This weekend, in London, mostly-unplugged afternoon Daylight Music will bow out for the summer with a distinctly maritime-toned concert – and one which features another choir as the headlining act. I’ve been tempted to give Daylight’s organisers a bit of stick for their interest in choirs this season, but it makes no more sense than ribbing them for liking performers with acoustic guitars. While, for me, the scratch-choir-does-pop-hits musical meme gets too cosy too quickly, Daylight has done its level best to vary the choral diet, with this week’s headliners delving back into deeper folk roots (and the other acts on the bill ranging out across nautical atmospheres and underwater imaginings).
At the other end of the country, in Sunderland, film-makers have teamed up with art-rockers, bleepers, folk singers and community consciousness to create a picture of the First World War’s impact on a thriving north-eastern community. Keeping true to their inspirations, they’re premiering their work there. We Southerners will have to wait, and quite rightly too.
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Daylight Music 231 – Cecil Sharp House Choir + Lisa Knapp + The Hermes Experiment + David Julyan & John Potter
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 12.00pm – free/pay-what-you-like event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information
“Known for its unique, spirited and moving a cappella renditions of traditional songs from the British Isles (and occasionally beyond), Cecil Sharp House Choir is one to catch. Helmed by inspirational choir leader, Sally Davies (and open to any confident singer able to hold a tune, learn by ear and be keen to perform), the choir performs regularly at Cecil Sharp House and at a host of other venues and events including the Southbank Centre, the Roundhouse, the House of Commons and the Oslo Musikkfest.
“Singer and fiddle player Lisa Knapp burst onto the scene in 2007 with her much lauded debut album ‘Wild & Undaunted’, which contained refreshing interpretations of traditional folk songs peppered with highly distinctive original pieces. Numerous appearances across BBC Radio and BBC4’s Christmas TV folk song extravaganza followed, as well as a performance tribute to the late Lal Waterson for BBC Electric Proms. Further recordings (made in collaboration with her musician/producer husband Gerry Diver) have included the EP ‘Hunt The Hare – A Branch of May’ and 2013’s ‘Hidden Seam’ album. Lisa’s BBC work continued with Radio 4’s acclaimed ‘Shipping Songs‘ in 2015 (musing on the extraordinary sounds from far-off places on the Shipping Forecast), and it’s this which should inform her July Daylight appearance, which features a duo performance with Gerry Diver and a song sung with the Cecil Sharp House Choir.
“Park Lane Group Young Artists 2015/16 and winners of Nonclassical’s Battle of the Bands 2014, The Hermes Experiment is a contemporary classical music quartet comprising harpist Anne Denholm, clarinettist Oliver Pashley, soprano Héloïse Werner and double bass player Marianne Schofield. Their performance style has been hailed as “meticulously nuanced, witty and chic” by The Times, while The Evening Standard has acclaimed their “whole new expressive world.” Capitalising on their deliberately idiosyncratic combination of instruments, the ensemble regularly commissions new works, as well as creating their own innovative arrangements and venturing into live free improvisation. So far, the ensemble has commissioned thirty-one different composers at various stages of their careers. The ensemble also strives to create a platform for cross-disciplinary collaboration and they recently created a ‘musical exhibition’ with photographer Thurstan Redding. Future plans include a residency at Aldeburgh Music in September 2016 developing a new interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale with director Nina Brazier and composer Kim Ashton.
“The Hermes Experiment’s Daylight performance this weekend will be a marine-themed set first performed in 2014 (and recently revived at a Park Lane Music Group concert at St John’s Smith Square earlier in the year), at which they performed Giles Swayne‘s ‘Chansons dévotes and poissonneuses (Devout and Fishy Songs)’, a setting of three piscatorial poems by French Symbolist Georges Fourest. Whether they’ve got time for some of the other songs for the St Johns set – Kate Honey‘s ‘Predator Fish’, Freya Waley-Cohen‘s ‘Oyster’, Josephine Stephenson‘s ‘tanka’ – remains to be seen.
“As the fourth act, David Julyan (a film composer best known for his collaborations with Christopher Nolan on Memento’ and ‘The Prestige’, as well as for horror movie ‘The Descent‘) will be teaming up with John Potter (of ambient project The Music Of What Happens) in order to create a live sea soundscape.”
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Field Music/The Royal Northern Sinfonia/Warm Digits + The Cornshed Sisters
‘Asunder’ – film premiere with live score
Sunderland Empire Theatre, High Street West, Sunderland, SR1 3EX, England
Sunday 10th July 2016, 2.30pm and 7.30pm – information
“Northumbrian art poppers Field Music (with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and electronic duo Warm Digits) are set to perform a newly commissioned live score to accompany ‘Asunder’, a film telling the tale of the North East’s involvement in the Battle of the Somme (one of the most horrific battles in World War One) through largely unknown personal experiences. The collaboration marks the Battle’s centenary. Royal Northern Sinfonia will be conducted by Hugh Brunt, Artistic Director of the London Contemporary Orchestra (and Radiohead collaborator). Sunderland folk quartet The Cornshed Sisters will also perform an a cappella rendition of traditional Wearside folk tune The Rigs of Sunderland Fair.
“‘Asunder’ brings together the stories and images of the past with music from the present to tell a poignant and relevant story of what happened to a typical British town during the First World War, with virtually all of the its men abroad fighting and all of its women and children left behind. The North East was in the front line, thanks to its shipyards and munitions factories.
Through the stories of half a dozen people from Tyneside and Wearside, ‘Asunder’ uncovers just what life was like on the home front – with bombs falling on Britain for the first time, conscientious objectors sentenced to death, and women working as doctors, tram conductors and footballers, some of them (God forbid) wearing trousers.
“The story begins in the pre-war Edwardian golden era when cricket, football and rugby boomed, and aeroplanes and cars pointed to a bright new future – only for this progress to be horrifically reversed through the early years of the war. This culminated on 1st July 1916 in the Battle of the Somme, when British, French and German forces began one of the most traumatic battles in military history. Over the course of just four months, more than one million soldiers were captured, wounded or killed in the Battle, a confrontation of unimaginable horror.
“The story is told through a beautiful film carefully crafted by documentarist Esther Johnson using archive and newly filmed footage, and narrated by Kate Adie (with Alun Armstrong as the voice of the ‘Sunderland Daily Echo & Shipping Gazette’).
“‘Asunder’ will premiere at the Sunderland Empire on 10th July before touring at selected venues around the country (dates to be confirmed).
“Field Music’s David Brewis says of the commission:
“The chance to write something completely new and play it with an orchestra doesn’t come around very often. And as we heard about the plans for the film, the idea of telling a more complete story about our home town and how the war affected it was very appealing. There’s nothing quite like hearing a full orchestra right in front of you and if we get it right, then the balance between what you see and hear on screen and what you see and hear from the musicians should be spectacular. One of the other things which intrigued Peter (Brewis) especially about this project was our love of the orchestral music from that period. Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ premiered in 1913, Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ in 1912. Bela Bartok and Maurice Ravel were composing, as was Claude Debussy, so it was a time of huge change in harmony and composition and we’ve dipped into that period for inspiration a lot.”
“Writer and ‘Asunder’ creative director Bob Stanley comments:
“For me, ‘Asunder’ is an opportunity to work with a group I’ve admired from afar for years, Field Music, and one of my favourite documentary makers, Esther Johnson, as well as a group I only discovered last year but are one of the most thrilling electronic acts in the country, Warm Digits. The premiere will be a truly unique event – the combination of a live score to a new film featuring some incredible archive footage and fascinating local stories, along with the other events going on inside and outside the Empire should be a really memorable day, and I hope one that people will be talking about for years to come. I want everyone who sees it to take pride in the region’s unique history and to feel they can help to build its future.”