Tag Archives: James McVinnie

October 2016 – upcoming London gigs – ‘Organ Reframed’ covers all manner and method of pipes and sounds at Union Chapel (7th-9th)

6 Oct

Tomorrow, London’s Union Chapel begins a celebration of a number of things (its performance acoustic, its appeal to a diverse body of musicians and audiences, its innovative cultural spirit, and not least its grand 1877 pipe organ) via the ‘Organ Reframed’ mini-festival. A three-day four-concert occasion, it “release(s the organ) from its traditional roots with a varied programme of film, intimate solo sets, ensemble improvisations and large scale commissions. This festival of experimental music will challenge perceptions and show this extraordinary instrument in a new light.”

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Organ Reframed, 7th-9th October 2016

Organ Reframed: James McVinnie/Irene Buckley/Robert Ames/Laura Moody perform new live score for ‘Nosferatu’
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Friday 7th October 2016, 7.00pm
information

Known for multiple theatre, dance and film projects – as well as for orchestral works such as ‘Stórr’) and her live work in the electronic/improv fields via Crevice (with Elaine Howley and Roslyn Steer) and Wry Myrhh (with Ellen King) – composer Irene Buckley has written a number of live film rescorings. These have included one for Carl Dreyer’s ‘The Passion of Joan of Arc’ and one for Jean Epstein’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’.

Her latest such commission is for ‘Organ Reframed’ – a new score for F. W. Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu (A Symphony of Horror)‘ – “an iconic film of the German expressionist cinema, and one of the most famous of all silent movies (which) continues to haunt — and, indeed, terrify — modern audiences with the unshakable power of its images. By teasing a host of occult atmospherics out of dilapidated set-pieces and innocuous real-world locations alike, Murnau captured on celluloid the deeply-rooted elements of a waking nightmare, and launched the signature ‘Murnau-style’ that would change cinema history forever.”

The film will be screened with a live performance of the score carried out by a quartet ensemble: leading New Music pipe organist James McVinnie, viola player Robert Ames (co-artistic director and conductor of the LCO), polystylistic cellist Laura Moody (see multiple past ‘Misfit City’ posts for more on her), and Irene herself contributing live electronics. To give you a hint of what it might be like, here’s an excerpt from Irene’s ‘…Joan Of Arc’ score, back in 2012:


 
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Daylight Music 235: Organ Reframed – Lætitia Sadier + Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch + Kieran Brunt + Angèle David-Guillou + Adrian Crowley + Gill Sandell + Ed Dowie + William D. Drake
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 8th October 2016, 12.00pm
free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

The second concert in the series is a free (or donation-based) lunchtime show run in conjunction with Union Chapel regulars Daylight Music, offering “a stripped-down approach… eight sets of artists and accompanists across different genres and styles. These musicians, singers and composers — who are at various stages of their careers — will explore the very physical relationship between voice and pipes: in many cases, for the first time.”

Performers will include three Franco-London women who specialise in avant-pop/dream-pop/classical crossovers of one kind or another – Stereolab/Monade’s Lætitia Sadier (who, four days earlier, will have been part of Miles Cooper Seaton’s ‘Transient Music’ ensemble at Café Oto), Angèle David-Guillou (of Klima and Piano Magic), and electro-acoustic film soundtracker Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch. Also involved is frequent Daylight guester Ed Dowie (usually a purveyor of genteel avant-parlour-pop, having passed through Brothers in Sound, Redarthur and The Paper Cinema).

The Daylighters specialise in late and interstitial additions to already interesting bills. This concert is no exception, with a bumper set of extra guests signing up and recently being unveiled. Joining in alongside the people I’ve already mentioned are Irish singer-songwriter Adrian Crowley (who specializes in what might be described as a baroque-minimal pop style), singer Kieran Brunt (who divides time between classical choral and solo projects and his pop band Strange Boy), multi-instrumental folk singer Gill Sandell (previously of Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo) and singer-songwriter/general keyboard magician William D. Drake (once a Cardiac, now a baroque-pop solo artist with his own cross-era style – as with Laura Moody, see plenty of previous posts…).

Given the varied pop, folk, rock and classical stylings involved (and some of the signature tones of the musicians involved) it’s not clear whether there are going to be specific collaborations or mashups involved, or whether everyone’s playing solo/bringing their own backup. It’s also unclear as to whether the pop culture/pop music side of things will be honoured by Farfisa, Hammond or even Lowrey organs onstage to share musical space with the grand pipe organ; although given the emphasis on “the very physical relationship between voice and pipes”, I’m guessing perhaps not. (NOTE – since I posted that, I’ve found out that Angèle David-Guillou will be playing a new organ-and-voiceloops composition called ‘Too Much Violence’; that there will be at least one duet from Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch and Kieran Brunt; that Ed Dowie has a couple of covers and one new piece; and that the Daylighters are scouring the Twittersphere looking for a last-minute pump organist. Knowing them, they’ll find one…)

Daylight Music 235, 8th October 2016

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Organ Reframed: ‘Spire’ featuring Charles Matthews + Fennesz + Philip Jeck + Simon Scott + Claire M. Singer + John Beaumont + The Eternal Chord
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 8th October 2016, 6.00pm
information

Spire is an ongoing concert series for organ and electronics, curated by Mike Harding (creative producer of the Touch organisation (which covers musician promotions, licensing, mentoring and everything but the business of being a record company association) and by dedicated organist and keyboardist Charles Matthews (one of those exemplary musicians whose work spans everything from church services and teaching to a globetrotting concert schedule and advanced curatorship). Now into its twelfth year, and with sixteen concerts plus four CD recordings behind it, Spire returns to Union Chapel to link up with ‘Organ Reframed’.

Music played at previous Spire events has included the ancient, salvaged fourteenth-century organ manuscript The Robertsbridge Codex (the oldest surving keyboard score in the world) and twentieth-century pieces such as ‘In Nomine Lucis’ (by the pioneering and mystic single-pitch/multiple-approach composer Giacinto Scelsi), Henryk Gorécki’s ‘Kantata’, Liana Alexandra’s ‘Consonances III’ and André Jolivet’s ‘Hymne à l’Universe’. The series has also premiered new works by resident Spire composer Marcus Davidson (such as ‘Opposites Attract’ and ‘Standing Wave’), as well as improvisations and collaborations by its associated musicians.

Spire also takes into account the architectural qualities of the church organ: how our perception and experience of it is coloured by its monolithic size, volume and presence compared to other instruments. As Mike and Charles put it, “the organ has the greatest frequency range of any acoustic instrument, but this is rarely exploited; the unique sound of the mechanical organ has often been limited and controlled and Spire aims to liberate it from its history without denying that history… combining organ works ancient and modern (while) other performers use the organ and organ works as a basis for their own compositions, using piano, voice, record players, samplers and other electronic devices.”

Past Spire performers have included laptop-and-guitar noisescaper Fennesz and turntablist/electronicist Philip Jeck, both of whom are joining Charles Matthews for performances this time round. Also joining in are newer Spire associates – Simon Scott (Slowdive drummer, multi-instrumentalist, sound ecologist and deep listener) and John Beaumont (whose life within Anglican church and choral music has seen him rise from treble chorister at Wakefield to tenor songman at York Minster and continuing work in London’s great cathedrals and abbeys, alongside his current work as a “story tenor” mingling classical repertoire with a bardic sensibility). Also joining in is Union Chapel’s organ director and artistic director of ‘Organ Reframed’, Claire M. Singer – a musician, composer and cross-media artist whose work extends from composition to installation via live performance, mostly based around organ, cello and electronics.

Among other pieces, the programme will feature a performance of Spire mainstay ‘The Eternal Chord‘, a Mike Harding-originated conceptual and improvised organ piece which “can take anything from eight minutes to eternity” and which is open to any number of players from a duo upwards. There have been eleven iterations of the piece so far, of which two can be heard below, including one from last year at the Union Chapel.



 

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Organ Reframed: Five new commissions for James McVinnie & the London Contemporary Orchestra
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Sunday 9th October 2016, 6.30pm
information

Having already helped to open the festival (via their contribution to the ‘Nosferatu’ live score), James McVinnie and Robert Ames return for the final concert in which James joins forces with the London Contemporary Orchestra (conducted/facilitated by Robert) to premiere five new contemporary classical or classical fusion works.

There’s not much information on the new piece by Mark Fell although it’s likely that it’ll be droning, mathematical and algorithmic (in keeping with his existing work, which is infused with electronica and club music ideas and further informed by his extension into the worlds of moving image, dance, text and son-et-lumiere). Similarly, all I can tell you about acoustic/electronic/theatrical composer Alex Groves‘ piece is that it’s called ‘On Colour’ and is six minutes long. Some pointers towards what to expect might come from Alex’s previous piece ‘Patience’ (for viola da gamba and organ), premièred as part of the Daylight Music series at the Union Chapel back in December 2014. (There’s some footage of that show below. I’m hoping that it’s Alex’s piece…)


 
There’s no doubt that one composer who’ll have no problems filling the Chapel with grand sound is Craig Armstrong, whose music has been well known to a popular audience since the 1990s thanks to his use of luscious, near-decadent massed strings and club beats (as well as his work on hefty-selling records by Massive Attack. Madonna and U2 plus film soundtracks including ‘Far From The Madding Crowd’, ‘Plunkett & Macleane’ and Baz Luhrman’s ‘Romeo + Juliet’).

Almost at the other end of the spectrum is collagist-composer, cultural commentator and musical wit Caroline Haines, who records (as Chaines) for the small Berlin arts label Slip Imprint and has put out a series of restless, splice-styled, information-packed music packages in which everything from sound sources to manufacturing materials has an integral significance. When she chooses to be, Catherine is also a spirited piss-taker, using her existing methods of collagery and radio broadcast (up to and including the comedy sketch show). For evidence, see ‘WUB’, her quick and merciless takedown of pretentious, dishonest conservatoire slummers who parasitize other more media-friendly musical forms without comprehension, respect or indeed much genuine interest.

Dropped hints suggests that Caroline will be performing alongside the orchestra herself: other hints suggest that her contribution is a version of ‘OST‘ (last years’ hallucinogenic audio portrait of the north-east English industrial imprint). I’m guessing that for her second large-scale premiere with LCO (following August’s Curtain Call concert) her restless mind will have come up with something else.

American-born/Berlin-based composer and violist Catherine Lamb has a taste for adding liminal electronics and an interest in “exploring the interaction of elemental tonal material and the variations in presence between shades and beings in a room.” Her approach is inspired by Hindustani classical music and the just intonation system (with added influences from her studies with James Tenney and Michael Pisaro). Catherine’s ‘Organ Reframed’ piece is ‘Cumulus Totalitas’ – possibly a sister piece to ‘Curvo Totalis’, her “meditation on sound” premiered last month in New York by percussion-and-piano quartet Yarn/Wire.

Although the evening’s billed as five pieces, it seems that there’ll be a bonus from the LCO’s recent repertoire in the shape of the thirteen-minute string orchestra piece ‘Between Rain’. Composed by Edmund Finnis (whose work flows from the luminously minimal to frenetically eerie orchestral jousts) this will be being performed for the first time since the LCO premiered it at Imogen Heap’s 2014 Reverb festival at the Roundhouse, although it’s not clear whether Edmund’s tweaked it since then to include an organ part.

Event co-sponsors ‘Drowned In Sound‘ have an interview with Robert Ames expounding on this part of the project.

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At each event, you’ll also be able to hear sound artist Bill Thompson’s installation ‘A Knowing Space’, which “explores the idea of resonance using durations and timings derived from prime numbers as well as the pitches of organ pipes. The installation is played through seven organ pipes, using transducers that vibrate and fill the space.” Here’s an early taste:


 

You can also catch ongoing discussion about the whole ‘Organ Reframed’ event at the Facebook page

event-20161007to09-organreframed-2
 

April 2016 – upcoming gigs – ‘The Secret Life of Organs’ tour of England (with The Necks and James McVinnie); plus, in London, ‘The Female Persona’ (a woman’s-eye music evening with works by Sally Beamish, Robert Schumann, William Bolcom and a performance of Francis Poulenc/Jean Cocteau’s ‘La Voix Humaine’)

4 Apr

Some interesting classical or classical-slanted gigs coming up this week and next week…

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'The Secret Life of Organs', April 2016

No-Nation presents:
‘The Secret Life of Organs’ with The Necks + James McVinnie

A double-bill of experimental musicians revealing the secret sounds of some of England’s most majestic pipe organs and using the instruments to their full potential. The tour takes in some of the finest organs in the UK; housed in Birmingham Town Hall, Leeds Town Hall, The Meeting House at Sussex University Brighton, Colston Hall Bristol and the Union Chapel London.

Australian trio The Necks are known for their improvisational approach, never playing the same set twice and each performance a ‘thrilling, emotional journey into the unknown’ (Guardian). This concert sees pianist Chris Abrahams eschew his usual instrument in favour of the organ, showing off the versatility of its deep, warm sounds as part of a trio.

Organist and composer James McVinnie is fast becoming the country’s leading performer of new organ music as comfortable playing medieval music as he is collaborating with the likes of Nico Muhly, Oneohtrix Point Never, Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire) and Bryce Dessner (The National). Here he plays a specially-commissioned new score by Tom Jenkinson (which intertwines expansive classical influences with the chaotic intricacy for which Jenkinson is so well known in his work as Squarepusher) as well as performing two of Philip Glass’s most emblematic organ pieces, ‘Mad Rush’ and ‘Music in Similar Motion’.

Tom Jenkinson: “The experience of hearing organ music as a child is one of the most significant influences on my work. Through this new set of pieces I intend to explore some of the darker and more mysterious timbres available on these fantastic instruments.”

James McVinnie: “The organ is the ‘original synthesiser’ — an orchestra of sound like no other, which can fill huge architectural spaces without amplification but can also create a huge range of colourful and beguiling sounds. I enjoy working with many living composers and electronic musicians breathing new life into this grand, noble instrument and I’m thrilled to be now working with Tom Jenkinson on his beautiful and haunting new work.”

Chris Abrahams, The Necks: “With the pipe organ, the Necks take the idea of site-specific music making to another level; one where both the site and the instrument are the same. The hugeness of sound coming from an organ comes about through the combination of thousands of discreet sound producing units as well as the complex, multi directional reverberations possible in the hall space. The sound seems everywhere. Sometimes a pipe set is split between both sides of the pipe array, making possible wild “panning” effects; some pipes sound from the front of the instrument – like the massive bass pipes of the Leeds Town Hall organ; others sound from unseen pipe chambers deep within the confines of the instrument. Each organ is an important part of the building in which it is housed and is reflective of the economic and cultural aspirations of the city that brought it into being.”

Here’s a quick clip of James McVinnie performing a snippet of Morton Feldman’s ‘Principal Sound’ from another event, last month.


 

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'The Female Persona', 12th April 2016The Amalie Trio/Eleanor Janes/Maya Soltan/P.J. Harris present:
‘The Female Persona’
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Tuesday 12th April 2016, 7.30pm
more information

Programme:

Robert Schumann – ‘Frauenliebe und –leben (Op. 42)’
William Bolcom – ‘Let Evening Come’
Sally Beamish – ‘Sonata for voice, viola and piano’
Francis Poulenc/ Jean Cocteau – ‘La Voix humaine’

Performers:

The Amalie Trio (Catherine Backhouse – mezzo soprano; Alexa Beattie – viola; Elspeth Wyllie – piano)
Eleanor Janes – soprano
Maya Soltan – piano
PJ Harris – director (‘La Voix Humaine’)

“The members of The Amalie Trio (Catherine Backhouse, Alexa Beattie and Elspeth Wyllie) first met as pupils at St. Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh. Now establishing themselves amongst Scotland’s most outstanding young soloists, they unite to champion the wonderful repertoire for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano. Considering their audiences at every turn they offer thoughtful, varied and engaging programmes that bring freshness and life to a large and flexible repertoire ranging from Brahms to Bernstein.

At this concert the Amalie Trio will perform the London premiere of ‘Sonata for voice, viola and piano’ by Sally Beamish, alongside the work that inspired it: Robert Schumann’s ‘Frauenliebe und –leben’ (a song-cycle based, in turn, on poems by Adelbert von Chamisso which voice a woman’s perspective on her love for a man, from first meeting through marriage to his death and her widowhood). The end of life is the subject of William Bolcom’s trio piece ‘Let Evening Come’, which sets the texts of three female American poets: Maya Angelou, Emily Dickenson and Jane Kenyon.

The second half of the evening features a performance of the Francis Poulenc/Jean Cocteau collaboration ‘La Voix humaine’, an emotionally powerful monodrama presented as one side of a telephone conversation between a suicidal woman and her ex-lover. The piece explores the nature of fear, depression and nervous exhaustion that obsession, rejection and the loss of a lover can bring on. Poulenc, who had himself experienced the pain of separation wrote: ‘I’m writing an opera – you know what it’s about: a woman (me) is making a last telephone call to her lover who is getting married the next day.’ As the woman attempts to disguise her despair and panic with superficial chat, Poulenc’s music expresses her true state as she verges towards a mental breakdown. Performed by London soprano Eleanor James and pianist Maya Soltan, this version of the piece was directed by P.J. Harris (who’s worked with Scottish Opera and Opéra National du Rhin).”

Here’s the Amalie Trio introducing themselves:

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More on the Gnod weekender next time…
 

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