Tag Archives: Jean Kelly

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.

 
Dates:

 

November 2016 – upcoming London classical gigs – Daire Halpin & Jean Kelly in David Wallace’s ‘London Irish Reflections’ (14th)

13 Nov

Some quick news on an interesting-sounding concert tomorrow, which I’ve only just picked up on:

'London Irish Reflections', 14th November 2016
Irish Heritage presents:
Daire Halpin & Jean Kelly: David Wallace’s ‘London Irish Reflections’
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Monday 14th November 2016, 7.00pm
information

‘London Irish Reflections’ is a new song-cycle for soprano, acoustic and electric harps and electronics, which merges two distinct art music traditions – Western classical and traditional Irish – and which is based on the reflections and insights of the London Irish community. The piece came about through Cork-born cousins and musicians Daire Halpin (soprano) and Jean Kelly (harp) commissioning a piece from a Kilkenny-born musical polymath (composer, pianist, conductor and dancer David Wallace) in order to explore their interest in the diverse and sometimes contradictory experiences of those, like themselves, who’d emigrated from Ireland to London.

Thought up by a four-person creative team, all of them London Irish (with the fourth being ‘Guardian’ journalist and deputy business/consumer affairs editor Dan Milmo), the piece expanded into a communal musical reflection on the experience of Irish immigration to London within current living memory. Drawing on Dan’s interviews with attendees at the Southwark Irish Pensioners project, it was supplemented by similar discussions with family members and friends within the London Irish community, including Dan’s conversations with members of the Bloomberg group ‘Paddy Chat’ and a swathe of people ranging from working artists to manual labourers who laid the foundations of the London Tube train network to the chief executives of several major London firms.

The song cycle is structured around various themes – including displacement and belonging – which surfaced as common shared threads within Dan’s various interviews, with the words of the interviewees have been rearranged to both form and inform multi-perspective reflections throughout the piece. Dan comments “I found a lot of the discussions at the Pensioners Project very moving because the interviewees had so many fascinating stories to tell about themselves but they had never been recorded.”

Jean confesses that “we were moved by the tales of hardship endured by the audience members – a generation of Irish emigrants who arrived in London in the 1950s and ’60s. The comparison to our own trouble-free, racism-free experience of moving to London was shocking to me, and I came away feeling that I owed a huge debt to this group of people who contributed so much to change the attitude towards Irish people in Britain, and who allowed my transition from Cork to London to be so smooth.” However, ‘London Irish Reflections’ actively celebrates the community’s experience as much as dwelling on its hardships. Daire adds “being an emigrant myself, I found a lot of the literature focused on the darker, tragic side of life as an emigrant. I wanted to explore the experiences of other emigrants and find a way to share our stories so we can reach out to the many, many people whose lives have been touched by emigration.”

David Wallace adds: “I have tried to create a sound world for each of the bodies of text that allows the message behind the text to really shine through. Working with both concert and electric harps helped to create a contrast in sound world that the text seemed to contain, one where the old and the new collide with the same agenda: the sense of loss at having to relocate.”

* * * * * * * *

For something slightly similar and imminent – musically different but based around community vox pops (admittedly the pre-Brexit voices of depressed communities in southern England) – you could compare and contrast this with Billy Bottle & The Multiple’s ongoing roadshow ‘The Other Place‘, which rolls into London next Sunday. This has also reminded me of ‘I Could Read The Sky’, the 1999 Nichola Bruce film on the London Irish emigrant experience, which was soundtracked (with typically mournful rhapsody) by Iarla Ó Lionáird. I’ll have to dig that one out again…
 

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