Tag Archives: Rachel Watson

January/February 2019 – upcoming classical gigs around Britain and Ireland – Nonclassical’s Battle of the Bands (23rd January); Scordatura’s Clara Schumann evening (3rd February); Gyða Valtýsdóttir’s ‘Epicycle’ tour (29th January to 3rd February)

18 Jan

Nonclassical open their year with their annual Battle of the Bands at their live homebase in Hackney’s Victoria performance pub. Six competitors will be duking it out for industry attention and more Nonclassical gig opportunities. As usual, they’ve been chosen from the permeable space where contemporary classical touches on other musical forms, on other arts and on current concerns.

Nonclassical: Battle of the Bands, 23rd January 2019

There will be two solo performers. Woodwind specialist James Hurst will be swapping between alto saxophone and alto recorder to perform his own ‘The Descent of Ishtar To The Underworld’, a guided, Bronze Age-inspired improvisation. Reylon Yount, a San Franciscan Chinese-American yangqin player and member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, will be performing the diasporan-influenced sound exploration ‘Rituals and Resonances for Solo Yangqin’ by Chinese-British composer Alex Ho, which “attempts to engage with the paradoxical sense of nostalgia one may feel for a place one did not grow up in” via “an exploration of the relationship between sound and its resonance.”



 
Three collectives are also competing. Chamber ensemble Scordatura Women’s Music Collective champion and perform the work of female composers, both living and dead: on this occasion, they’ll be performing ‘Las Sombras de los Apus’ by Gabriela Lena Frank, a cello quartet in which each instrument plays in a different tuning. The recently-formed New Music group 4|12 Collective will be playing James Saunders’ Instruments with Recordings (with a lineup of viola player Toby Cook, flautist Epsie Thompson, accordionist Giancarlo Palena, bassoonist Olivia Palmer-Baker, trombonist Benny Vernon and tuba player Stuart Beard).

Rita Says & The Jerico Orchestra (performing Paragraph 7 of ‘The Great Learning’ by Cornelius Cardew) have been around a little longer: over the past decade, they’ve been working at “defin(ing) a connection between fine art performance practise and the history of contemporary music”, exploring a spontaneous blend of physical action and visual interaction to create and conduct pieces.


 

Finally, there’s composer/performer and Filthy Lucre co-founder Joe Bates, who pitches his camp on the faultline between contemporary classical music and avant-rock, hip hop and electronics; and whose artistic interests include “desire at a remove” and “the decline of classical music’s social prestige and the possibilities for its future.” His music blends contemporary classical structures and instrumentation options with “intense, still, driven riffs” and harmonies from rock and other pop forms. On this occasion, he’ll be playing pieces from his microtonal synthesiser suite/EP ‘Flim Flam’.

 
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If you’re sympathetic to Scordatura’s role as feminist music historians and curators, you might like to know that they’re popping up again in Abingdon, Oxfordshire in early February – as part of the Abbey Chamber Concerts series.

Scordatura, 3rd February 2019

Their 3rd February gig, titled as “Celebrating Clara” (and utilising a shifting duo/trio/quartet formation of clarinettist Poppy Beddoe, violinist Claudia Fuller, cellist Rachel Watson and pianist Thomas Ang) ostensibly showcases Clara Schumann, the similarly talented but undervalued composer-pianist married to Robert Schumann. They’ll be playing one Schumann piece – the Piano Trio in G minor – and possibly some of her clarinet work, but the remaining programme slots are given over to the work of other female composers. Contemporary composer Cecilia McDowall’s chamber piece ‘Cavatina at Midnight’ is followed by the Victorian ‘Piano Suite in E major’ by Clara Schumann’s contemporary Ethel Smyth.

The last piece is by Fanny Hensel ( ‘Fantasia for Cello and Piano’) a.ka. Fanny Mendelssohn, whose life was a sometimes-uncomfortable reiterating mirror of Clara’s. Both were similarly talented intimates of established composers (one a wife, the other a sister); both had surprisingly encouraging husbands; both were also tutored and driven by demanding fathers who established excellence in them. Both, too, were ultimately constrained as composers by the discouragements and domestic responsibilities forced upon women of their times, with the men in their families often acting with a frustrating mixture of systematic positive pressure and patriarchal forbiddings. (Felix Mendelssohn, for instance, was a devoted, championing brother who found that he drew the line at Fanny entering the canon of published composers.)

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Gyða Valtýsdóttir 'Epicycle' tour (Britain/Ireland), January/February 2019Overlapping these two concerts is a British/Irish mini-tour by Gyða Valtýsdóttir – still known as the former cellist for Iceland experimental pop band Múm even though she only played on two of their albums and has been out of the band for sixteen years.

Having immediately returned, post-Múm, to her classical roots (formally studying, graduating and applying herself to classical cello) Gyða’s spent the time since then in the genre-stepping world of the modern post-classical musician. Outside of the classical gigs, rent-paying but artistically respectable engagements adding stringwork to records or tours by Sigur Ros’ Jónsi, Damien Rice and Colin Stetson have alternated with assorted film, dance, theatre and installation music around the world, as well as bouts of free improvisation gigs. Allied with her twin sister and ex-Múm bandmate Kristín Anna, Gyða also added a “reciprocal twin” component to Aaron and Bryce Dessner’s 2015 song cycle ‘Forever Love’, conceived and delivered with performance artists Ragnar Kjartansson.

Although Gyða’s latest personal release (last year’s ‘Evolution’) features her own compositions and a return to her Múm-era multi-instrumentalism – and although some of those songs will get an airing – this tour focusses mostly on her 2017 solo debut ‘Epicycle‘, a two-millennia-spanning exercise in musical commonality and reconfiguration originally intended as “a gift for friends” on which Schubert, Schumann and Messiaen rub shoulders with Harry Partsch, George Crumb, Hildegard von Bingen and the nineteen-hundred year old Seikilos Epitaph. The album was an Icelandic smash hit and a talking point elsewhere: a classical debut recorded with the immediacy of a jazz record and with a broad-minded disregard for purity, bringing in upfront studio processing techniques and stylings/instrumental responses from other traditions from jazz to ancient folk to experimental post-rock.

On tour, she’s performing with her Epicycle trio, also featuring multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily (on guitar, synthesizer, percussion and anything else which needs playing) and drummer Julian Sartorius, both of whom played on the record.




 
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Dates:

Nonclassical presents:
Nonclassical: Battle of the Bands
The Victoria, 451 Queensbridge Road, E8 3AS London, United Kingdom
Wednesday 23rd January 2019, 8.00pm
– information here, here and here

Abbey Chamber Concerts present:
Scordatura: Women’s Music Collective: ‘Celebrating Clara’
St Nicolas’ Church, Market Place, Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire OX14 3HF
Sunday 3rd February 2019, 3.00pm
– information here, here and here

Gyða Valtýsdóttir – ‘Epicycle’ tour:

  • Norwich Arts Centre, 51 St. Benedicts Street, Norwich, NR2 4PG, England, Tuesday 29th January 2019, 8.00pm – information here, here and here
  • Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England, Wednesday 30th January 2019, 7.30pm – information here and here
  • The Metropolitan Arts Centre, 10 Exchange St West, Belfast, BT1 2NJ, Northern Ireland, Thursday 31st January 2019 – no further information
  • Dublin Unitarian Church, 112 Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin, D02 YP23, Ireland, Friday 1st February 2019, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Summerhall, 1 Summerhall, Edinburgh, EH9 1PL, Scotland, Sunday 3rd February 2019, 8.00pm – 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

 
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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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