Tag Archives: Jessica Cottis

October 2018 – singer-songwriter album launches in London and Wales – Hazel Iris (25th October), Emma Lohan (25th, 26th October)

21 Oct

Looking for events with singer-songwriting women in London? This coming Thursday, you can go big or go small.

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If you’re going for the bigger option, there’s Hazel Iris’ album launch in Smithfield, at St. Bartholomew-the-Great, no less. It’s an event that sprawls across the entire church: its varied acts located in different places within the building, like a cross between a miniature festival and a stations-of-the-cross procession. In one corner, two classical musicians – Katrina Sheppeard and Jayson Gillham (who between them have racked up appearances with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, ENO, Melbourne Symphony and the Sydney Opera House) will provide a piano-and-soprano duet performance of Richard Strauss’s ‘Vier letzte Lieder’ – the composer’s last work, a four-song death-and-transfiguration sealing of his legacy, composed during the dusk of the Romantic era. Next, in another corner, Kate Arnold – usually to be found as frontwoman for dark classical-folk fusioneers Fear Of The Forest – will be playing solo and acoustic with hammer dulcimer, violin and voice, providing a set of songs reflecting her folk, medieval and Middle Eastern influences.

https://youtu.be/fcPcvjLJO9M
https://youtu.be/8WN-jScVhkQ
https://youtu.be/xSVbSUAvQ3o
 
And so to the headliner, who’s recently been making a name for herself as a standout performer at the Blind Dog Studio evenings. Hazel Iris is a storyteller with an overwhelming musical streak; her tales drawn from her travels, her own musings and her borrowings from the great stewpot of mythology and folklore. California-born and London-based but world-honed, her songs blend indie-folk habits, vaudeville brassiness, operatic training, lieder romance and a dash of country.

https://youtu.be/xuMUjq8LnO8
https://youtu.be/Fi3EqDFU3dU
https://youtu.be/v97AMP8g5q8
 
Bringing her brand-new ‘Nine Sisters’ album to life at St Barts is a similarly broad-based nine-piece band. The rhythm section – drummer Fred Harper and double-bassist Twm Dylan – come from the London and Leeds jazz scenes, while Winter Quartet violinist Aurora Del Río Pérez and French horn player Jessica Cottis are both established in the classical world (the latter, notably, as a conductor – she’s returning to a childhood instrument for this performance). Harpist Tara Minton straddles both jazz and classical worlds. Rounding out the ensemble is cellist and screen music composer Matt Constantine, classical accordionist Aine McLoughlin (Hazel’s regular collaborator at previous Blind Dog gigs), and up-and-coming guitarist Myles Peters (who plays anything and anywhere he can).

Also integral to the show will be the puppets of Alicia Britt, artistic director for Wondering Hands Puppet Theatre. Her usual gig involves using puppetry of all kinds for the entertainment and nourishment of all ages, with an undercurrent of healing, conversation and a restoration of our human nature: work that ranges from carefully-thought-out fairy tales of bereavement and development for children to bawdily sexual puppet-cabaret for adults. Quite possibly all aspects will be making a showing in her support work for Hazel. I’ve no idea whether huge rod-guided creatures will be leaping through the church or whether the puppetry will be on a smaller, more human scale with creatures the size of lutes or horns, but it should add an extra level of story texture.

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Speaking of smaller, more human scales – if all of the above sounds too grand, then on the same London night another songwriter – Emma Lohan – is launching her own debut album up in the south end of Hackney. ‘Black Atlantic’ pulls together Emma’s own particular blend of Irish hometown influences (she’s a Galway woman), pop leanings and traveller’s scraps, drawn from her footloose global roamings. Impressions and stories, a kind of global coast-combing or, as I put it last time, “beautifully-constructed cloud-tossed songs imbued with the flicker of constant motion.” The album itself is a small, quiet-reveal treasure imbued with a bouncing, soft-chatting liveliness. There’s jigs and kalimba, there’s age and youth, there’s plenty of story to unspool.

She’s doing it all again the following night in Wales – in an unusual display of synchronicity, at a puppet theatre in Cardigan – in a puppet theatre. Elusive ska band Julian’s Reluctant SKAfterparty are in support: no more info on them, I’m afraid. (Update, 24th October – sadly the Cardigan show has had to be cancelled, but they’re promising to reschedule it soon…)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdHAV-7BJv4
https://youtu.be/WL0chhrdK14
 

All dates:

  • Hazel Iris + Kate Arnold + Jayson Gilham & Katrina Sheppeard – St Bartholomew the Great, Cloth Fair, West Smithfield, Clerkenwell, London, EC1A 7JQ, England, Thursday 25th October 2018, 7.00pm – information here and here
  • Emma Lohan – NT’s Bar, 1 Westgate Street #207, London Fields, London, E8 3RL, England, Thursday 25th October 2018, 7.00pm – information here
  • Emma Lohan – Small World Theatre, Bath House Road, Cardigan, Ceredigion, SA43 1JY, Wales, Friday 26th October 2018, 8.00pm (with Julian’s Reluctant SKAfterparty) – information here and here

 

March 2018 – London classical gigs – composers fresh from the Royal Academy of Music (20th); an International Women’s Day event for London Composers Forum (8th March); an evening with the Ligeti Quartet and cyberpianist John Kameel Farah (14th March); ‘Rise Of The Machines’ at the Converge Festival fuses classical music and artificial intelligence (18th March)

21 Feb

London Academy of Music: Composer's Platform, 20th March 2018Late in March, the composition department of the Royal Academy of Music makes its way over to IKLEKTIC for “an evening of cutting edge new music, specially written for academy performers. The concert will showcase a hugely diverse range of musical influences. Come along and hear new music from the next generation of composers.” No names have been announced yet… but then, that’s part of the point. Come and be in at the start of some new careers.

Just under two weeks earlier, the London Composers Forum will be running a Composer’s Voice event for March, coinciding with International Women’s Day, with a concept which speaks for itself:

The Composer's Voice (IWD), 8th March 2018“This concert will feature exclusively new live and recorded music composed by the female members of LCF, performed by women. With a mixture of choral, vocal and instrumental pieces, it is sure to be full of variety and interest.

“There will be a discussion on the theme of “music by women” between the composers and performers that we hope the audience will participate in also; and an opportunity to discuss several hot topics relating to IWD, music by women, parity and what happens next…”

The LCF IWD event is free and open to all. Forum composers involved and represented are Janet Oates (director of and participant in the Philomel soprano sextet), wind multi-instrumentalist Liz Sharma, Miriam Mackie (founder of Illumination Chamber Choir), experimental performer and Bastard Assignments cohort Caitlin Rowley, singer/actor/songwriter Jane de Florez, Zillah Myers (a member of and repertoire contributor to The Addison Singers who’s also composed for Bude Choral Society) and Pamela Slatter (who’s composed for the London Concert Choir and, more recently, has set Edward Lear’s ‘The Pobble Who Has No Toes’).

Royal Academy of Music presents:
Royal Academy of Music: Composer’s Platform
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Tuesday 20th March 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

London Composers Forum presents
The Composer’s Voice: Music and Discussion for IWD 2018
Tea House Theatre, 139 Vauxhall Walk, Vauxhall, London, SE11 5HL, England
Thursday 8th March 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

* * * * * * * *

Taking a break from performing on ice sculptures and space shuttles in favour of a pub backroom, the Ligeti Quartet have set up a regular monthly gig with Nonclassical in Dalston, to showcase contemporary exploratory string music.

Ligeti Quartet + John Kameel Farah, 14th March 2018

Nonclassical presents:
Ligeti Quartet + John Kameel Farah
The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, Hackney, London, E8 3AS, England
Wednesday 14th March 2018, 8.00pm
– information here and here

This March, they’ll be presenting the European premiere of Anna Meredith’s ‘Tuggemo’), as well as performances of Kate Whitley’s ‘Lines’, Christian Mason‘s ‘Eki Attar’ and Tanya Tagaq‘s ‘Sivunittinni’ (as originally rendered by the Kronos Quartet, with the strings emulating Tagaq’s barrage of Inuit vocal effects via an array of frictional and percussive bow techniques devised by arranger Jacob Garchik).

Here’s a clip of the Ligetis performing an earlier Meredith work, plus the original Kronos performance of ‘Sivunittinni’, an earlier Kate Whitley strings-and-piano piece, and Christian Mason’s ‘Aimless Wonder’.

https://youtu.be/NTz_DD_KNyY
https://youtu.be/h2JYPt_STPQ
https://soundcloud.com/kate-whitley1/3piecesforviolinandpiano
https://youtu.be/P_O4pvd2BXw
 
The Ligetis’ guest on this occasion is a pianist – Canadian musician John Kameel Farah, who surrounds and combines his piano playing with an array of synthesizers and processors which filter, warp and orchestrate his performance, which itself allies contemporary classical music with baroque, electronic, Early Music and Middle Eastern elements.

John will be premiering his new composition ‘Spinning Thread’ as well as drawing four more pieces from his back catalogue and from recent album ‘Time Sketches’ (‘Fantasia’, ‘Distances’, ‘Behold’ and ‘Maqam Constellation’) plus a performance of William Byrd’s ‘Hugh Ashton’s Ground’.

https://youtu.be/wORSjAiQDPQ
https://youtu.be/25qkIlhIiK8
 
DJ sets will be provided by Ben Vince (a musician better known for his frenetic sets of improv/loop saxophone playing).

* * * * * * * *

More Nonclassical DJs (in the shape of Laurence Osborn and others) and more technological approaches and motifs will be showing up for the last of the four events covered in this post. While much of this year’s Convergence festival leans towards avant-garde pop artists with a foot in the contemporary classical world (John Cale, Kamaal Williams, Ben Frost, Simian Mobile Disco and Charlotte Gainsbourg are all appearing over the course of the month), the second in the festivals’s ‘Rise Of The Machines’ concert series takes a witty but serious look at the ongoing crossover between classical music and computer/systems thinking.

Convergence: Rise Of The Machines #2, 18th March 2018

Convergence 2018 presents:
‘Convergence: Rise Of The Machines #2’
Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3PQ, England
Sunday 18th March 2018, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Conductor Jessica Cottis (who also contributed to the City of London Sinfonia’s ‘Modern Mystics’ series last year) will be leading a thirty-piece orchestra, bolstered by live devices operated by members of Langham Research Centre (who maintain vintage electronic instruments in order both to safeguard the performance of 20th century classic electronic repertoire and to apply “period electronica” to newer compositions). Composers Beni Giles, Laurence Osborn, Josephine Stephenson, Jo Thomas and Max de Wardener have all collaborated on the event’s world premiere centrepiece, ‘Concerto for Drum Machine & Orchestra’, each of them contributing one of five movements to a composition which “places the drum machine centre-stage as solo musical instrument, bringing the sounds of dance music and hip-hop to the classical world.” Plenty of young and youngish contemporary composers have attempted to bring forms inspired by rave, techno, house into New Classical. As far as I know, this is the first such piece to surrender entirely to the primacy of beat and box.

In Nick Ryan and John Matthias’ violin-and-string-ensemble piece ‘Cortical Songs’ “the orchestra is partially controlled by the neural patterns of a tiny computer brain. The resultant work takes the orchestra into an ethereal sound world of lush strings juxtaposed with the skittering crackles of neural activity.” Magnus Lindberg ’s ‘Engine’ (which dates back to 1996) “(was) inspired by the computing language associated with using the Patchwork1 programme. ‘Engine’ is a sort of generator of musical material, which operates according to the rules pre-established by the composer. The texture is composed by the machine, on which the composer imposes dozens of constraints.” Finally, Barry Guy’s 2015 piece ‘Mr Babbage is Coming to Dinner!’ “was inspired by Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2… The graphic score – hand-drawn and partially coloured by Barry Guy – is a work of art in itself (and) calls on spontaneity and improvisation from the orchestra.”

I tracked down a couple of previous performances of ‘Engine’ and ‘Cortical Songs’ for illustration, so here they are:

https://youtu.be/yKJgTqRWsKg
https://youtu.be/K686uD-aeSQ
 

November/December 2017 – upcoming London classical gigs – City of London Sinfonia’s ‘Modern Mystics’ series (9th & 22nd November, 2nd December)

30 Oct

From early November to early December, City of London Sinfonia are putting on a “trilogy” of concerts exploring “how music and sound can link us to spiritual experiences”, featuring various contemporary classical pieces; many of which are drawn from the fields of Eastern European holy minimalism, or from musical strands involving contemporary takes on spiritual or environmental matters. At least two of the concerts feature added meditational or projected-image aspects; which might sound gimmicky, but it can’t be denied that this particular music lends itself to psychedelic or synaesthesic experiences.

* * * * * * * *

Modern Mystics: 'The Fruit of Silence', 9th November 2017

Modern Mystics: ‘The Fruit of Silence’
Southwark Cathedral, London Bridge, Southwark, London, SE1 9DA, England
Thursday 9th November 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

In the first concert, the Sinfonia are joined by violinist/evening director Alexandra Wood, conductor Michael Collins and the Epiphoni Consort, promising “music that draws you in with its purity, clarity and tranquillity… the music of Pärt, Vasks and Tabakova evoke the transcendental, with chant-like washes of colour and spellbinding soundscapes.” The concert also features projected visuals by Jack James Projections.

Programme:

Pēteris Vasks – The Fruit Of Silence
Arvo Pärt – Seven Magnificat Antiphons
Arvo Pärt – Summa
Arvo Pärt – Fratres
Arvo Pärt – Magnificat
Dobrinka Tabakova – Organum Light
Arvo Pärt – Tabula Rasa

This concert also features a brief pre-concert “mindful meditation” event in the cathedral’s retrochoir at 7.00pm, guided by CLS violinist and alternative healer Ann Morphee, with a plan to “explore the deeply contemplative second movement of Part’s ‘Tabula Rasa’, and enhance our self-awareness and openness ahead of the performance by employing mindfulness techniques… the art of focusing on the present moment. It is a fundamental strategy for dealing with stress, helping us to relax and be uninfluenced by habitual behaviour that we experience in our day-to-day activities”. No previous experience is required, but there are only fifty places available (for event ticketholders only).

* * * * * * * *

Modern Mystics: 'The Book of Hours', 22nd November 2017

Modern Mystics: ‘The Book of Hours’
Village Underground, 54 Holywell Lane, Shoreditch, London, EC2A 3PQ, England
Wednesday 22nd November 2017, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

The second concert, conducted by Jessica Cottis, features “new music which evokes the sounds of ancient worlds… Music is timeless – it links the modern-day to forgotten eras, stretches seconds into minutes and makes hours dissolve in a moment. Combining live orchestra, recordings and lighting, the second concert in City of London Sinfonia’s Modern Mystics Sonic Trilogy conjures up the past through music, light and amplification.” Again, Jack James provides the projections and visuals.

Programme:

Howard Skempton – Only the Sound Remains
Jonathan Harvey – Mythic Figures
Guillaume de Machaut/Richard Causton – Kyrie/Sanctus from ‘Messe de Nostre Dame’
Julian Anderson – Book of Hours

Again, there’s a strongly ecclesiastical aspect to this one, with the Anderson piece being a modern reexamination of ancient Christian monk rituals, the Harvey originating from an IRCAM taped work with Tibetan temple bell, and the Causton being a reworking of part of a de Machuat mass (with its two instrumental groups separated as far from each other as the venue will allow). While not directly religious in its roots, the Skempton is a musical evaluation of cultural and temporal loss centred around the decay and demolition of an old mill, and the gap left by its absence.

* * * * * * * *

Modern Mystics: 'The Protecting Veil', 2nd December 2017

Modern Mystics: ‘The Protecting Veil’
St John’s Smith Square, Smith Square, Westminster, London, SW1P 3HA, England
Saturday 2nd December 2017, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

Alexandra Wood returns as orchestra leader and event director for the third and final concert (which is also part of the Southbank Centre’s ‘Belief and Beyond Belief‘ series). This will be a presentation of John Tavener‘s ‘The Protecting Veil’ with cellist Matthew Barley sharing the load as both featured soloist and presenter. The event’s described as “an ecstatic vision of devotion revealed by cello and orchestra… ‘The Protecting Veil’ is music which blurs the line between humanity and divinity – a glimpse into otherworldliness through the Eastern Orthodox rituals celebrated around Mary, Mother of God. We invite you on a journey to the centre of the music through living programme notes – and get close enough to touch as we transform St John’s Smith Square with intimate seating.”

Programme:

John Tavener/Matthew Barley – Living programme notes on ‘The Protecting Veil’
John Tavener – The Protecting Veil
 

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