifolk musicians and quixotic archivists The Memory Band (who, in their own words, “navigate a dream landscape of fading identity, dredging up forgotten histories from old maps” and “the ghost-lit back-roads of British traditional music where digital machinery and acoustic musicians congregate to make old music from the future”) offer a performance previewing their upcoming fifth album ‘A Fair Field’, which spans a world of folk word and song from the fourteenth-century narrative epic ‘Piers Plowman’ to the generation of unaccompanied English folk singers who passed in the mid-twentieth century to Northumbrian modernist poet Basil Bunting. It’s best to let them map out their own album description too – “the music was fed by stories of magical hares and the recollections of ballad sellers bearing placards at the great fairs of times past, the fields of which now lie buried beneath leisure centres, electricity substations and retail parks. It traces the connection between the headstone of a man killed in Norfolk by the sails of a windmill, the first observations of solar flares, incendiarism, council estates and an old man’s recollection of ploughing the land by starlight in another time.” Later in the season, Daniel Marcus Clark‘s ‘Between’ looks for “the story in every song and the song in every story” in a solo set delivered by beat-up old voice and a pair of guitars via a mood and method compared variously to Marc Ribot, Mississipi John Hurt and Vincent Price.



 
As you’d expect from a theatre space preoccupied with fringe activity and political art, there’s a strong representation of standalone and intersectional aspects within the broad church of contemporary dance music and the cultures which make it up, taking in hot and fluid topics of race, feminism, class, communality and chosen ways of self-expression. Accompanied by beatboxer/vocalists Kate & Nate (from Battersea Arts Centre’s Beatbox Academy), actor-writer Lauren Gauge will present her raw feminist comedy-with-music ‘The Unmarried’, a drama of raucous, brassy, party-friendly resistance to patriarchy, rhythmically underscored by a live mix of beat-boxing, ‘90s dance hits and old-school UK garage tunes – “gig theatre… theatre you can rave to.” Earlier in the season, reknowned London grime MC Flowdan will present a special performance of his lyrics (stripped from their soundsystem context and performed with voice alone under a spotlight), while the festival will close with musician-performer Will Dickie’s live-art DJ set ‘The Rave Space’ (a staged rave which explores the ideals and situation of unity through dance culture, and which overlaps the boundaries of dance party communion and theatre-space performance, although Will’s keeping schtum about precisely how this occurs…)


 
Several pieces operate within the publically settled, privately fragile area of contemporary early adulthood and its codes of faith,behaviour and expectations which end up being kicked around by our own doubts and insecurities and by the challenges and occasional perversities of our individual drives and experiences. Songwriter, actress and theatre maker Isobel Rogers performs her open-mic drama ‘Elsa’, about a woman working in a coffee shop while pursuing her dreams on the side. As she drifts in and out of the characters who come into the cafe, Elsa is confronted with different characters from both literature and reality and begins to lead the lives of Nina, Miranda, Lillian and Grace in her own head. Keeping a part of herself elsewhere through song, Elsa plays a trick on a world that keeps telling her how to “be”.

Heavier notes are provided by Rachel Mars and Alicia Jane Turner. The former (with musical support from singer-songwriter Louise Mothersole of Sh!t Theatre) performs her proudly spiky, witty work ‘Our Carnal Hearts’, “a gleeful, thrilling and murky celebration of envy, competitive spirits and all the times we fuck each other over… performed with a live surround-sound choral score, it is born from the suspect parentage of an ideological rally, a drunken sing-song and a seductive dream.” The latter uses her skills as composer, performance artist and multi-instrumentalist to present ‘Breathe (Everything Is Going To Be Okay)’ – “a full-body immersion of soaring strings and spiralling sound in a daringly vulnerable solo performance exploring the relationship between our bodies and minds… blending visceral live music with intimate confessions, Breathe is an unflinchingly honest dissection of our daily anxieties and fears.”

 
As you’ll guess from the above in particular, not everything in the festival is kid- or family-friendly, but there are some exceptions. Moths (performer/musician Joe White and theatre maker Tanya Stephenson, both of whom also work with perennial percussion-fest STOMP) present ‘Pale Phoebe’ – a performance mingling storytelling, clever lighting and projection effects and percussive, androgynous contemporary synth pop to tell the dreamlike story of an imagined journey to the moon. In ‘The Castle Builder’, punky, childlike, lo-fi electropopper Kid Carpet and actor-storyteller Vic Llewellyn join forces for a playful, uplifting show based around true tales of unlikely people who created extraordinary outsider art just for the pleasure of it. In the process, they ask questions about art, who it’s for and what mark it leaves on the world. In addition, each performance will feature a different maker, who at the end of the show will present the audience with something they build or create using the debris from the show and anything else they find scattered around the stage.



 
If you’re after more esoterically cerebral (or potentially baffling) performances, a couple of those are waiting in the wings. Perhaps coincidentally, both are two-handers featuring frenetically active male text’n’context shredders and reknowned female experimental violinists who blur the boundaries between being muses, partners and upsetters. In ‘Within The Context Of No Context’ Tim Parkinson and Angharad Davies explore the crossover between theatre-as-sound and sound-as-theatre via prepared-violin music drama interpretations of avant-garde compositions by Louis D’Heudieres, Stefan Thut, Alison Knowles, John Cage and others (with a title inspired by George S Trow’s influential essay about the decline of society in the new age). In ‘Seeping Through (CPT)’, regular collaborators Aisha Orazbayeva and Tim Etchells perform an intense, rolling two-hour improvisation in spontaneous fragments, with text and music treated as fluid forces in the same space, fading in and out of each other, breathing together, cutting and cancelling each other, creating a dynamic and always unstable landscape. Tim collages and constructs the show’s verbal content from diverse fragments of notebook scribbles, past performance text and works in progress, creating collisions, loops, and unexpected connections between different spoken materials; while Aisha plays vigorously deconstructed classical violin using extended technique, strange sounds, and “radically remixed and quoted” elements from the classical repertoire. (As an example, below is an earlier Etchells/Orazbayeva work: nearly six excruciating yet compelling minutes of the duo wringing as many disrupted nuances as possible from brief sentences and clauses recited over grinding string noise.)

 

Also on the festival bill are a pair of straight (well, relatively straight) musicals. “Misguided and aspirational” performance art group mingbeast present their “uplifting musical” ‘Awful Things Can Happen At Any Time’ (in which two barely-prepared pop wannabes struggle to get their act and songs together on a shared and battered iPad, jostling the business of dreaming about being in a band and actually becoming one).There’s a work-in-progress showing of Duckie star Boogaloo Stu’s ‘The Regeneration Game’, a comedy musical taking well-deserved sideswipes at the property racket currently turning scores of community pubs into community-detached luxury flats. See landlord and landlady Kev and Babs, from closure-threatened pub The Dog & Dumplings, plan to take on the big boys in a tale of “a boozer in decline, dodgy developers and dogging…”

A couple of pieces embark on voyages into the family and the circumstantial shocks and resolutions to be found within it. Armed with voice and electronic drumkit, poet-musician Antosh Wojcik performs his innovative, touching ‘Building A Voice-Percussion Gun To Kill Glitches In Memory’, in which he explores “the effects of dementia on speech, memory and motor skills. Assigning rhythms to family members, Antosh attempts to build a ‘voice-percussion gun’ to destroy inherited Alzheimer’s. Poems become beats become glitches in time in this poignant and mesmeric display of live drumming and spoken word.” Ziad Nagy’s ‘Too Human’ is “an interdisciplinary exploration into the chasms of family constellations, the fragmentary structures that make us who we are, and the insatiable desire to make things better. Through the disjointedness of live collage making, experimental music production, and confessional storytelling, Ziad lays bare what at first seems idiosyncratic and slowly transforms into the poetically ubiquitous.” (As you can see, I didn’t much feel like paraphrasing all that.)

Other events include a panel session discussing why live music and theatre are converging (featuring contemporary music theatre driver Patrick Eakin Young, journalist/editor Andrzej Lukowski of ‘Time Out‘ and ‘Drowned In Sound‘, and punk singer/theatre maker Racheal Clerke); and ‘Controlled Madness’, in which DJ, party promoter and acid house philosopher-celebrity Andy Blake engages in a late-night quasi-symposium (lit and soundtracked to conjure up a backstreet backroom atmosphere) with cultural commentators Ben Bashford and Joe Muggs, dealing on party culture and its role (questioned or otherwise) in contemporary society.

The ‘Big Bang’ evening features four work-in-progress shorts and excerpts – a love monologue from poet Ross Sutherland (compiled from actual outbursts he’s shouted at drum and bass DJs mid-set); ‘High Rise Estate Of Mind?’ (a tower-block, housing-crisis, class-and-character study in beatbox, rap and spoken word by Paul Cree and Conrad Murray of Beats & Elements); a scratch performance of sleepwalking, sleeptalking husband-and-wife dream drama by Lillian Henley and Tom Adams; and Nima Séne’s ‘I Belong’, in which Nima and her alter ego Beige Bitch explore the concept of belonging (nostalgia, deluding, seductive and political) via a melange of theatrical tricks, electronic sound, pop culture and autobiography.

 
Probably a good place to start (assuming that you can clear your evening) is tomorrow’s special night-after-opening night show ‘Note Form’. This features music-heavy excerpts from ‘Awful Things Can Happen At Any Time’, ‘High Rise Estate Of Mind?’ and She Goat’s ‘DoppelDänger’ (a “theatrical live-music gig of original music and unlikely cover songs with synth-pop, electronic textures and baroque harpsichord”); plus a standalone piece – ‘The Beginning Of The End Of The Heroic Child’, a “secular ecstatic ritual” by Nwando Ebizie‘s Afro-Anglo-Caribbean goddess persona Lady Vendredi which “transform(s) pain into beauty via the medium of discarded remnants of empty trash signifiers. Moving from the sea beneath the waters of the past through the fourth dimension and passing to a glimpse of a forgotten future. A rite for all of those who wish to take part in an inter-dimensional breakdown. A wild ride down a rabbit hole of splintering realities. Dogmas challenged, desires and dreams unravelled.” I think that pretty much covers everything – and so does this.
 

November 2016 – upcoming London classical gigs – Shadwell Opera’s Schoenberg and Turnage one-woman psychodramas (4th, 5th); more contrabass flute from Carla Rees at IKLECTIK (5th); Conway Hall’s London Festival of Bulgarian Culture chamber concerts (6th, 13th)

3 Nov

A quick sprint, and some quicker comments, through some imminent (and not-quite-so-imminent) classical performances about to take place in the Smoke. (One day I’ll get all of this stuff up well in advance. One day…)

* * * * * * * *

Shadwell Opera's ‘Erwartung/Twice Through The Heart’, 4th & 5th November 2016

Shadwell Opera presents:
‘Erwartung/Twice Through The Heart’
Hackney Showroom, Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, Hackney, London, E8 2BT, England
Friday 4th & Saturday 5th November 2016, 7.30pm
– information here

“A disused mine. You mime.

“The same sentence. The sound gets stuck.

“Life. Life.

Shadwell Opera present a dazzling double-bill of one woman psychodramas: ‘Erwartung’ by Arnold Schoenberg and ‘Twice Through The Heart’ by Mark-Anthony Turnage. Separated in the writing by ninety years, these two monodramas (both to words by female librettists, Marie Pappenheim and Jackie Kay) break apart and reconstitute the mind of an isolated woman in extraordinary stream-of-consciousness narrations.

“Directed by Shadwell Opera’s artistic director Jack Furness and associate director Celine Lowenthal, and conducted by musical director Finnegan Downie Dear, this programme will feature the role debuts of the exciting operatic talents Madeleine Pierard and Kate Howden.”

Here’s a little more information, courtesy of the ‘Planet Hugill‘ classical music blog (which tipped me off to the fact that these were being performed).

“Schoenberg’s ‘Erwartung’ was written in 1909 with a libretto by Marie Pappenheim, but had to wait until 1924 to receive its first performance when Alexander Zemlinsky conducted it in Prague. Schoenberg said of the work ‘In ‘Erwartung’ the aim is to represent in slow motion everything that occurs during a single second of maximum spiritual excitement, stretching it out to half an hour.’

“Mark-Anthony Turnage’s ‘Twice Through The Heart’ was written between 1994 and 1996, and revised subsequently and received its first performance in 1997. The libretto, by Jackie Kay, is based on a 1992 poetry documentary which she had written for the BBC.”

* * * * * * * *

Contraventions, 5th November 2016

rarescale presents:
‘Contraventions – new music for contrabass flute’ with Carla Rees
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 5 November 2016 (workshop 4.00pm-7.00pm; concert 8.00pm)
information

“UK-based low flutes player Carla Rees tours a concert of new music for contrabass flute and electronics. The contrabass flute is a rare instrument, most usually found in flute choirs, but in this programme it takes on a new solo persona. It is both impressive in sound and size, and complimented by electronics this concert will be a sonic delight of rarely heard music. The concert will feature premiere performances of several new pieces, including music by Matthew Whiteside, Piers Tattersall, Benjamin Tassie and Michael Oliva.

“Carla is the artistic director of rarescale (an ensemble which exists to promote chamber music repertoire for low flutes), and director of low flutes publishing company Tetractys. She has been working closely with Michael and Matthew along with other composers who are writing new works for the tour.

“From 4.00pm to 7.00pm there will be a workshop for composers to explore writing for the contrabass flute. Composers are invited to bring sketches or new works to try out (scores can also be submitted to Carla in advance), and all their questions about the instrument will be answered during the afternoon. The entry fee for the workshop includes entry to the concert.”

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As part of the fourth London Festival of Bulgarian Culture, the organisers of the Ethical Society and Sunday Concerts at Conway Hall are putting on three chamber music concerts, which they’re calling “a musical journey along the Danube: through Bulgaria and beyond.” Each of these will feature at least one Bulgarian work (alongside other items from the classical repertoire which have at least a glancing connection with the country or the river) and be performed primarily by British-based Bulgarian musicians plus compatriots from abroad and sympathetic colleagues from Britain and elsewhere.

To be honest, if you took the players out of the equation, the Bulgarian connection would be tenuous. Leaving aside the fact that the universality of the Haydn, Schubert, Brahms and Mozart pieces chosen for the programme has almost rendered them a common world possession, the inclusion of works by the Hungarian Dohnányi, the Czechoslovakian Drdla and the intensely Czech Dvořák and Smetana means that the concerts fade into an amorphous Danubian appreciation of late classical and romantic string music, perhaps with some of its attention towards eastern Europe, but with its centre still fixed on Vienna or Prague rather than Sofia. Only two actual Bulgarian composers are having their works performed – lynchpin twentieth-century classicist/folk integrator Pancho Vladigerov (whose conscientious approach and assured pedagogy made him the mentor to most post-war Bulgarian composers) and contemporary British-Bulgarian composer Dobrinka Tabakova (whose 2002 trio ‘Insight’ is being played during the first concert). In other respects, representation of the home side is pretty slim. No Emanuil Manolov, no Alexandra Fol, no Georgi Atanasov or Albena Petrovic-Vratchanska.

Admittedly, these choices are partly down to the instrumentation and tone chosen for the concert – piano and string pieces from duo to quintet; accessible classical-melodicism; the warmer, more positive folk-culture-inspired end of small-state nationalism. Quibbles aside, it’s a good opportunity to hear the Vladigerov pieces (beloved Bulgarian staples which don’t tend to travel much outside the country) and the diverse pedigree of the players contributing to this collective and cooperative effort is encouraging and heartening, as well as impressive. Should be a good set of shows.

London Festival of Bulgarian Culture: Concert 1
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, London
Sunday 6th November 2016, 5:30 pm
– information here and here

Programme:

Pre-concert talk by pianist and music commentator Michael Round (at 5.30pm in the Brockway Room)
Franz Joseph Haydn – Piano Trio in G Hob.XV:25 ‘Gypsy’
František Drdla – Souvenir & Serenade in A major
Dobrinka Tabakova – Insight (for string trio)
Fritz Kreisler – La Gitana & Schön Rosmarin (for violin and piano)
Franz Schubert – Quintet in A D667 ‘Trout’ (for string quartet and piano)

Performers:

Julita Fasseva, 2016

Julita Fasseva, 2016

Evgeniy Chevkenov (violin – Professor at Richard Wagner Conservatoire, Vienna)
Devorina Gamalova (viola – Professor at Birmingham Conservatoire)
Alexander Somov (cello – Principal cellist at Strasbourg Philharmonic)
Simon Callaghan (piano – Artistic director of Conway Hall Sunday Concerts)
Julita Fasseva (double bass – member of Royal Flemish Philharmonic)

London Festival of Bulgarian Culture: Concert 2
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, London
Sunday 13th November 2016, 6:30 pm
– information here and here

Programme:

Ernö Dohnányi – Serenade for string trio Op.10
Bedřich Smetana – Macbeth and the Witches (for solo piano)
Pancho Vladigerov – Bulgarian Rhapsody ‘Vardar’ Op.16
Johannes Brahms – Piano Quintet in F minor Op.34

Performers:

Ashley Wass, 2016 (photo  © Patrick Allen)

Ashley Wass, 2016 (photo © Patrick Allen)

Pavel Minev (violin- Soloist of Moscow State Philharmonic)
Ivo Stankov (violin – Artistic director of LFBC)
Alexander Zemtsov (viola – Professor at Guildhall School of Music)
Guy Johnston (cello – Winner of ‘BBC Musician of the year’ competition),
Ashley Wass (piano – Laureate at Leeds International Piano Competition)

London Festival of Bulgarian Culture: Concert 3
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, London
Sunday 20th November 2016, 6:30 pm
– information here and here

Programme:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Sonata for Violin and Piano in B flat K454
Pancho Vladigerov – Piano Trio Op.4
Antonín Dvořák – Piano Quintet in A Op.81

Performers:

Ludmil Angelov, 2016

Ludmil Angelov, 2016

Dimitar Burov (violin, Head of Strings at Harrow School, programme supervisor)
Yana Burov (violin, Leader of ‘Inspirity’ String Quartet)
Michael Gieler (viola, Principal at Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra),
Gerard Le Feuvre (cello, Director of Kings Chamber Orchestra)
Ludmil Angelov (piano, Laureate of International Chopin Piano Competition)
 

October 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Mr Bowler’s ‘Music to be Murdered By’ at Crazy Coqs (30th-31st)

27 Oct

Here’s something for a London Halloween. In all honesty, I’m not sure what it is yet. I’ll try to work it out as we go along.

Mr Bowler's 'Music to be Murdered by', 30th-31st October 2016Mr Bowler presents:
‘Music To Be Murdered By’
The Crazy Coqs @ Brasserie Zedel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London, W1F 7ED, England
Sunday 30th & Monday 31st October 2016 (4.00pm & 7.00pm Sunday, 7.00pm Monday)
information

Multi-media music and dance team Mr Bowler are bringing a “sexy, slick, seductive and thought-provoking” show to the Zedel’s glamorous Art Deco basement just off Piccadilly Circus, promising their audience “a treat for both their ears and eyes” and “a thirst for comedic murderous thoughts”.

I do know that this is not the first time that they’ve done this and gotten away with it.

Alfred Hitchcock's 'Music To Be Murdered By'I know that it involves “lights out”. I know that it’s named after a macabre easy-listening album which Alfred Hitchcock put out towards the end of the ’50s, and that Mr Bowler somehow dug up the old Master of Suspense to narrate the show (more likely via the edit suite than the ouija board).

I know that ‘Music To Be Murdered By’ is intensely choreographed, working around a close-to-the-bone male/female dynamic and reversal of power; that the score is “classical” and the mood “seductive”. I also know that there are original songs written and performed by DriscAL, the dark-cabaret/slashing-rock crossover duo of James O’Driscoll and Alexia Leontiou-McAvoy (whose ‘People Conversation Occupation’ album sounds like a little like Shirley Bassey marshalling The Cramps into grand kitchen-sink drama, and who might be tugging the show towards its apparent flipside, ‘Music To Be Haunted By’).

Within Bowlerdom, Alexia doubles as Mrs Boa (or Mrs Bower), who might be the troupe’s dark mascot, their frontwoman or possibly their dominatrix. To be honest, this is where things get a little murky.

Other than what’s above, I know nothing.

Let’s face it, I don’t know what’s in there. I’m out of clues. We’re going down into that cellar blind.

Well, there’s one more thing. Here’s a lengthy snippet of the Bowlered hordes in action. That will give us some idea of their aesthetic… or when and how they’re going to strike.


 

October 2016 – upcoming gigs – a transatlantic 15th October – avant-pop with Trevor Wilson + Jackson Emmer + Michael Chinworth at The Back 40 (Asheville, North Carolina); classical fusion with Emily Hall + Ryan Teague + Resina + Lucy Claire at Daylight Music (London); folk and psaltery groove with Jausmė + Sian Magill at the Magic Garden (London)

12 Oct

More by chance than design, today’s preview post (for Saturday 15th) covers both sides of the Atlantic.

I’ve been following (and tracing back) the career of singer/songwriter Trevor Wilson for a while now – from his cross-genre experiments at Bennington College to his scatter of solo records and his more recent work steering the eerie/joyous glee-pop unit Anawan. Having opted to leave New York (after one last concert in his Brooklyn base), he’s now upped sticks to North Carolina and settled in the “art mecca” city of Asheville, where he’s wasted little time, not just putting down roots but making them work. Details on his first post-New York concert below:

Trevor Wilson + Jackson Emmer + Michael Chinworth
‘The Back 40’, 60 Craggy Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina, 28806, USA
Saturday 15th October 2016, 6.30pm
– free event (donation suggested) – email for more details

Trevor says “after some months of finding my way around, I’m very excited to announce my first performance here. Remarkably, I will be joined by none other than Anawan members Ethan Woods and Michael Chinworth, as well as two new singing partners, Jeremiah Satterfield and Laura Franke. Michael will perform a set, and so will Jackson Emmer, one of my oldest and dearest friends. This will all happen in a backyard farm just through the woods from my house in West Asheville. It will be an outdoor, bonfire-style concert, and we’ll convene at 6:30 to chit chat and snack. I’ll be performing some Anawan material with Ethan and Michael, as well as some new material with Laura and Jeremiah.”

The new material may or may not relate to Trevor’s upcoming new album ‘Sour Songs’ which he describes as featuring “the most direct, pop-oriented, and fun tracks I have ever created. They’re based around the keyboard, and a lot of them feature electronic beats. It’s definitely a departure, but it feels honest, and really connected to where I am at right now. I truly can’t wait to share them with you.”

Meanwhile, here’s an appropriately rural clip from a few years ago, featuring Trevor singing in the fields (albeit up in Vermont), plus an Anawan video from around the same time.



 

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On the same Saturday, back in London, it’s another day and another Daylight Music show. Following last week’s organ-and-voice extravaganza, the Daylighters continue to happily mull over ten years of presenting everything from electronic bleeps to uke-toting folkies via unusual instruments and classical inroads. This week leans more towards the latter…

Daylight Music 236, 15th October 2016

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 236: Emily Hall + Ryan Teague + Resina + Lucy Claire
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 15th October 2016, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information


 
Emily Hall writes contemporary and avant-pop-slanted takes on the classical song cycle, instrumental narrative and opera. This has led her into commissions for (among others) London Sinfonietta, London Symphony Orchestra, BBCNOW, the Brodsky Quartet and Opera North. It’s also led to collaborations with the likes of the English author Toby Litt (who co-wrote her song-cycle on the diverse “everyday wonder and lurking fear” nature of motherhood, ‘Life Cycle’ – see the excerpt above) and Icelandic poet/occasional Bjork lyricist Sjón, who crafted the words for her haunting trio opera ‘Folie à Deux’.

The latter begins with a man singing an awed paean of worship to an hillside electricity pylon and goes on to explore the consequence of a religious frenzy being transmitted from one person to another, and a relationship in isolation succumbing to the weight of a wild delusion. It’s scored for two singers and a pair of harps (one acoustic, the other electromagnetic) and you can listen to it in full below.


 
There’ll probably be samples of these plus Emily’s other works in the Daylight showcase. She will be accompanied by Khoros Choir and by classically-inclined singer-songwriter Ana Silvera. Emily has also helped to invent a triggering instrument-cum-mobile, which fits in a suitcase, so with any luck she might be bringing that along too.

Bristolian multi-instrumental composer/producer Ryan Teague has followed a gradually developing path from his minimalist electronic roots which has incorporated classical, electronic, acoustic and soundtrack work and approaches learned from all these fields (as well as from gamelan, a form which informed his ‘Storm Or Tempest May Stop Play’ piece premiered last year at Daylight Music).


 

Ryan’s upcoming album, ‘Site Specific’ features full-band music pulling in influences from impressionistic early-’70s electric jazz. His performance on Saturday sees him accompanied by bass clarinettist Gareth Davis, electric pianist/synthesizer player Dan Moore and drummer Mark Whitlam.

 
Karolina Rec is an Warsaw-based cellist and composer working with improvisation and texture under the project name of Resina. In addition to her own work, she’s been involved with several Polish bands and projects including Kings of Caramel, Cieslak and Princess, Nathalie And The Loners, and Anthony Chorale. Here’s a little of her textured post-classical performance looping:


 

There will also be contributions by composer-performer Lucy Claire. She’s a late addition and there’s not much news on exactly what she’ll be doing. Her work stretches from soundscapes and soundtrack to deeper and more involved contemporary classical works, so she might be performing anything from a between-acts soundscape to a tape-and-keyboard piece to stints on the in-house pipe organ and piano. Here’s a taste of some of what Lucy does:


 

* * * * * * * *

In the evening, Lithuanian-born singer-songwriter/kanklės player Jausmė and novelistic folkie Sian Magill return to south London’s Magic Garden, following up their show back in July.

Jausmė + Sian Magill
Heavenly Sunday Folk @ The Magic Garden, 231 Battersea Park Road, Battersea, London, SW11 4LG, England
Sunday 16th November, 9.00pm
– free event – information

The last time Jausmė was here, she was duetting with cellist Nicole Collarbone. This time, she’s on her own. Although she usually labels her songcraft and instrumentalism (voice and kanklės, plus the occasional effects pedal) as “urban etherealism”, and generally lets it fall somewhere between its Baltic roots and her adopted home of Milton Keynes (when she’s not guesting on other people’s techno and sub-bass tracks), she’s billing this Saturday’s music as “soul, jazz and folklore”. This either means that she’s found a new smoothed-out direction for her psaltery songs, or uncovered a new twist. Come and see. Meanwhile, here are two of her songs played out on the grasslands. (The second one might provide some explanation…)



 
Building on what looks like a fruitful gig friendship with Jausmė, Sian Magill brings more of her detailed folk songs into play – immaculate and quietly smouldering; modern-traditional; emotion-soused but steeped in intelligence.


 

September/October 2016 – upcoming and ongoing London gigs and music theatre – Laura Moody’s ongoing work in ‘dreamplay’ at The Vaults (plus a solo song show on October 11th); Keir Cooper and Rose Biggin collide pole dancing and noise-guitar in their ‘Badass Grammar’ revival at Camden People’s Theatre (5th & 6th October)

22 Sep

A couple of interesting (and very different) elisions between music and theatre, plus a solo gig…

* * * * * * * *

Currently engaged in providing live cello for Jocelyn Pook‘s score to the current Globe Theatre production of ‘Macbeth’, audaciously accomplished cellist and singer-songwriter Laura Moody (see passim) is also doubling down at Waterloo to perform in BAZ Productions‘ performance piece ‘dreamplay’.

'dreamplay'

BAZ Productions present:
‘dreamplay’
The Vaults Theatre @ The Vaults, Arch 236 Leake Street, London SE1 7NN, England (use the Launcelot Street entrance off Lower Marsh)
Saturday 10th September 2016 to Saturday 1st October 2016 (Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm; Saturday matinees 3pm; BSL Performance on Saturday 24th September)
– information here

A reworking of and response to August Strindberg’s classic proto-expressionist work of the same name (and scripted by BAZ director Sarah Bedi and the performers), the piece features “a mysterious woman (who) arrives on Earth, intent on uncovering the truth about human suffering. Her dream-like quest leads her through shifting landscapes and into contact with a host of disturbing characters as she searches for the ever elusive Door, behind which she is certain the answer lies … Can she discover the unconscious truth and return home?” (Sadly, ‘dreamplay’ is already halfway through its run – if I’d known about it earlier myself I’d have posted about it sooner…)

 
Direct from Laura: “I appear as a variety of characters, as part of a wonderful cast of five, performing all the music I’ve created for the show live. I also give my acting debut! I’m really delighted that just a few days into opening my music/soundscape for ‘dreamplay’ has been nominated for an Off West End Theatre Award for best sound design.

“Played out in the tunnels underneath Waterloo Station, ‘dreamplay’ is an immersive, challenging piece that casts you, the audience, as the dreamer and leads you through a labyrinth of scenes, images and situations prompting fundamental questions about humanity. I, for example, finished opening night contemplating how exactly I had managed to acquire quite so many inexplicable bruises on my limbs and HP sauce on my bow. Such are the mysteries that await you, and many more…”

Laura Moody performing in 'dreamplay' (photo © Cesare De Giglio)

Laura Moody performing in ‘dreamplay’ (photo © Cesare De Giglio)

Once ‘dreamplay’ is finished, Laura will be performing one of her intermittent London solo gigs – an hour-long song set with no support act – at City University..

City University presents:
Laura Moody
Music Department @ City University, Northampton Square, Finsbury, London, EC1V 0HB, England
Tuesday 11th October 2016, 7.00pm
-free event requiring ticket reservations – information here

To whet the appetite for this, here are a couple of videos shot back in June at the Dartington Estate during Laura’s gig there, in which she duets with Adem on a version of her song We Are Waiting (and on Adem’s own Love And Other Planets).



 
* * * * * * *

Earlier in the year, Keir Cooper (who’s previously graced this blog as guitarist and composer for noisy experimental jazz-rockers A Sweet Niche) teamed up with fellow theatremaker and physical performer Rose Biggin to create the performance piece ‘Badass Grammar’, in which Keir’s blistering guitar is paired with Rose’s dynamic pole dancing in an hour-long dialogue of ideas.

'Badass Grammar' (photo © Rachel Manns)

‘Badass Grammar’ (photo © Rachel Manns)

Rose and Keir describe ‘Badass Grammar’ as “sexy, smart, witty as houses and obviously featur(ing) big bold dance and electric guitar duets.” A longer description suggests “a theatrical collaboration between a pole dancer and a guitarist, a composition in exploded view. With a mischievous agenda, the performance invites in the mucky subjects of shame, power and privilege. And takes them dancing. Peering down at the nuts and bolts, the muscle and bone. The pole dislocated, the guitar unfretted. Sparkling, witty, savage, fabulous: we draw on the invisible histories of our disciplines and are building a new one. Starting now. Come with us.”

 
Following its initial performances at The Yard, ‘Badass Grammar’ is being revived for Camden People’s Theatre as part of the annual Calm Down Dear festival of feminist performance.

Calm Down Dear #4 presents:
‘Badass Grammar: A Pole/Guitar Composition in Exploded View’
Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, Euston, London, NW1 2PY, England
Wednesday 5th & Thursday 6th October 2016, 9.00pm
information (presented in a double bill with ‘40 Days Of Rain‘ on the 5th)

Below, there’s a brief and tintinnabulating minute-and-a-half-long excerpt from Keir’s score – spilling, mercurially elusive guitar-noise shapes passing through hard rock distortion and riffing, and refracted as if glancing off the chromed mirrors of the pole podium. Some of the music from this and other theatre work should eventually surface on his proposed ‘Bodies‘ album, which will incorporate Keir’s guitar-and-effects-pedal contributions to collaborations with assorted artists across a variety of live dance and performance disciplines (including “strip punk” and flamenco).


 
In an expositionary piece written for Bellyflop Magazine back in May (and which you can read in full here) Rose and Kier present and explore some of the implications of their show; not ducking around the “massive inflatable grey elephant that comes tied to every pole” in the form’s inescapable ties to sex work, but raising other questions in response, including “are women to be judged harder if you don’t like their job?… What if I’m actually one of many feminists on the pole? Does that mean I can be listened to yet? Or still spoken for?”

As they state, “we’re making a show. It’s pole dance, which is sometimes sexy, and came from strip clubs. It’s also live electric guitar, which is often a lot of willy-waggling. It’s a show about shame, power and privilege. Let’s see what happens.

“Pole is a very visible arena for tensions around women’s bodies, women’s work, shame, power and privilege. Far from a casual choice – it is impossible not to be political when near this object… When we discuss our performance with folks, somebody will ask if Keir is pole dancing and Rose is playing the guitar. Sometimes this is asked as a joke – when it’s a joke, it’s always asked by a man. But sometimes it’s a genuine artistic question, and as such it’s a valid one.

“The short answer is no, because artistically, we’ve decided it would be pretty boring to watch people doing something they’re terrible at. (For an hour.) But the longer answer is no, because we think it is more interesting to utilise the forms from where we are and examine how it came to be that we got here. And what we will do now…”

I’ll just pinch from one more source to add a bit of extra colour. Here’s Rose’s irreverent, practical list from her ‘Badass Grammar’ article in ‘Standard Issue’ magazine, detailing what she’s learnt from the form…

Rose's list, part 1

…and not forgetting…

Rose's list, part 2
 

August 2016 – upcoming gigs – London goes prog-happy at the Lexington – The Gift + We Are Kin + Tiger Moth Tales’ Macmillan fundraiser (7th); the David Cross Band with David Jackson and Richard Palmer-James (9th)

5 Aug

I think I’ve previously described the Boston Music Room – one of my own local venues – as London’s current home of prog. If so, the Lexington, down in the hinterlands between Kings Cross and Angel, is making a good showing as a second home. Two imminent shows reinforce that reputation, making next week a good one for London’s prog village.

* * * * * * * *

The Gift/We Are Kin/Tiger Moth Tales @ The Lexington, 7th August 2016

Resonance, in association with Prog Magazine and Orange Amplification present
The Gift + We Are Kin + Tiger Moth Tales
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Sunday 7th August 2016, 6.30pm
– information here and here

The name that’s missing from the promoters’ line-up above is Bad Elephant Music: London’s ever-industrious cottage label for various types of prog, and home for two of the acts on the bill. In some respects, this is a shuffled and re-run of a similar gig back in February, in which The Gift’s mix of symph/prog/folk grandeur plus flashy AOR (and We Are Kin’s exploration of art rock shapes and northern English socialism) lined up with a pair of one-man bands in the shape of steampunk balladeer Tom Slatter and troubadour rocker jh. Now The Gift are back, and so are We Are Kin, with only the choice of one-man-band changed. Here’s the official blurb from the Elephant:

The Gift, fresh from their triumphant performance at An Evening Of Bad Elephant Music, will be headlining the event, bringing their own particular brand of symphonic progressive rock on stage. The band is currently working on the followup to 2014’s ‘Land of Shadows’, and may well be previewing a song or two here.


 
“Making the journey down to ‘that London’ all the way from Manchester, We Are Kin will be playing a selection of songs from their new album, ‘The Waiting Room’, as well as from their acclaimed debut, ‘Pandora’. Their twin vocal lineup wowed the audience at Abel Ganz’s Christmas party last year, and is sure to be a highlight of this event.


 
Tiger Moth Tales is the brainchild of Pete Jones, who will be performing solo for this event. His live shows have been widely acclaimed for their virtuosity, emotion and huge sense of fun. Pete’s two album releases ‘Cocoon’ and ‘Storytellers Part One’ will both be represented in his performance, and he may well throw in one or two cover versions of the prog classics!”



 

Just one final note – the gig’s a fundraiser for Macmillan Cancer Trust, emphasising a community that’s broader than just the prog one.

* * * * * * * *

David Cross Band @ The Lexington, 9th August 2016

The David Cross Band (with special guest David Jackson) + Richard Palmer-James
The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Road, Islington, London, N1 9JB, England
Tuesday 9th August 2016, 7:30 pm
– information here and here

Despite nearly five decades in music, David Cross is still best known for his contributions to three albums at the start of his career. During a two-year early-‘70s stint with King Crimson (incorporating ‘Starless And Bible Black’, ‘Larks’ Tongues In Aspic’ and ‘Red’) David added “delicacy, and wood” to what some consider to be the band’s finest incarnation – part proto-punk-Mahavishu Orchestra, part stately electric-classical chamber group, and part droning/clattering/blaring building site. In its relatively brief and always restless lifespan, this particular Crimson lineup lay athwart the path of progressive rock, heavy metal and European improvisation like a splinter-ridden sleeper across the tracks: innovative, stern and ornery.

David’s amplified violin was a key part of the band’s powerful Euronoise, bringing in evocative melodies and moods which varied between Roma scurries, fall-of-Rome dramatics, foggy drones and angry squeals. As was the case with many of the departures from Crimson, David’s was passionate, painful and galling: progressively swamped by the band’s incremental climb towards avant-rock brutality, he was eventually forced out by its bruising, bristling volume and the implacable battering of its rhythm section. It took a few decades for him to salvage a more cordial relationship with Crimson leader Robert Fripp: nonetheless, the reconciliation has led to a return to the large extended Crimson family including guest spots and latterday Soundscape duets as well as recent electric chamber music with Crim-connected composer Andrew Keeling.)

Immediately after Crimson, though, David had to follow a different winding path of his own. From mid-‘70s work with trans-Manche psych/prog/fusioneers Clearlight (and experiments with big-band improv whilst leading the sadly undocumented Ascend) he went on to a long learning process during which, by his own admission, he failed at jazz. On the other hand, he successfully honed an affinity with alternative improvisation and with other forms. Theatre, in particular, proved to be a natural home, with David working up on stage and behind the scenes as well as in the pit band or composer’s slot. Theatricality also bled through into his other musical work. A trio he formed with keyboard player Sheila Maloney and saxophonist Pete McPhail took to the arts centres to perform musical interpretations of Samuel Beckett plays, while from the turn of the 1980s David was carrying out interdisciplinary performances with dancers, painters and the like (something he’s continued up until the present day).

After a decade away, a return to fusion and avant-rock in the late 1980s saw David becoming a keystone of Geoff Serle’s Radius band; an interesting, if airlessly pastoral, British answer to Material’s electro-funk. He was also a quarter of one-shot project Low Flying Aircraft, in which he joined forces with Crimson-orbit jazz pianist Keith Tippett, drummer Dan Maurer and budding teenaged guitar whiz Jim Juhn in a leaf-storm of nervy electroacoustic frenzy and scattered early sampler sputters. (For my money, it’s probably his most interesting post-Crimson bandwork to date.). He’s stayed busy ever since – this year, for instance, saw the release of violin-and-electronica duo album with Sean Quinn of Tiny Magnetic Pets, plus a live album from Japanese dates in which he guested with Crimson spinoff trio Stick Men.


 

All of this suggests the work of a musician whose reputation should be broader and better respected. It’s probably only the taint of grand prog – and of the “wrong kind” of fusion – which keeps him from it. In experimental rock (or, more accurately, in the media commentary which covers it, particularly on the British side) there still seem to be very clear, if dubious and snobbish, rules about who’s allowed credibility, and why. It’s not easy to escape from those fencings; and without this side of his history, David might have had his due.


 

For better or for worse, David’s most enduring project has been his own David Cross Band. Anchored since the mid-’90s by cohorts and co-composers Mick Paul (bass) and Paul Clark (guitars), it displays his electric violin – by turns stately, romantic, gnarled or locustlike – coursing fluently over a grandiose, detailed bed of prog pomp, deep metal, and flaring jazz-rock gestures. This year, however, the band’s taken an intriguing and strategic left-turn. With their latest album ‘Sign Of The Crow’ barely out of the gate, they’ve unexpectedly replaced keyboard player Alex Hall with veteran avant-prog sax hero David Jackson, once of Van Der Graaf Generator.

David Jackson in full 1970s effect (photographer unknown)

David Jackson in full 1970s effect (photographer unknown)

Musically adventurous and visually iconic, Jackson spent his Van Der Graaf years festooned with multiple instruments, blowing double-horn brass sections through brain-buggering electronics and being described as “a Third Reich bus conductor”. Since then, he’s spent much of his time working on the gesture-to-MIDI Soundbeam electronic project (bringing out the musicality of disabled children) while sometimes venturing out for gigs on the strength of his experimental rock reputation. Since crossing paths with David Cross at one such gig in Verona years ago, Jackson has been one of his frequent improvisation partners, making him an overdue natural fit for something like this. Regarding their chemistry, here’s a lengthy fly-on-the-wall video of the two of them playing (alongside Yumi Hara and Tony Lowe) at a release show for the Cross/Fripp ‘Starless Starlight’ album of Crimson-inspired Soundscape duets. Covering the show from rehearsal to performance, it hints at some of what the Cross/Jackson duo might be bringing to bear on the band shows; something which might well be transformational, pulling the band up and out of its shiny prog-metal box and perhaps delivering David Cross some of the broader respect he deserves.


 

The new Cross Band lineup, completed by Space Cowboys singer Jinian Wilde and by poly-disciplinary drummer Craig Blundell (who displays a heartening taste for post-dubstep playing when people let him off the prog leash), made their live debut in Wolverhampton last month. While no videos have emerged from this, there have been enthusiastic reports; and as King Crimson tours as a grand septet with a long-denied, fervently-delivered battery of archived ’70s classics, the Cross band are studding their own set with live deliveries of 21st Century Schizoid Man and Starless.

The London gig’s also intriguing in that it features a rare-as-rocking-horse-shit British solo slot from Richard Palmer-James. Originally the embattled first guitarist and wordsmith for Supertramp (a long time before they hit big at the American breakfast bar), Richard was the long-distance lyricist for King Crimson during David’s tenure and has subsequently carried out the same favour for twenty years of various Cross bands. Based in Bavaria for forty-odd years, he’s spent most of it embedded in production and writing work for German pop: since the turn of the century, however, he’s revived his original love for playing blues and country guitar. Most likely it will be this side of him that we’ll see at the Lexington on Tuesday. Still, who knows what the sense of occasion might bring out?
 

August/September/December 2016 – music dramas in London and Edinburgh: Héloïse Werner & Jonathan Woolgar’s ‘Scenes From The End’ (10th to 27th August variously, plus more in December) and Zoe Lewis’ ‘Britten in Brooklyn’ (31st August-17th September)

4 Aug

Some news on a couple of pieces of music drama showing in London and Edinburgh this month – one a fully-fledged conceptual solo piece (involving original contemporary classical compositions and diverse performance techniques), the other a more conventional theatrical play themed around the wartime exile of Benjamin Britten.

Here’s a little more information about each of them (combed, shaped and styled in a hurry, from the press releases).

* * * * * * * *

Héloïse Werner's 'Scenes From The End'

‘Scenes from the End’ is a tour-de-force showcase for Héloïse Werner – soprano, sometime cellist and member of (amongst others) contemporary classical ensemble The Hermes Experiment, vocal ensemble Shards and original folk bands The Coach House Company and The Amazing Devil.

“Héloïse’s increasing interest in the dramatic potential of the unaccompanied voice has led her to experiment with a wide range of more contemporary techniques. ‘Scenes from the End’ is a fully staged, physical drama that combines classical and operatic vocal techniques, as well as improvisation, acting and body percussion. In it, Héloïse aims to confront the audience with the uncomfortable themes of death and grief, challenging them to reevaluate their own attitudes towards these difficult issues.

‘Scenes from the End’ is a collaboration with young composer Jonathan Woolgar (a previous award-winner of the BBC Proms Young Composers’ Competition) and with director Emily Burns. Using a colourful array of vocal and theatrical means, the show paints historic, comic and tragic pictures of “the end”, from the heat-death of the universe to the end of an individual life. This is virtuoso music theatre on a scale that is both cosmic and intimate.”

‘Scenes From The End’ is being performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with a couple of preview performances in London a week and a half beforehand. There’ll be a further run of London performances in December.

Camden Fringe Festival @ Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, London NW1 2PY, England
Wednesday 10th August 2016 & Thursday 11th August 2016, 7.15pm
information

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Lime Studio @ Greenside (Nicholson Square), 25 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9BX, Scotland
Monday 22nd August 2016 to Saturday 27th August 2016 1.55pm
information

Tristan Bates Theatre, 1A Tower St, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9NP
Tuesday 6th December 2016 to Saturday 10th December 2016, 7.30pm (plus one 3pm performance on the 10th)
– no information online yet

Although Héloïse is someone I’d like to catch up with for a chat at some point, for the moment I’d better point you in the direction of this recent interview she’s done (freshly published today!) with the LaLaLa Records vocal music homepage, covering ‘Scenes From The End’ and several of her other projects.

* * * * * * * *

'Britten In Brooklyn'

“Based on true events, the world premiere of Zoe Lewis‘s passionate and thought-provoking play Britten In Brooklyn takes place in the beautiful and unique setting of Wilton’s Music Hall. Starring Sadie Frost and directed by Oli Rose, it plays for a strictly limited season of 21 performances.

“New York City, 1940. A dilapidated house in Brooklyn Heights. The bohemian lifestyle of Benjamin Britten, WH Auden, Carson McCullers and Gypsy Rose Lee in the artistic community at 7 Middagh Street starts to unravel as World War II becomes a brutal reality. Exiled in America for his beliefs and a national disgrace, Benjamin Britten must decide which way his conflicted political ideals lie but the constant parties, doomed affairs and John Dunne, the mysterious stranger, provide an easy distraction.”

‘Britten in Brooklyn’
Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London, E1 8JB, England
Wednesday 31st August 2016 to Saturday 17th September 2016, 7.30pm (plus 2.30pm matinee performance on Wednesdays and Saturdays)
information
 

July 2016 – upcoming London gigs – Ant Law, Cassie Kinoshi and Zoe Rahman play Jazz in the Round (25th); Countermeasure’s spectacular a capella (31st); a two-day run for Pasek & Paul’s ‘Edges’ song cycle (30th & 31st)

21 Jul

Popping up at the end of the month…

Cockpit Productions present:
Jazz In The Round: Ant Law Trio + Cassie Kinoshi’s Seed + Zoe Rahman
The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, Lisson Grove, London, NW8 8EH, England
Monday 25th July 2016, 7.00pm
information

I’ve just caught up with The Cockpit Theatre’s regular monthly jazz extravaganza (which is pretty good going on my part, since it’s only been happening for four-and-a-half years already…) This month, the 2016 summer season concludes with a triple bill of London jazz acts, plus the usual warm-up DJ set from Jazz FM’s Jez Nelson and Chris Philips (‘Somethin’ Else’, ‘The Blueprint’, ‘Chris’ Starpoint Radio’). As ever, the audience is positioned around the band in a thrust-stage setting, allowing a different sonic perspective and sense of involvement.

A member of Tim Garland’s all-star Lighthouse quartet, guitarist Ant Law uses bop jazz, folk-rock and Carnatic music as part of his musical palette (which also includes modern jazz, heavy metal and M-Base-inspired rhythmatism). A onetime Edinburgh University physics graduate and Berklee College alumni, he also works with Paul Riley and Trio HLK (with Richards Kass and Harold), with “proggish” fusion quartet Project DSB, plays as a regular sideman with Camille O’Sullivan and leads his own quintet. On this occasion, he’s performing with his trio – completed by drummer Asaf Sirkis and bass player Matt Ridley – delivering fluid rapid compositions in a constant state of teasing upheaval.


 

Led by alto saxophonist and Tomorrow’s Warrior Cassie Kinoshi, Seed are a ten-piece band combining jazz with inner-city London, West African and Caribbean influenced grooves. The stellar line-up of some of London’s most up-and-coming young jazz musicians also features Miguel Gorodi and Sheila Maurice-Grey (trumpets), Joe Bristow (trombone), Theon Cross (tuba), Chelsea Carmichael (tenor sax), Joe Armon-Jones (piano), Oscar Laurence (guitar), Rio Kai (bass) and Patrick Boyle (drums). An alumnus of all-female TW band Nérija, Cassie is a diverse, inquisitive composer whose own music takes inspirations from jazz and black cultural history but also delves into lighthearted chiptunes, classical chamber music inspired by subjects as diverse as Chaucer and Tetris, and sombre electronic soundscapes.


 
British/Bengali pianist and composer Zoe Rahman creates music formed by her mixed heritage, her initial training as a classical musician, and her very broad musical taste, with her love for contemporary jazz as the binding agent. On this occasion, she’ll be playing solo.


 

* * * * * * * *

Countermeasure: 14 Characters A Cappella
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Sunday 31st July 2016, 2.00pm
information

Fourteen-piece Canadian vocal troupe Countermeasure make a visit to London at the month’s end, as part of their European tour. I could mine the press release for details on the prizes they’ve won and the other groups they’ve collaborated with; but the truth is that, when talking about vocal groups, somehow that mass of information always seems to mean less. Maybe one’s just impatient to be seduced by the voices… so here they are, delivering a multilayered take on Cole Porter’s I Got You Under My Skin; working in tricks and tips from close-harmony, contemporary R&B, jazz vocalese and broken beats.

* * * * * * * *

Back at the Cockpit, there’s a production of Pasek & Paul’s ‘Edges’. …

CC Productions present:
‘Edges: A Song Cycle Following Coming-Of-Age Questions’
The Cockpit Theatre, Gateforth Street, Lisson Grove, London, NW8 8EH, England
Saturday 30th July 2016, 7.30pm
Sunday 31st July 2016, 5.00pm

information

Part theatre musical and part song cycle, ‘Edges’ was originally written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul while they were still students at the University of Michigan, many years before they were conquering Broadway with ‘Dogfight’, ‘James and the Giant Peach’ and ‘A Christmas Story’ and being hailed as the heirs to Rodgers and Hammerstein. The piece has been described as “a witty and honest look at the choices we make and what happens when we are on the edge of our lives. Covering such issues as love, commitment, identity and meaning, ‘Edges’ follows four adults escaping expectations and their complicated relationships.”

This production of the show features musical actors Adam Bailey, Peter Cumins, Laura Mansell and Catherine Mort. Here’s a clip featuring a montage of songs and moments from a previous production at the Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, New York State.


 

June 2016 – upcoming gigs in London and elsewhere – Boy and a Balloon, Russell Swallow and Jack Hayter at Daylight Music (4th June); Weird Dreams briefly drifting around England (7th-10th June); Tricity Vogue in residence at Wilton’s (also 7th-10th June)

2 Jun

Some more imminent shows, mostly of slightly skewed varieties of pop.

* * * * * * * *

Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 226: Boy and a Balloon + Russell Swallow + Jack Hayter
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 4th June 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like event (suggested donation: £5.00) – more information

Daylight Music 226, 4th June 2016Subtitled “Inside/Out”, this particular Daylight Music session is a showcase for some of the long-running concert series’ regulars. As they put it:

“Under the moniker Boy And A Balloon, Alex Hall is a Hampshire born singer-songwriter. A London busker, and once a session guitar player (touring extensively for Motown legends Martha Reeves & The Vandellas) he now creates skewed indie music – reviving songwriting styles from the glory days, and fusing it with contemporary and chamber acoustic instruments.

“Dismantling the idea of cleanness, Alex accompanies his delicate vocals on his mainstay guitar (a bashed up three-quarter-size nylon-string version played through a StreetCube amplifier) to create glitchy and humanly imperfect timbre. Merged with a simplistic songwriting style to underpin and iron the creases out of the music, Boy And A Balloon attempts to create a new brand of idiosyncratic pop songs. It is a true and purposeful statement and philosophy that songwriting will shine through roughness. Taking major influence from musical icons from all his troubadour heroes of the ’40’s right up to the ’70s, Boy And A Balloon is about the innocent and inevitable loss of something human, precious and innocent – so apparent in today’s fast paced and overwhelming technological world.

“Calling on the classic grooves of James Bay, the storytelling of Tracey Chapman, and the gorgeous ambience of Howling, Russell Swallow‘s sound is brooding, confessional, indie. His songs and stories are driven by sensual imagery & sticky melodies, powered by rich tenor vocals, synths and driven guitars.

“Previously of the mighty Hefner (as well as Spongefinger and Dollboy), multi-instrumentalist Jack Hayter‘s beautiful, heartbroken music is full of folk-tinged dissonant woe. He’s a self-styled ‘singer and writer of no-tune showtunes’ and a ‘rotten-gutted, scorched-throated pedal steel machine’: a unique songwriter given time and freedom to blur the lines between the trad. folk of his influences and the London anxieties of his past with dirty fuzz, biting wit and of course, ‘the universal language of a drunkard’.”

(Jack usually appears at Daylight Music on acoustic guitar and voice: elsewhere on this blog there’s a detailed review of one such occasion.)

* * * * * * * *

When they emerged in London about five years ago, Weird Dreams perpetuated the well-worn image and substance of a literary indie band in a classic four-man mould. They jangled their guitars; they drew on ‘60s-tinted Beach Boys and girl-group inspired pop; then, citing a fascination with the underbelly cinema of David Lynch, they subverted that pop with dark and bitter lyrics about loss, misunderstanding and cruelties. To seal the deal, it emerged that they’d first been formed after a chance conversation in a retro clothes shop. Their debut album, ‘Choreography’, seemed tailor-made to appeal to the Edwyn Collins, Smiths and Belle & Sebastian fans. After that, it all seems to have gone wrong, though possibly wrong in the right kind of way. Dark hints at a four years of “loss, derealisation and the constructing of a new identity” suggests that the band hit multiple meltdowns.

Whatever happened, it’s seen the Weird Dreams base shifted from north-east London to Paris, left singer and songwriter Doran Edwards as the only remaining member, and altered the band’s sound from concise, short-story guitar power pop into something looser and more textured; more in keeping with their name; more electronic, decidedly psychedelic and definitely hypnagogic. Though you can still hear the skeletal outline of their previous musical identity, Weird Dreams’ current way of working cites unsettling photojournalism and avant-garde electronic composing as influences – alongside the grand synthtronic filmscapes of Ryuichi Sakamoto and the DIY radiophonic pop mistings of Broadcast. It sometimes sounds as if Doran might have kept in touch with his inner Lynch, but also turned up a little heat under his inner Splet.


 

Doran’s new approach also allows him to unhook from pithy storytelling and dip into a questing, introverted fantasy. One of the new songs, Calm, explores autogenic therapy – or to put it another way, the consciously-willed emptying-out of stress, body part by body part, suggesting a simultaneous emptying out of soul and identity, even as the music itself travels through phases of mood-shift from disassociation to rapture and rhythm. Another song, Heaven’s Hounds, revisits memories of 1980s synth pop and wraps them in a swathe of trickling dream pop guitar arpeggios and sampler gusts (the results echoing both the narcosis swoon of My Bloody Valentine and the unearthed-technology-meets-folk-reinventions of Eyeless In Gaza).


 

Performing as a Doran-fronted five-piece, the reinvented band are playing the following venues this month:

* * * * * * * *

Tricity Vogue (photo by James Millar)

Tricity Vogue (photo by James Millar)

If you’d prefer something a little more vivid and straightforward to fill your week, or just someone with dirtier jokes – in fact, if you happen to be in London and fancy a homburg-hatted cross between the dear-departed Victoria Wood and the still-very-much-in-yer-face Amanda Palmer, with a couple of twists of Lorraine Bowen and Marie Lloyd – then you could check out Tricity Vogue instead. The ukulele-toting queen of “thinking women’s burlesque cabaret” (and part-time tongue-in-cheek gender warrior) has an upcoming bar residency at London’s Wilton Music Hall which coincides or clashes with the Weird Dreams tour. You can expect her to deliver her own blues or jazz-inflected numbers about vampires or drunken penguins, list-songs about lady pirates and paeans to espresso coffee (which, naturally, accelerate into a distracted frenzy); and she’s a dab hand at nicking and recycling tunes (turning My Favourite Things into My Drag Queen Wet Dream’, or repurposing the ‘Doctor Who’ theme for a song about mundane parallel universes).

Tricity’s take on music hall proves that it’s an art form which, like Wilton’s itself, might need a careful patch-up, brush-up and infusion of new talent occasionally, but which doesn’t need that much refurbishment and alteration to remain fun. Plus, while she’s more than happy to deliver some snags along with the fluff. Alongside the kitschy daftness and double-entendres there are surprising delicate songs about lost origami, a sense of humour which ranges from cute to gallows (sometimes hitting both ends simultaneously, as in Pet Assassinator) and a set of ribald, pointed memoirs from an chequered love-life.

Wilton’s Music Hall presents:
Tricity Vogue
Cocktail Bar @ Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London, E1 8JB, England
Tuesday 7th June to Friday 10th June, 9.00pm
more information