Tag Archives: Ian Harrison

June/October/November 2018 – upcoming gigs in Bristol, Brecon and Nottingham for The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments (15th June, 21st October, 8th November)

13 Jun

Since 2010, performance ensemble The Society Of Strange & Ancient Instruments – led by Clare Salaman – have “explore(d) a repertoire that ranges from folk songs and earthy dances to high art music from the eighteenth century and before, as well as newly composed pieces.”

Initially a violinist, Clare’s also mastered diverse related instruments including nyckelharpa, hardanger fiddle, medieval vielle and hurdy gurdy, and has also attracted other multi-instrumentalists into the group – mediaeval winds player Ian Harrison (on pipe and cornett, whistle, pipes, shawm, tabor and tambourine as well as singing), Jon Banks on harp, gittern, Baroque guitar and percussion (shading eastwards into santur, qanun and santouri) and Arngeir Hauksson (theorbo, cittern and gittern, Renaissance guitar, lute, saz, hurdy gurdy, percussion). Also on board are Liz Kenny (lutes and guitars), Alison McGillivray and Liam Byrne (viols and lirone); and the ostensibly more narrowly specialised players in the ensemble (harpist Jean Kelly, guitarist Clara Sanabras, harpsichordist Terence Charlston, singing citternist Jeremy Avis and bassist Peter McCarthy) all have extended interests, be they “unusual large string bass instruments”, electric harps, ouds, neglected antique keyboards or just raising a tambourine or voice. Even the ensemble’s dancer Steven Player is an occasional lutenist.

Acting in part as a meeting point for people interested in these out-of-the-mainstream instruments, the Society also puts on themed shows in which to showcase them: revivals of three of the latter have been recently announced.

Conceived by Clare, ‘Sound House’ is “inspired by Francis Bacon’s investigations into the magical properties of sound,” and “presents music of the seventeenth century played on extraordinary instruments within an intriguing modern context. Although Francis Bacon, 17th century philosopher, statesman and visionary, is widely regarded as the father of modern science, his investigations into the nature of sound are little known. He was intrigued by seemingly magical effects like echoes and sympathetic vibration and sought to explain them through a series of experiments in, and observations of, sound.

“Combining modern sound technology with ancient instruments, The Society of Strange and Ancient Instruments explore the aural illusions that so intrigued Francis Bacon and our 17th century forbears with fresh interpretations of 17th century music linked to each other by newly composed pieces.”

A five piece lineup of Clare, both Jons, Alison and Jean (bolstered by narrator Terence Wilton) play unusual and historically appropriate instruments including Jon on Gothic harp, Jean on “the jangling bray harp”, Alison on “the mysterious violone and the little known viola bastarda”, and Clare on a strange conical cello/wooden-horn hybrid, the tromba marina or “nun’s trumpet” (common between the 1500s and 1800s but fallen since then into the memory hole of outmoded instruments).

The Society has this to say about their other current show, ‘The Ministry Of Angels’ – “Angels have played a part in human consciousness for as long as we can remember. Their roles in the life of mankind are various; they appear as guardians, counsellors, guides, judges, and interpreters and cross barriers of culture, language, religion and geography. Many are a force for good but there are also fallen angels, angels of death and others who are spirits of wrath, destruction, confusion and vengeance.

“In this programme we explore music associated with angels, the maverick and fallen as well as the divine and perfect. Playing some of the instruments that appear in descriptions and depictions of angels through the ages, as well as other strange and ethereal sounding instruments, we present traditional tunes, dances, songs and carols in a celebration of these heavenly and occasionally diabolical beings.”

It sounds like a mixture of the occult, the New Age crystal shop and the Hallmark card: although probably much more rewarding than any of them.

 
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