Tag Archives: music for ensemble

July/October/November 2018 – upcoming jazz gigs – Eddie Parker’s Debussy Mirrored Ensemble make their live debut in Cheltenham (13th July) and play York, Bristol and London in the autumn (24th & 26th October, 20th November); Algerian-influenced world shapes from the Seddik Zebiri Trio in London (13th July); Tori Handsley’s ‘Afro-Harping with Dorothy Ashby & Alice Coltrane’ in London (28th July)

5 Jul

Quick news on three upcoming jazz gigs… well, three gigs and a tour. An impressionist jazz ensemble takes its first assured steps around the country, an Algerian/Parisian veteran brings his trio to the deep East End, and there’s a jazz tribute gig that’s unusual enough for me to drop my usual reluctance to cover such things.

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“Former Loose Tubes flautist and composer Eddie Parker and his Debussy Mirrored Ensemble take cues from the important French composer Claude Debussy in a new show.

“2018 is the centenary of the death of Debussy. Eddie Parker’s Debussy Mirrored Ensemble is both a celebration of and a creative response to the composer. Famously, Debussy never wanted followers or imitators, and yet his music is enormously influential and has gone deep into our sensibilities.

“Eddie Parker has spent his life immersed in music – absorbing, creating , teaching, inspiring, and building trust and respect in a wide range of musical genres as a musician and composer. He also has a life-long passion for Debussy’s music. Building on previous Debussy transformations(2013’s ‘Windgames’ for solo piano and 2015’s ‘Snowsteps’, written for the Will Gregory Moog Ensemble, Eddie has now handpicked a unique new twelve-piece ensemble to turn his creative vision into reality.

“These musicians, from classical, jazz and improvisation disciplines, collaborate to transform a dozen of Debussy’s pieces into something incredibly unique, powerful and contemporary whilst capturing the composer’s revolutionary spirit – leading our ears on a fascinating journey while showing how important this influence is, not only for composers but for improvisers too.

“The high-order ensemble features Rowland Sutherland, Gareth Lockrane and Eddie himself on flutes, Jan Hendrickse on vocals and Turkish ney flute, James Allsopp on clarinet and bass clarinet, Alcyona Mick on piano
Imogen Ridge on harp, percussionist/vibraphonist Simon Limbrick and Loose Tubes drum-and-bass team Steve Watts and Martin France, with vocals by classical tenor James Gilchrist and jazz singer Brigitte Beraha.”


 
When presenting ‘Windgames’ four years ago, Eddie reflected as follows:

“My dad, Frank Parker, concert pianist manqué – whose professional career consisted of performing music for variety theatre, musicals and ice skating shows – used to play Debussy on the piano to me when I was a child… then as a teenager my school music teacher Len Sartin would hold one spellbound not only with his prodigious pianistic abilities (he performed ‘Feux D’Artifice’, the notoriously difficult final Prelude of Book 2, in a school speech night, to the utter bewilderment of assembled parents), but his comprehensive knowledge of the art, poetry and literature that each Prelude was alluding to: Baudelaire, Mallarme, chinoiserie, Arthur Rackham, etc. This in a comprehensive school for boys in Liverpool.

“Debussy’s music for piano, especially from the two books of Preludes, went in deep for me and stayed there. The feeling of a kind of kinetic sculpture in sound, involving a synthesis of harmony and sonority, a precise choreography of pianistic gesture, all bound together by an amniotic envelope created by the subtle use of the pedals – “like a kind of breathing”, as Debussy himself described it – these are the alchemical elements that have been infusing in my mind over the decades… One could foresee a series of Debussy transformations (or ‘Busygames’!): ‘Snowgames’, based on ‘The Snow Is Dancing’ from ‘Children’s Corner’; ‘Raingames’, based on ‘Jardins Sous La Pluie’; ‘Soundgames’, based on ‘Les Sons Et Les Parfumes…’ from ‘Preludes Book 1’; ‘Chordgames’, based on ‘Pour Les Chordes’ from ‘Pour Le Piano’… It may take me a while.”

Sounds as if he’s got there.

The Debussy Mirrored Ensemble project debuts at the Cheltenham Festival next week, with further dates in York, Bristol and London in the autumn. Details below:

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This in from Poplar Union in the east of London…

“You’re in for a treat this month! We have the brilliant Seddik Zebiri Trio with us for Live in the Library – Seddik Zebiri on vocals and Algerian mandole, Oli Arlotto on saxophone and Paolo Forcellati on percussion.

“Seddik Zebiri defines himself as a “music activist.” He’s a seasoned and experienced musician – a pioneer and a trailblazer. Since beginning his musical journey in the Parisian scene of the ‘60s, the cultural scenario has deeply changed. But, as he likes to affirm, he is “always the same: for me music is always the same thing, there is no difference between the one which I played during the ‘70s, the ‘80s or the one I’m playing today”.


 
“His sound is closely related to his Algerian roots, fused with modern influences. Seddik continues, “When you listen to my music you can initially define it as traditional, Algerian or Berber, but is has also some classic Middle Eastern elements. Then, when you listen further you can also identify other ingredients coming from rock, reggae, Latin or funk.” The trio will offer a distinctive take on jazz, drawing on Arabic and Afro-blues influences, and creating an absorbing, compulsively danceable sound: a fusion of traditional North African combined with funk, reggae and beyond.”…”

Poplar Union presents:
Live In The Library: Seddik Zebiri Trio
Poplar Union, 2 Cotall Street, Poplar, London, E14 6TL, England
Friday 13 July 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here

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“The sound of the harp has always held a special place in the world of jazz, and that’s down to the work of two artists alone; Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane. Despite both using the same instrument, their music could have hardly been more different. Ashby’s sound ranged from the trad to the plaintive, with standout albums ‘Hip Harp’, ‘Afro Harping’ (celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year) and ‘Django/Misty’ across her oeuvre showcasing the harp’s versatility. By contrast, the harp for Coltrane worked as an extension of her profound spirituality whilst also indulging her avant-garde tendencies (as heard on her magnum opus, ‘Journey In Satchidananda’).



 
“Putting together the bespoke show will be London based harpist Tori Handsley, who has played with everyone from Nigel Kennedy and Orphy Robinson to Shabaka Hutchings and Moses Boyd and who’s been called “an essential music force that needs to be experienced by as many thinking musicians and audiences as possible” by Orphy Robinson, who’s also noted that she is “without doubt steadily becoming one of the most exciting and original musicians on the UK scene.”

Tori Handsley: Afro-Harping with Dorothy Ashby & Alice Coltrane
The Jazz Cafe, 5 Parkway, Camden, NW1 7PG London, United Kingdom
Saturday 28th July 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here


 

July 2018 – upcoming London classical gigs – Jennifer Ames Alexander and Colin Alexander play new music by Eva-Maria Houben, James Luff, Alex Nikiporenko, Amanda Feery and Garrett Sholdice for viola and cello (7th July); the London Symphony Orchestra present new works by Robin Haigh, Lillie Harris, Yvonne Eccles and Nick Morrish Rarity at Soundhub Showcase Phase I (14th July)

30 Jun

Two more quick boosts for imminent concerts…

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London-based concert series 840 specialises in new experimental and minimal music. Here’s what they’re offering this month:

'840: New Music for Violin & Cello', 7th July 2018 “840 presents an evening of new music for viola and cello, performed by Jennifer Ames Alexander and Colin Alexander (Tre Voci). Showcasing the versatility of this duet format, the programme will feature intimate, resonant pieces from Eva-Maria Houben (Wandelweiser) and Marc Sabat alongside brand-new works from Colin Alexander and from 840 curators James Luff and Alex Nikiporenko.

“We are also excited to be featuring work by two wonderful Irish composers, with a piece from Amanda Feery in which disjointed fragments replace seamless transitions, and a newly-composed work from Garrett Sholdice, known for writing music of “exquisite delicacy” (‘The Irish Times’).”

840 presents:
840: New Music for Viola & Cello
St James’ Church Islington, Prebend Street, Islington, London, N1 8PF, England
Saturday 7th July 2018, 7.30pm
-information here, here and here

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And a week later, there’s this…

LSO Soundhub Showcase: Phase I, 14th July 2018

London Symphony Orchestra‘s Discovery’s Soundhub programme presents new music by first year composers, performed by LSO musicians and guests.

“Join us to hear ‘Twenty One Minute Pieces’, Robin Haigh’s survey of nine hundred years of musical language and instrumentation alongside Lillie Harris’ ‘My Last Duchess’ an interactive insight into coercion and control in a Gothic-Romantic monologue. Then take the fragile journey from sorrow to hope through music and dance with Yvonne Eccles’ ‘Towards hope’ before Nick Morrish Rarity explores ghostly sounds etched into the brittle grooves of shellac records in ‘the traces left behind’.”

Here’s the opening section of ‘My Last Duchess’:

 
The evening’s ensemble includes Early Music recorder specialist Tabea Debus, flute and piccolo player Stuart McIlwham, flautist/bass flautist Carla Rees (who’s appeared plenty of times in here with her ), clarinettist Heather Roche, percussionist Paul Stoneman and viola player Anna Bastow. Broadening the sonic perspective, violinist Julian Gil Rodriguez and cellist Jennifer Brown will both also be playing Stroh versions of their respective instruments, and acoustician Aleksander Kolkowski will be playing a phonograph and an assortment of antique shellac discs for the Rarity piece. (Presumably, that’ll be Rarity played using rarities. Don’t all of you laugh at once, now.)

A quick note – this is one of the few times I’ve heard of Stroh string instruments being used in classical concerts, although a century ago they’d have been quite common. Late Victorian devices, they’re trimmed-down solid-body versions of acoustic instruments (mostly from the orchestral string section, but also sometimes guitars and lutes) with their sounds amplified by built-in metal resonators and horns, like early phonograms. Designed to replace traditional string instruments which might be drowned out in noisy environments, they were used in early recording studios before being killed off by amplification technology and better microphones.

These days the ones which aren’t in museums or the backs of cupboards are mostly used to lend antique sonic retrofitting to experimental rock and pop songs. My guess is that for this concert they’re being used alongside the shellac to add compression and metal plating to the Rarity piece…

London Symphony Orchestra presents:
LSO Soundhub Showcase: Phase I
LSO St Lukes, 161 Old Street, St Lukes, London, EC1V 9NG, England
Saturday 14th July 2018, 7.00pm
– information here, here and here
 

June 2018 – upcoming London classical gigs – John Sturt premieres ‘Beyond the Cradle of Humanity’ (15th June); The Octandre Ensemble play Frank Denyer (17th June); emerging young Trinity Laban composers storm The Ivy House for ‘Hidden Messages: Contemporary Music’ (18th June)

10 Jun

John Sturt: 'Beyond The Cradle Of Humanity', 17th June 2018

“Earth is the cradle of humanity, but one cannot live in the cradle forever…” – Konstantin Tsiolkovsky

It’s been a highly productive year for emerging Trinity Laban composer John Sturt. His ‘Pulsar’ (for cello and percussion) premiered at the college back in February, several vocal works were also premiered the same month up at the Old Royal Naval College chapel in Greenwich, and his string quartet ‘Volatilis’ will getting its continental European premiere in Switzerland in July.

This month he’s premiering his largest work to date, at the college’s Laban Building in Deptford. Responding to the concept of the colonisation of space, ‘Beyond The Cradle of Humanity’ is a larger scale work for orchestra, chorus and narrator. I can’t tell you much more about it beyond that, or providing the video clip above. There are some five-year-old pre-Laban synthesized symphony demos over on John’s Soundcloud page (along with his cute and deceptively clever experimental faux-muzak effort ‘Space-Lift Waiting Room‘). However, this summer John is also releasing his first record – ‘The Cloths of Heaven: The Vocal Work of John Sturt’ – with a preliminary taster available below: and perhaps this, plus the Soundcloud clip of his church choral work ‘Breaking of the Bread’, are better pointers to what ‘…Cradle…’ might be like.

 
John Sturt: ‘Beyond the Cradle of Humanity’ World Premiere
Studio Theatre @ Laban Building (Trinity Laban University), Creekside, Deptford, London, SE8 3DZ, England
15 June 2018, 6.00pm
– information here

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Sticking with Trinity Laban for a moment: three days later, a gang of composers and musicians from the college will be showcasing their own music at a free concert in Nunhead.

“Inspired by Easter eggs hidden in video games, twelve composers attempt to hide references, clues and secret messages within newly written pieces of music performed by three fantastic ensembles. These ensembles will also be performing music of their choice, in response to their newly written works. Come and celebrate the start of the summer and the end of exams!”

'Hidden Messages', 18th June 2018

Event organiser Mikey Parsons explains “most Trinity Laban student events take place on campus at the student union bar. We were frustrated by this, because it meant that only other students or teachers generally saw our work. I also personally was frustrated by the formalities observed in a classical music setting. My background is in performing with rock bands in pubs: I prefer the laid-back atmosphere there and wanted to organise a concert of our work that was for all intents and purposes the same vibe as a rock gig in a pub. In the future I want to organise gigs that feature rock bands and classical groups on the same bill. I’d love to see a string quartet open for a punk band!

“The groups playing at the Ivy House are a brass quintet, a vocal sextet and a mixed group (flute, clarinet, baritone sax, percussion and guitar). We divided the twelve composers across the three groups. The brass and vocal groups are also going to choose some repertoire in response to their new pieces: it’s an opportunity to bring some of their music into a fresh context.

“The theme was inspired by video game easter eggs. My first easter egg was the one in ‘Grand Theft Auto 3’ where you find a hidden area and there’s a sign saying something like “You weren’t supposed to be able to find here”. The thing I enjoy about them the most is the looking for them. For example – when I wrote the brief and sent it to the composers, I told them that I had hidden an easter egg in the message. Some of them went crazy trying to find it and one in particular spent a whole weekend on it, re-reading the message! In the end none of them got it but they came up with some interesting theories. I found it fascinating that they would spend time on a simple piece of text like that, and that they would read all kinds of messages out of it that I hadn’t intended at all.

“So what I’m hoping to achieve with the audience at this concert is the same focused attention of trying to work out what the music is trying to say, feeling delighted when discovering a reference to something, and perhaps coming up with their own theories as to what the answer could be.”

Despite being forthcoming about motivations and inspirations, Mikey’s not sent me composer names and work titles yet. I’ll post some up in a later edit if I get the chance…

Porcine Moth Promotions presents:
‘Hidden Messages: Contemporary Music’
The Ivy House, 40 Stuart Road, Nunhead, London, SE15 3BE, England
Monday 18th June 2018, 7.30pm
– information here

Update, 12th June – the following composers will be having their work performed: Mikey Parsons, Samuel Pradalie, Caitlin Harrison, Aurora Nishevci, James Layton, Theo Finkel, Markas Michmel, Sam Carr, Jess Ward, James Taylor, Haribaskar Ganesan and Marisa Munoz Lopez. Here are some of their past pieces…

 
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Octandre Ensemble

In between, there’s the second in the ongoing run of “composer portraits” at west London’s Print Room, presented by ritual-and-timbre-focussed chamber group The Octandre Ensemble.

Frank Denyer is an interesting contemporary classical contradiction (and marketer’s nightmare) – he’s a dedicated composer, musical thinker and ethnomusicologist who, in spite of having always written for “strange combinations of instruments” including non-Western ones, has declared a lack of interest in hybridization or crossover work. He’s specialised in a knack for acoustics and timbre, for interest in quietness or in “radical melody”, and – according to ‘The Strad’, music with a “semi-theatrical, almost ritualistic atmosphere”; but while he’s composed for non-Western instruments such as shakuhachis and ocarinas, it’s been primarily for their opportunities of tone-colour and readily-available microtonal pitches rather than for cultural histories, which he respects but makes no effort to ape.

 
Clarifying Frank’s position, the late fellow musicologist Bob Gilmore‘s introduction to the Denyer website asserts that his work “suggests that all instruments bear the imprint of the tradition of which they are a part, whether that tradition be nascent, mature or decaying, and that at the beginning of the twenty-first century we cannot afford to be complacent about which musical traditions we consider to be ‘ours.’…his concern with musical instruments can also be seen as a metaphor for the larger question of what can be salvaged, artistically, from the chaos of civilization as we begin our new century.”

In a 2007 interview with ‘Paris Transatlantic’, Frank himself stated that “many composers seem happy with the inherited traditional models of music making, albeit with the occasional minor modification, but for me, in the rapidly transforming social environment we find ourselves in, this seems woefully inadequate. We urgently need a fluidity that will allow a multiplicity of new models of musical collaboration to emerge.”


 
For this concert, Octandre and guests will perform an hour’s worth of Denyer music (plus interval) spanning from 1972 to 2017. ‘Screens’ (composed in 2017 and being performed by EXAUDI soprano Juliet Fraser plus violin, viola and two percussionists), requires four “visually arresting dressing screens to conceal performers” as well as elements of stage lighting; while 1983’s ‘After The Rain’ (for shakuhachi, three ocarina players, percussion and violin) is “a work of unique beauty… inspired by Denyer’s experience of the breathtaking regeneration of the Kenyan landscape after an extended drought.”

The other pieces in the programme includes some of Frank’s early ’70s pieces – the bass flute quartet ‘Quick, Quick the Tamberan is Coming’; ‘Unison 1’ (for female voice, two flutes, violin and viola) and ‘Hanged Fiddler’ (for violin, sustaining instrument – in this case, viola – and percussion), while his twenty-first century work is also represented by ‘Two Voices and Axe’ (for female voice, male voice, violin, viola, flute, double bass, and doubled percussion).

As with the other Way Out East sessions, the composer will be discussing his work in a pre-concert interview, and socialisation with the musicians afterwards is encouraged.

Way Out East: Composer Portraits presented by Octandre Ensemble – Frank Denyer
Print Room @ The Coronet, 103 Notting Hill Gate, London, W11 3LB, England
Sunday 17th June 2018, 5.00pm
– information here and here

Some assorted Denyer work, for the curious…

 

June 2018 – upcoming London classical gigs – outstanding free late-lunch listening with Borough Music’s Series 9 (5th, 12th, 19th, 26th June) featuring Ret Frem Ensemble, Amy Jolly, Janet Oates and Aleksander Szram (plus reworked Britten and Finnissy and premiere pieces from Janet Oates, Janet Graham, Hollie Harding, Joel Järventausta, Frederick Viner)

3 Jun

Borough New Music‘s rolling programme of free concerts of new, recent and/or time-tested classical music continues with Series 9 this month.

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Ret Frem, 5th June 2018

The first of the concerts, on 5th June, features the Ret Frem Ensemble. They’ll be performing a programme including ensemble leader Will Handysides‘ own ‘Geiterspeil’ (2017), the British premiere of Series 9 guest artistic advisor Hollie Harding‘s ‘by breath and bow’, Kaija Saariaho‘s ‘Cendres’ (from 1998) and Barry O’Halpin‘s ‘Catarrh’ (from 2014). The set’s completed by Wil Offermans‘ reworking of the traditional Japanese tune ‘Tsuro No Sugomori’ and by Michael Finnissy 2003 piece ‘June’ (in a new version which he specifically assembled for Ret Frem).

Here are versions of the Harding, Saariaho and O’Halpin pieces…

 
plus a previous giddy Handysides ensemble piece as a pointer…

 
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Amy Jolly, 12th June 2018

The 12th June concert is a solo instrumental event for cellist Amy Jolly. She’ll be playing Kaija Saariaho‘s 1997 piece ‘Spins And Spells’ and Per Nørgård‘s ‘Sonata for Solo Cello No.2 In Due Tempi’ (consisting of two pieces composed over a gap of twenty-seven years – 1953’s ‘Solo Intimo’ and 1980’s ‘Solo in Scena’).

In addition, she’ll be playing Benjamin Britten’s 1976 piece ‘Tema “Sacher”‘ and a pair of new Hollie Harding variations on it (‘Extension’ and ‘Motion’, both composed for Amy over the last two years).

Various previous renditions of the pieces concerned:




 
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The 19th June concert showcases the compositions of Janet Oates and features an ensemble built around the soprano vocals of Jill House, Olivia Moss and Janet herself, plus Janet’s flute-playing, piano from Ret Frem’s Clare Simmonds and cor anglais from Nancy Johnston.

Half of the programme are Janet’s own songs: the previously-performed ‘Atomic Songs and Fancies’ and ‘Blind Fool Love’, and the two world premieres ‘Arse-elbow’ and ‘A Lover’. The rest of it’s made up of recent classical song repertoire: the late Jonathan Harvey‘s ‘Ah Sunflower’ and Tansy Davies‘ ‘Destroying Beauty’ (both from 2008), plus Dai Fujikura‘s ‘Away We Play’. There’ll also be two further world premieres of as-yet-untitled works by Joel Järventausta and Frederick Viner.

Here are previous renditions of the Fujikura and Harvey pieces and one of Janet’s previous performances of ‘A Lover’; plus a couple of previous Järventausta and Viner pieces (along the same ensemble lines, at least, as the new ones to be performed).



 
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Alexandr Szram, 26th June 2018The last of the June concerts – on the 26th – is another solo instrumental concert, this time for pianist Aleksander Szram. He’ll be playing Harding’s ‘Suite P’, Daryl Runswick‘s ‘Scafra Preludes Book 2’, Haris Kittos‘ ‘Arthrós’ and Simon Katan‘s ‘Khepera’, as well as the world premiere of Janet Graham‘s new ‘Sonata for Piano’.

Here are various renditions of the Harding and Kittos pieces, plus the preceding piece in the Runswick ‘Scafra Preludes’ sequence:

 
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Borough New Music Series 9, June 2018All events are at St. George the Martyr Church, Borough High Street, Borough, London, SE1 1JA, England: Dates and links below:

  • Series 9: Pot Luck! Ret Frem Ensemble – Tuesday 5th June 2018, 1.00pm – information here
  • Series 9: Featured Instrument – Cello – Amy Jolly – Tuesday 12th June 2018, 1.00pminformation
  • Series 9: Featured Composer – Janet Oates – Tuesday 19th June 2018, 1.00pm – information here
  • Series 9: Featured Performer – Aleksander Szram – Tuesday 26th June 2018, 1.00pm – information here

 

June 2018 – upcoming chamber-fusion and Rock In Opposition gigs in London – North Sea Radio Orchestra (2nd June); Lindsey Cooper Songbook with The Watts, John Greaves and Chlöe Herington (16th June)

24 May

North Sea Radio Orchestra, 2nd June 2018

North Sea Radio Orchestra are bringing their chamber-fusion sound to south London as part of the Lambeth Readers & Writers Festival. They’re a leafy and lambent confection of strings, reeds, nylon-strong guitar, boutique post-Stereolab keyboards and softened brass, fronted by the heartfelt disparate vocals of husband and wife team Sharron and Craig Fortnam (one a clarion carol, the other a papery whisper-croon).

Given the Festival’s context, they might pull out a few of the pieces with which they initially made their name a decade-and-a-half ago – garlanded, illuminated settings of Thomas Hardy, William Blake and Alfred Lord Tennyson. Either way, come for an evening which merges English country-garden airiness with German experimental rock boffinry and Zappa-styled tuned-percussion tinkles. Regular gigmate and sometime NSRO contributor William D. Drake was scheduled for a support slot, but since an injury put him out of action for the summer, he’s had to pull out. There may or may not be a suitable replacement.




 
Lambeth Readers & Writers Festival presents:
North Sea Radio Orchestra
Clapham Library, Mary Seacole Centre, 91 Clapham High Street, Clapham, London, SW4 7DB, England
Saturday 2nd June 2018, 7.00pm
– information here and here

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Lindsay Cooper Songbook, 16th June 2018

There’s a tenuous but true link between NSRO and Yumi Hara’s Half The Sky project. On top of the existing ties of friendship, they’re both mostly-acoustic chamber music projects with prominent bassoon and an electric experimental rock component; both focus predominantly on a single composer; both lean (implicitly or explicitly) towards the ‘70s Canterbury scene and sound.

However, where NSRO has a core of sweetness Half The Sky is decidedly umami. Set up to curate, recreate and perform the work of the late Lindsay Cooper (and specialising in the repertoire she put out for the groups Henry Cow, News From Babel and Music for Films) theirs is a knottier, more querying sound: a winding road full of debate and pointings, animated but affectionate.

There have been shifts in the band recently. While Yumi continues on keyboards and lever harp alongside co-founder/former Cow drummer Chris Cutler, and singer Dagmar Krause was added as the primary vocalist for last year’s European dates, the band now features John Greaves on bass and keyboards and Tim Hodgkinson on reeds and lap steel, bringing its ex-Cow member count up to four (with Chlöe Herington still on hand to add more assorted reeds). They’ve kept the fifty-fifty male/female player ratio which reflected their original title, but have now taken up the more sober, less whimsical name of Lindsay Cooper Songbook. This will be the debut of the new crew, but here’s video of various previous lineups of the band in action in London and Japan…



 
The evening also features three support sets drawn from the ensemble. Making their British debut, The Watts unites Yumi Hara with Tim Hodgkinson and Chris Cutler in a post-Cow trio. John Greaves adds a solo performance of his own songs on voice and piano, and Chlöe Herington (following the development of her VALVE project into a collective female trio which, in some respects, echoes Lindsay’s work with FIG) will be returning to her own solo roots with music for bassoon and electronics. If there are any gaps left, staunch ‘Organ’-ista Marina Organ will be filling them with her DJ set, drawing on the horde of fringe-rock and experimental records she plays on her Resonance FM show.

Lindsay Cooper Songbook + The Watts + John Greaves + Chlöe Herington + DJ Marina Organ
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Saturday 16th June 2018, 7.30pm
– information here and here
 

There’ll be a second chance to catch them this summer – at the Zappanale in Bad Doberan Germany on 21st July. For those who missed my Lindsay summary last time, here’s a trimmed version:

“Long before the knot of current pop-culture wrangling over women’s control over the music they make, (Lindsay) was plugging away in her own corner, striving (and ultimately succeeding) for much the same thing in the often arid and unforgiving spaces of British art rock, improv and jazz… Pinning down the nature of a woman’s work in art – or women’s work in general – is not always an easy thing, nor even desirable. Even the most positive intentions can produce more restrictive categories, more unwanted boxings and demands to conform.

“In the case of Lindsay, whose career always foregrounded honest effort and end product over personality showboating, and which was tinted by doubt and determination, it’s probably best to concentrate mostly on the mind behind the music: to listen to the querying voice coming through. Operating over a set of times in which both contemporaries and colleagues had a tendency towards answers and stances, stated in both bald pronouncements and modernist-baroque ornamentations, she opted to bring a more questioning tone which nonetheless carried some of its possible answers in both action and presentation.

“Hers was a polymathic but purer musicality: an instrumental voice which voyaged alongside others’ often harsher pronouncements, détournements and doctrines and drew from them while never being subject to them, and which always kept a gentler, more accommodating side open to allow growing space and to consistently rebuild… She was responsible for most of the piled jazzy grandeur of the second side (of Henry Cow’s ‘Western Culture’) finding previously unexplored links between the music of New York, Canterbury and Switzerland)…

“In the late ’70s Lindsay had already formed the witty, subversive Feminist Improvising Group, or FIG (which) not only enabled previously sidelined female voices onto the improv scene but deliberately upturned expectations as to what such a scene could achieve. FIG were spontaneous, mutually supportive and – just as importantly – funny. With a strong and personal rooting in lesbian, class-based and feminist activism (plus parallel feelings of sidelining and denial on the part of others) but a suspicion of dogma, they expressed frustration and political challenge by drawing on a collective sense of the absurd and of the sympathetic… Men carped, frowned and cold-shouldered; women laughed, argued and sometimes welcomed; the group members continually challenged their own sense of self and role; but the work itself sounds joyously unshackled – something I would have loved to have been around to see…

“Post-Cow and FIG, Lindsay ran her own Film Music Orchestra to create and record arthouse soundtracks (often working in cinematic cahoots with Sally Potter). She rejoined Chris Cutler for the 1980s post-Marxist art-song project News From Babel (in which) Chris’ social and political musings would make a happier marriage with the pop-cabaret end of Lindsay’s music. She also contributed to the counter-cultural jazz colours of various Mike Westbrook and John Wolf Brennan bands, played with Pere Ubu ranter David Thomas, worked in theatre and (in the ’90s) composed a more formal chamber music which nonetheless retained the edge and inquiring spirit of her work in avant-rock and political art. She’d collaborate with Potter again for the Cold War song cycle ‘Oh, Moscow’ in the late ’80s, to which Chris Cutler also contributed. If encroaching multiple sclerosis (which had privately dogged her throughout her post-Cow career) hadn’t dragged her into early retirement in the late ’90s, there would have been more.

“(Lindsay Cooper Songbook) provide a welcome re-introduction to Lindsay’s work, performed by committed people whose sympathy with Lindsay Cooper’s music is absolute. However, they should also be viewed as a window onto the wider career of a quietly remarkable woman whose death in 2013 forced a premature coda onto the work of a mind whose personal humility had been more than balanced by its nimbleness, thoughtful and flexibility. Come along to these concerts and hear some of that mindwork and heartwork come alive again.”
 

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

 

March/April/May 2018 – upcoming classical gigs in London and Oxford – three evenings of chamber music by female composers courtesy of the Scordatura collective (25th March, 20th April, 19th May), including a Polly Virr guest slot in May… plus the London New Wind Festival’s ‘New Music by Women Composers’ concert (23rd March)

10 Mar

From March to May, women’s music collective Scordatura continue their mission to present, perform and illuminate work by female composers, via a series of monthly concerts in London or Oxford.

The March date in London is “an evening of wind chamber music from some of Europe’s most exciting female composers.” Living composers will be represented by Judith Weir’s ‘Mountain Airs’ (a free adaptation of two traditional Scottish melodies, which dates back to 1988); but there’ll also be wind quintets by a pair of bold and prolific twentieth-century French composers (Claude Arrieu and Hedwige Chrétien) as well as by English serialist grande-dame Elisabeth Lutyens.



 
In addition, there’ll be a performance of ‘Trio For Winds’ by the late Prague-based Scottish composer Geraldine Mucha, whose work was obscured for much of her lifetime (partly due to Cold War politics and partly due to so much of her energy and social value having being subsumed into other work as chatelaine and foundation head for her talented father-in-law, the Czech Art Nouveau painter Alphonse Mucha).


 
In April, three Scordatura members – cellist and artistic director Rachel Watson, clarinettist Poppy Beddoe, and pianist Cecily Lock – will be playing a set of chamber trios in Oxford. Two are by living composers – ‘Arenas d’un Tiempo’ by Cuban-Afro-American Tania León and ‘Canta, Canta!’ by Thea Musgrave.

The remainder are historical – ‘Passacaglia on an Old English Tune’ (by the slim-catalogued but accomplished post-Impressionist Rebecca Clarke); ‘Sonata for Clarinet and Cello’ (by the smart, witty and superbly spirited Phyllis Tate); ‘Andante for Clarinet and Piano’ (by the elegant twentieth-century neoclassicist Alice Mary Smith); and ‘Three Pieces for Cello and Piano’ (by Nadia Boulanger, whose exemplary work as a teacher of other composers from Philip Glass and Elliott Carter to Aaron Copland tends to overshadow her own compositional reputation).



 
Scordatura return to London (and the Old Church) in May for an evening of cello ensemble music. This will include pieces composed and performed by a guest – Manchester cellist Polly Virr (another latter-day tech-savvy polydisciplinary, who works with Rachel Watson in flashmob ensemble The Street Orchestra of London and whose work outside of the immediate classical sphere covers the string loop pedal duo Täpp as well as work with indie-folk band Ideal Forgery plus various Manchester singer-songwriters).

Landscape- and travel-inspired, Polly’s pieces include standard playing and cello-body percussion plus occasional extended technique and voice, in a similar manner to other post-classical/pop-friendly solo cellists like Laura Moody, Philip Sheppard, Zosia Jagodzinska and Serena Jost. She also draws additional inspiration from post-classical electronic dance artists such as Phaeleh. I’ve pasted in a couple of her Soundcloud shots below.

 
The other items on the programme include the Cello Quartet by Grażyna Bacewicz (a violin soloist and onetime Boulanger student who became one of the first internationally-recognised Polish female composers) and ‘Chant’ by the humble, undersung Scottish composer and multi-instrumentalist Marie Dare (for whom I’ve found a lone biography here) As with the other two concerts, there are a couple of pieces by living women, both of them cello quartets – the slow windings of Tina Davidson’s ‘Dark Child Sings’, and Gabriela Lena Frank’s ‘Las Sombras de los Apus’ (an early piece rising from dark tones to swarming explosions and dance rhythms, balancing – as with most of her music – the European and Latina aspects of her own multicultural heritage).


 
Dates as follows:

  • ‘The Grand Tour: European Music for Wind Quintet’ – The Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 9ES, England, Sunday 25th March 2018, 7.30pm – information here, here and here
  • ‘Scordatura at St Michael’s’ – St Michael & All Angels Church, 33 Lonsdale Road, Summertown, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX2 7ES, England, Friday 20th April 2018, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • ‘Celli! Music for Cello Ensemble’ – The Old Church, Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 9ES, England, Saturday 19th May 2018, 7.30pm – information here, here and here

 
* * * * * * * *

UPDATE, 16th March 2018 – …and, if you can’t wait that long, I’ve just found out that the people behind the London New Wind Festival are staging a London evening of new music by women composers, as part of International Woman’s Month; a couple of evenings before the first of the Scordatura concerts.

A loose on/off quintet of Simon Desorgher (flutes), Catherine Pluygers (oboes), Ian Mitchell (clarinets), Alan Tomlinson (trombone), and Robert Coleridge (piano) will be playing the following pieces:

Yuko Ohara – Rising Eels (for oboe & trombone)
Margaret Lucy Wilkins – “366” (for solo trombone)
Dorothee Eberhardt – Campion (for bass clarinet & piano) (UK premiere)
Violeta Dinescu – Lichtwellen (for solo B-flat clarinet) (UK premiere)
Michiko Shimanuki – First Snow (for solo piano) (world premiere)
Catherine Pluygers – Japan (for ensemble)
Janet Graham – From Dawn to Dusk (for flute, oboe and piano)
Erika Fox – Remembering the Tango (for flute and piano)
Ming Wang – Die Verwandelten (for solo bass flute)
Enid Luff – The Coming of the Rain (for solo oboe).

London New Wind Festival presents:
‘New Music by Women Composers’
Schott Music Ltd, 48 Great Marlborough Street, Soho, London, WIF 7BB, England
Friday 23rd March 2018, 7.30pm
– information here, here and here

This music’s currently so obscure that this is the only soundclip I could find for it…

 

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