Tag Archives: Bethan Morgan-Williams

March/April/May 2018 – upcoming Manchester classical-plus gigs from Psappha Ensemble – Boulez, Berio, Takemitsu and a new Tom Harrold piece (22nd March); jazz/rock/punk/street music crossovers with Anna Clyne, Steven Mackey, Fausto Romitelli and special collaborator Mike Walker (20th April); art-gallery interactions with Judd Greenstein, David Fennessy, Michael Gandolfi and others (17th May)

15 Mar

News on spring concerts by Manchester modern classical ensemble Psappha (one of the more gracefully eclectic groups of their kind). Summary (and slightly tweaked press release mashups) follow…

“In a concert conducted by the dynamic young British conductor Jamie Phillips and featuring the young British mezzo-soprano Jessica Gillingwater, Psappha perform a new work from rising-star composer Tom Harrold alongside Pierre Boulez‘s ‘Le Marteau sans maître’, Luciano Berio‘s ‘Naturale’ and Tōru Takemitsu‘s ‘Towards the Sea’.

“Meaning ‘The Hammer Without a Master’, Boulez’ iconic work is a classic of the twentieth century whose sonority and sense of time and direction were profoundly influenced by music from Asia and Africa: named after a text by surrealist poet René Char, it features mezzo-soprano with six instrumentalists in the unusual combination of alto flute, viola, guitar, vibraphone, xylorimba, and percussion. Berio’s ‘Naturale’ pairs live musicians with recordings of Sicilian street vendors highlighting the contrast between flowing folk melodies and the raw, natural voice of the street singer. Takemitsu’s ‘Towards the Sea’ recalls the ebb and flow of the ocean and was commissioned by the Greenpeace Foundation for their Save the Whale campaign.

“Tom Harrold’s new work ‘Dark Dance’ (supported by the Fidelio Charitable Trust) has been commissioned by Psappha to complement the Boulez. Psappha’s Artistic Director Tim Williams says “Tom has more than risen to the challenge… his piece is exhilarating and full of rhythmic energy across its eight-minute span”, while Tom himself adds “this is perhaps one of the most unusual pieces I have ever written. I’ve really taken the opportunity to experiment. It’s been a cleansing and enlightening experience for me and I’m enormously grateful to Psappha for commissioning me to write the piece.”

Here are two previous examples of Tom’s work to provide some pointers: his chamber ensemble piece ‘Bone Meal’ and his bass-trombone-and-tape duet ‘Hard Hit’, both of which demonstrate the lively, dancing wit of his writing and sensibilities.

 

Psappha will continue their ‘Demystifying New Music’ initiative by screening Barrie Gavin’s 2005 biographical film ‘Pierre Boulez: Living in the Present’ prior to the concert: ticketholders can turn up to this free event at 6.00pm.

In April, Psappha will stage ‘A Wonderful Day’, exploring the connections between jazz, rock, classical and street music, and teaming up with conductor Stephen Barlow and with “the best jazz guitarist this side of the Atlantic” – Salford’s own Mike Walker. Mike (plus his reeds-playing cohort Iain Dixon and drummer Mike Smith) will play alongside Psappha on the premiere of a new Walker ensemble composition ‘Autonomy’, which “combines classical music with the improvisation and rhythmic drive of jazz”. Mike Walker also returns as the soloist on Steven Mackey’s classical/rock fusion piece ‘Deal’, while Psappha play alone for the late Fausto Romitelli’s palindromic work ‘Amok Koma’ (which draws inspiration from German punk rock).

The event as a whole is named after the Anna Clyne piece which completes the programme, in which a small ensemble play a hushed, affectionate supportive structure to the integrated tape of the songs and conversation of a Chicago street musician “whose natural, slow voice conveys a sense of both joy and struggle” (and which, much like the fragment of tramp-sung hymn in Gavin Bryar’s ‘Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet’, gives the work its emotional core and its sense of small, fragile, hopeful humanity persevering against a largely indifferent world).

Here’s the previous Psappha-commissioned Walker orchestral piece ‘Ropes’ (featuring the ensemble’s “22 strings” in collaboration with his jazz quintet); plus other recordings of the Romitelli and Clyne pieces.




 
For May’s ‘Here and Now’ event, the audience is invited to “take a tour of the Whitworth art gallery through music and art. Promoted by music therapist Rachel Swanick as part of the ‘Here and Now’ wellbeing project this is a unique event where visual art and music sit side by side, sparking your imagination and enticing you to look again, with new eyes… Psappha invites you on a musical adventure through the gallery, stopping off along the way to experience each new work performed live by world-class musicians.

“Played alongside Joshua Frankel’s award-winning film, Judd Greenstein’s ‘Plan of the City’ imagines the architecture of New York blasting off into outer space and resettling on Mars! David Fennessy’s ‘5 Hofer Photographs’ takes inspiration from Evelyn Hofer’s eclectic photos of 1960s Dublin which will be projected as part of the performance, and Michael Gandolfi’s ‘History of the World in Seven Acts’ prompts the viewer/listener to experience the natural ebb and flow between colourful geometric animation and music.”

In addition, four new pieces inspired by items in the Whitworth Collection are being contributed by “young, upcoming composers”David John Roche (a duo piece), Dani Howard, Will Frampton and Bethan Morgan-Williams. Information on these is still scanty, but here are samples of previous compositions by the four (two of them performed by Psappha):


 
Full dates:

  • ‘Boulez – Le Marteau sans maître’ – Hallé St Peter’s, 40 Blossom Street, Manchester, M4 6BF, England, Thursday 22nd March 2018, 7:30pm – information here and here
  • ‘A Wonderful Day’ – The Stoller Hall, Chetham’s School Of Music, Long Millgate, Manchester, M3 1DA, England, Friday 20th April 2018, 7:30pm – information here and here
  • ‘Here And Now’ – The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M15 6ER, Thursday May 17th 2018, 6:30pm – information here and here

 

February 2018 – upcoming classical etc. gigs – Tre Voci, Kit Downes and Southbank Gamelan Players in London (7th February); Psappha’s ‘Caught In Treetops’ concert in Manchester (15th February)

2 Feb

Tre Voci + Kit Downes + Southbank Gamelan Ensemble, 7th February 2018

Tre Voci presents:
‘Auro’ (with Tre Voci + Kit Downes + Southbank Gamelan Players + Nonclassical DJ set)
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Wednesday 7th February 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Classical/experimental cello trio Tre Voci (who, back in December, were integrating and sparring with an Iranian hand-drummer and a Norwegian soprano, continue their tradition of cross-pollinating musical events by collaborating with jazz pianist/organist Kit Downes and four players from London-based Indonesian percussion ensemble the Southbank Gamelan Players at a pre-launch event for their upcoming EP ‘Auro’ (released on 25th February).

The gig’s being done in cahoots with Nonclassical, who are releasing the EP, performing (via head honcho Gabriel Prokofiev) a DJ set embracing and challenging western classical traditions, and hosting this interview in which Tre Voci’s Torun Stavseng and Gregor Riddell expound on the EP and on what they’re hoping to achieve with the concert. The interview reveals that not only will there be a extra guest appearance from cellist and singer Laura Moody, but that in an attempt to emphasise “the transcendental qualities of Gamelan music (which) lend (themselves) well to an innovative use of light and space” they’ll attempt to use the Chapel’s architecture to transport the audience into a “kaleidoscopic, illusory realm playing with their sense of space, time, light and sound. We will position the Gamelan players on the main stage whilst Kit will be hidden behind the organ and the cellos symmetrically dispersed in the corners of the chapel, with the aim to create an interplay with the sound reflections against the stone walls.”

The collective piece being performed and premiered here is ‘To Shadow’, composed by Bryn Harrison, which he describes as consisting of “rising lines in which the parts ghost each other… An idea I’ve been working with in this piece and other recent projects has been to increase the levels of repetition as the piece continues to create the feeling of being inside the music. I like to resist change when I working, trying to think into an idea rather than out of or away from it. There’s a different kind of musical development at play, where the act of listening changes rather than from specifically what happens in the music. I’m interested to see how this work with this particular combination of instruments and with the freer elements that Kit brings to the piece.”

Kit’s own recent ‘Obsidian’ album featured him playing various structured improvisations on a variety of church organ, so it looks as if the Chapel’s resident Willis organ will also be taking a jazz hammering. In addition, Kit has written a quartet piece for the ‘Auro’ EP (‘The Cult of John Frum’) which features himself on Hammond organ and will be performed at the concert. Depending on various sources, the concert will also feature fifteenth century music rearranged for cello trio (probably the Josquin des Prez and Johannes Ockeghem pieces featured on ‘Auro’), various group improvisations and a performance of John Cage’s ‘The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs’.





 
* * * * * * * *

Psappha presents:
‘Caught In Treetops’
St Michael’s Church, 36-38 George Leigh Street, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 5DG, England
Thursday 15th February 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Psappha, 15th February 2018Mancunian classical ensemble Psappha are performing a showcase of emerging composers at a mid-month concert in their main Manchester home.

‘Caught In Treetops’ is centred around Charlotte Bray’s piece of the same title, a work for solo violin and ensemble which responds to two contrasting lunar poems (“A Match with the Moon” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and “The Moon Sails Out” by Federico García Lorca). For this concert, it will features guest appearances by violinist Benedict Holland and conductor Mark Heron. Here’s an earlier performance of the piece by Neue Musik and Wibert Aerts:


 
The concert also showcases a selection of pieces from Psappha’s own emerging composer schemes. Robert Reid Allan‘s ‘The Palace Of Light’ is a sympathetic piano tribute to a notorious Glasgow cottaging location, musically characterised by tinkling water-dripping notes and an apprehensive, fractured romanticism, while Anna Clyne’s ‘Paintbox’ is “an immersive soundscape which combines recorded voice, breathing and other sound loops with a sonorous cello line” exploring “the life-changing effects of the atomic bomb.” James Williamson‘s ‘Fault-Klang’ equates extended clarinet techniques with geologic upheaval; Michael Cryne‘s flute-and-pedal-electronics piece ‘In Cloud Light’ takes its inspiration from the kinetic wind sculptures of American artist Anthony Howe. Will Frampton‘s ‘The Greening Variations’ is a violin/cello/piano trio in which each successive variation refreshes – or “greens” the previous one on an instrument-by-instrument journey “commencing…in an extreme register before narrating its way to a climatic melody accompanied by distinctive trill figures.” Written for mixed-percussion soloist, Lucy Armstrong‘s ‘Space Adventure’ works from a pulp science fiction scenario of hapless human explorers being obliterated by merciless aliens. Inspired by “an experience of being trapped in a place that is usually bustling with life, but is now deserted”, Bethan Morgan-Williams‘s ‘In Kenopsia’ is a unsettling, deceptive duet between a trombonist and a violinist (the first a live performer, the second only a strange mnemonic presence on electronic samples pieced together, warped and reshaped as a phantom accompanist).

Bar the Clyne, all of these pieces are already well-established in the Psappha repertoire, and you can watch and listen to previous performance of them below. In addition, if you turn up with your ticket at 6.40pm before the concert, there’ll be a “Demystifying New Music” talk introducing you to the composers and expanding upon their ideas.







 

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