Tag Archives: The Hermes Experiment

August/September/December 2016 – music dramas in London and Edinburgh: Héloïse Werner & Jonathan Woolgar’s ‘Scenes From The End’ (10th to 27th August variously, plus more in December) and Zoe Lewis’ ‘Britten in Brooklyn’ (31st August-17th September)

4 Aug

Some news on a couple of pieces of music drama showing in London and Edinburgh this month – one a fully-fledged conceptual solo piece (involving original contemporary classical compositions and diverse performance techniques), the other a more conventional theatrical play themed around the wartime exile of Benjamin Britten.

Here’s a little more information about each of them (combed, shaped and styled in a hurry, from the press releases).

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Héloïse Werner's 'Scenes From The End'

‘Scenes from the End’ is a tour-de-force showcase for Héloïse Werner – soprano, sometime cellist and member of (amongst others) contemporary classical ensemble The Hermes Experiment, vocal ensemble Shards and original folk bands The Coach House Company and The Amazing Devil.

“Héloïse’s increasing interest in the dramatic potential of the unaccompanied voice has led her to experiment with a wide range of more contemporary techniques. ‘Scenes from the End’ is a fully staged, physical drama that combines classical and operatic vocal techniques, as well as improvisation, acting and body percussion. In it, Héloïse aims to confront the audience with the uncomfortable themes of death and grief, challenging them to reevaluate their own attitudes towards these difficult issues.

‘Scenes from the End’ is a collaboration with young composer Jonathan Woolgar (a previous award-winner of the BBC Proms Young Composers’ Competition) and with director Emily Burns. Using a colourful array of vocal and theatrical means, the show paints historic, comic and tragic pictures of “the end”, from the heat-death of the universe to the end of an individual life. This is virtuoso music theatre on a scale that is both cosmic and intimate.”

‘Scenes From The End’ is being performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with a couple of preview performances in London a week and a half beforehand. There’ll be a further run of London performances in December.

Camden Fringe Festival @ Camden People’s Theatre, 58-60 Hampstead Road, London NW1 2PY, England
Wednesday 10th August 2016 & Thursday 11th August 2016, 7.15pm
information

Edinburgh Fringe Festival: Lime Studio @ Greenside (Nicholson Square), 25 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9BX, Scotland
Monday 22nd August 2016 to Saturday 27th August 2016 1.55pm
information

Tristan Bates Theatre, 1A Tower St, Covent Garden, London, WC2H 9NP
Tuesday 6th December 2016 to Saturday 10th December 2016, 7.30pm (plus one 3pm performance on the 10th)
– no information online yet

Although Héloïse is someone I’d like to catch up with for a chat at some point, for the moment I’d better point you in the direction of this recent interview she’s done (freshly published today!) with the LaLaLa Records vocal music homepage, covering ‘Scenes From The End’ and several of her other projects.

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'Britten In Brooklyn'

“Based on true events, the world premiere of Zoe Lewis‘s passionate and thought-provoking play Britten In Brooklyn takes place in the beautiful and unique setting of Wilton’s Music Hall. Starring Sadie Frost and directed by Oli Rose, it plays for a strictly limited season of 21 performances.

“New York City, 1940. A dilapidated house in Brooklyn Heights. The bohemian lifestyle of Benjamin Britten, WH Auden, Carson McCullers and Gypsy Rose Lee in the artistic community at 7 Middagh Street starts to unravel as World War II becomes a brutal reality. Exiled in America for his beliefs and a national disgrace, Benjamin Britten must decide which way his conflicted political ideals lie but the constant parties, doomed affairs and John Dunne, the mysterious stranger, provide an easy distraction.”

‘Britten in Brooklyn’
Wilton’s Music Hall, 1 Graces Alley, Whitechapel, London, E1 8JB, England
Wednesday 31st August 2016 to Saturday 17th September 2016, 7.30pm (plus 2.30pm matinee performance on Wednesdays and Saturdays)
information
 

July 2016 – upcoming gigs in London and Sunderland – end-of-the-season for Daylight Music with Cecil Sharp House Choir, Lisa Knapp, Hermes Experiment, David Julyan and John Potter (9th); the live-soundtracked premiere of Somme-and-Mackem documentary ‘Asunder’ with Field Music, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Warm Digits and The Cornshed Sisters (10th)

6 Jul

This weekend, in London, mostly-unplugged afternoon Daylight Music will bow out for the summer with a distinctly maritime-toned concert – and one which features another choir as the headlining act. I’ve been tempted to give Daylight’s organisers a bit of stick for their interest in choirs this season, but it makes no more sense than ribbing them for liking performers with acoustic guitars. While, for me, the scratch-choir-does-pop-hits musical meme gets too cosy too quickly, Daylight has done its level best to vary the choral diet, with this week’s headliners delving back into deeper folk roots (and the other acts on the bill ranging out across nautical atmospheres and underwater imaginings).

At the other end of the country, in Sunderland, film-makers have teamed up with art-rockers, bleepers, folk singers and community consciousness to create a picture of the First World War’s impact on a thriving north-eastern community. Keeping true to their inspirations, they’re premiering their work there. We Southerners will have to wait, and quite rightly too.

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Daylight Music 231

Daylight Music 231 – Cecil Sharp House Choir + Lisa Knapp + The Hermes Experiment + David Julyan & John Potter
Union Chapel, 19b Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 9th July 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

“Known for its unique, spirited and moving a cappella renditions of traditional songs from the British Isles (and occasionally beyond), Cecil Sharp House Choir is one to catch. Helmed by inspirational choir leader, Sally Davies (and open to any confident singer able to hold a tune, learn by ear and be keen to perform), the choir performs regularly at Cecil Sharp House and at a host of other venues and events including the Southbank Centre, the Roundhouse, the House of Commons and the Oslo Musikkfest.

“Singer and fiddle player Lisa Knapp burst onto the scene in 2007 with her much lauded debut album ‘Wild & Undaunted’, which contained refreshing interpretations of traditional folk songs peppered with highly distinctive original pieces. Numerous appearances across BBC Radio and BBC4’s Christmas TV folk song extravaganza followed, as well as a performance tribute to the late Lal Waterson for BBC Electric Proms. Further recordings (made in collaboration with her musician/producer husband Gerry Diver) have included the EP ‘Hunt The Hare – A Branch of May’ and 2013’s ‘Hidden Seam’ album. Lisa’s BBC work continued with Radio 4’s acclaimed ‘Shipping Songs‘ in 2015 (musing on the extraordinary sounds from far-off places on the Shipping Forecast), and it’s this which should inform her July Daylight appearance, which features a duo performance with Gerry Diver and a song sung with the Cecil Sharp House Choir.

“Park Lane Group Young Artists 2015/16 and winners of Nonclassical’s Battle of the Bands 2014, The Hermes Experiment is a contemporary classical music quartet comprising harpist Anne Denholm, clarinettist Oliver Pashley, soprano Héloïse Werner and double bass player Marianne Schofield. Their performance style has been hailed as “meticulously nuanced, witty and chic” by The Times, while The Evening Standard has acclaimed their “whole new expressive world.” Capitalising on their deliberately idiosyncratic combination of instruments, the ensemble regularly commissions new works, as well as creating their own innovative arrangements and venturing into live free improvisation. So far, the ensemble has commissioned thirty-one different composers at various stages of their careers. The ensemble also strives to create a platform for cross-disciplinary collaboration and they recently created a ‘musical exhibition’ with photographer Thurstan Redding. Future plans include a residency at Aldeburgh Music in September 2016 developing a new interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale with director Nina Brazier and composer Kim Ashton.

“The Hermes Experiment’s Daylight performance this weekend will be a marine-themed set first performed in 2014 (and recently revived at a Park Lane Music Group concert at St John’s Smith Square earlier in the year), at which they performed Giles Swayne‘s ‘Chansons dévotes and poissonneuses (Devout and Fishy Songs)’, a setting of three piscatorial poems by French Symbolist Georges Fourest. Whether they’ve got time for some of the other songs for the St Johns set – Kate Honey‘s ‘Predator Fish’, Freya Waley-Cohen‘s ‘Oyster’, Josephine Stephenson‘s ‘tanka’ – remains to be seen.

“As the fourth act, David Julyan (a film composer best known for his collaborations with Christopher Nolan on Memento’ and ‘The Prestige’, as well as for horror movie ‘The Descent‘) will be teaming up with John Potter (of ambient project The Music Of What Happens) in order to create a live sea soundscape.”

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Field Music/The Royal Northern Sinfonia/Warm Digits + The Cornshed Sisters
‘Asunder’ – film premiere with live score
Sunderland Empire Theatre, High Street West, Sunderland, SR1 3EX, England
Sunday 10th July 2016, 2.30pm and 7.30pm
information

“Northumbrian art poppers Field Music (with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and electronic duo Warm Digits) are set to perform a newly commissioned live score to accompany ‘Asunder’, a film telling the tale of the North East’s involvement in the Battle of the Somme (one of the most horrific battles in World War One) through largely unknown personal experiences. The collaboration marks the Battle’s centenary. Royal Northern Sinfonia will be conducted by Hugh Brunt, Artistic Director of the London Contemporary Orchestra (and Radiohead collaborator). Sunderland folk quartet The Cornshed Sisters will also perform an a cappella rendition of traditional Wearside folk tune The Rigs of Sunderland Fair.

 

“‘Asunder’ brings together the stories and images of the past with music from the present to tell a poignant and relevant story of what happened to a typical British town during the First World War, with virtually all of the its men abroad fighting and all of its women and children left behind. The North East was in the front line, thanks to its shipyards and munitions factories.
Through the stories of half a dozen people from Tyneside and Wearside, ‘Asunder’ uncovers just what life was like on the home front – with bombs falling on Britain for the first time, conscientious objectors sentenced to death, and women working as doctors, tram conductors and footballers, some of them (God forbid) wearing trousers.

“The story begins in the pre-war Edwardian golden era when cricket, football and rugby boomed, and aeroplanes and cars pointed to a bright new future – only for this progress to be horrifically reversed through the early years of the war. This culminated on 1st July 1916 in the Battle of the Somme, when British, French and German forces began one of the most traumatic battles in military history. Over the course of just four months, more than one million soldiers were captured, wounded or killed in the Battle, a confrontation of unimaginable horror.

“The story is told through a beautiful film carefully crafted by documentarist Esther Johnson using archive and newly filmed footage, and narrated by Kate Adie (with Alun Armstrong as the voice of the ‘Sunderland Daily Echo & Shipping Gazette’). 

“‘Asunder’ will premiere at the Sunderland Empire on 10th July before touring at selected venues around the country (dates to be confirmed).

“Field Music’s David Brewis says of the commission:

“The chance to write something completely new and play it with an orchestra doesn’t come around very often. And as we heard about the plans for the film, the idea of telling a more complete story about our home town and how the war affected it was very appealing. There’s nothing quite like hearing a full orchestra right in front of you and if we get it right, then the balance between what you see and hear on screen and what you see and hear from the musicians should be spectacular. One of the other things which intrigued Peter (Brewis) especially about this project was our love of the orchestral music from that period. Stravinsky’s ‘The Rite of Spring’ premiered in 1913, Schoenberg’s ‘Pierrot Lunaire’ in 1912. Bela Bartok and Maurice Ravel were composing, as was Claude Debussy, so it was a time of huge change in harmony and composition and we’ve dipped into that period for inspiration a lot.”

“Writer and ‘Asunder’ creative director Bob Stanley comments:

“For me, ‘Asunder’ is an opportunity to work with a group I’ve admired from afar for years, Field Music, and one of my favourite documentary makers, Esther Johnson, as well as a group I only discovered last year but are one of the most thrilling electronic acts in the country, Warm Digits. The premiere will be a truly unique event – the combination of a live score to a new film featuring some incredible archive footage and fascinating local stories, along with the other events going on inside and outside the Empire should be a really memorable day, and I hope one that people will be talking about for years to come. I want everyone who sees it to take pride in the region’s unique history and to feel they can help to build its future.”

 

February 2016 – upcoming gigs – a classical sweep: Britten Sinfonia tour Debussy, Donatoni, Takemitsu, Jolivet and a Daníel Bjarnason premiere; the Hermes Experiment go audio-visual with Bennett, Kate Whitley, Soosan Lolavar, Ed Scolding and Giles Swayne; Busch Piano Trio play Brahms, Schubert and Loevendie; the latest of Susanne Kessel’s ‘250 Piano Pieces For Beethoven’ project brings premieres by Mike Garson, Ivo van Emmerik, Robert HP Platz, Claudio Puntin, Markus Reuter, Klaus Runze, Mateo Soto and Knut Vaage.

11 Feb

Some news on upcoming classical-and-related gigs spanning from Southampton to London to Cambridge to Norwich, and over to Bonn in Germany…

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The Hermes Experiment - 'Sonic Visions' @ The Forge, 16th February 2016

The Hermes Experiment presents: Sonic Visions
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Tuesday 16th February 2016, 8:00 pm
more information

“Described as “barmy but brilliant” by ‘Classical Music Magazine’ (and winners of both Park Lane Group Young Artists 2015/16 and of Nonclassical’s Battle of the Bands 2014), The Hermes Experiment is an ensemble of four young professional musicians who are passionate about contemporary and experimental music, and thus inspired to create something innovative and unique. Capitalising on their deliberately idiosyncratic combination of instruments, the ensemble regularly commissions new works, as well as creating their own innovative arrangements and venturing into live free improvisation.

The ensemble has established itself on the London contemporary classical scene with regular performances across the city for organisations including Nonclassical, Kammerklang, Listenpony and Bastard Assignments. Other highlights have included being selected to perform at the 2014 UK Young Artists Festival in Leicester, and giving a concert at Aubazine Abbey in France as part of the L’Aura des Arts festival. The Hermes Experiment is also dedicated to the value of contemporary music in education and community contexts, having taken part in the Wigmore Hall Learning’s ‘Chamber Tots’ and ‘For Crying Out Loud’ 2014/15 schemes.

So far, The Hermes Experiment has commissioned new work from thirty-one composers at various stages of their careers (including Giles Swayne, Stevie Wishart and Misha Mullov-Abbado). The ensemble also strives to create a platform for cross-disciplinary collaboration and has recently created a ‘musical exhibition’ with photographer Thurstan Redding.

The Sonic Visions show will explore ways in which aural experiences have been influenced by visual stimuli. The programme is led by new commissions that respond to a visual element, as interpreted by composers Kate Whitley and Soosan Lolavar; plus a new piece devised in collaboration with Giles Swayne based on a graphic score, and the premiere of an animation by Izabela Barszcz based on Ed Scolding‘s ‘Black Sea’. The Hermes Experiment will also be interpreting three other new graphic scores, devised by Deborah Pritchard, Andy Ingamells and Eloise Gynn as part of a competition linked to the event. The programme will be completed by arrangements that explore three very varied composers/songwriters that have been inspired by the world of visual art: Claude Debussy, Richard Rodney Bennett and Don McLean. This concert is supported by the Britten-Pears Foundation and the Hinrichsen Foundation.

Programme:

Kate Whitley – My Hands (setting of a poem by Nadine Tunasi – world premiere)
Soosan Lolavar – Mah Didam (world premiere)
Ed Scolding – Black Sea (with new animation by Izabela Barszcz)
Claude Debussy – Mandoline and Fantoche
Richard Rodney Bennett – Slow Foxtrot (from ‘A History of Thé Dansant’)
Don McLean – Vincent (new arrangement by The Hermes Experiment)
New semi-improvised piece by Giles Swayne & The Hermes Experiment
New graphic scores by Deborah Pritchard, Andy Ingamells and Eloise Gynn

Performers:

Oliver Pashley – clarinet
Anne Denholm – harp
Marianne Schofield – double bass
Héloïse Werner – soprano/co-director

Supported by
Hanna Grzekiewicz – co-director/marketing/development

Kate Whitley and Soosan Lolavar have both provided blog entries discussing the genesis of their Sonic Visions pieces (based on a poem setting and on an exploration of the links between Iranian music and Renaissance Counterpoint, respectively). The graphic score for Deborah Pritchard’s piece (which is apparently called ‘Kandinsky Studies’) showed up on Twitter recently, so I’ve reproduced it below:

Deborah Pritchard:  score for 'Kandinsky Studies', 2016

Deborah Pritchard: score for ‘Kandinsky Studies’, 2016

Also below are a couple of videos – one of the Hermes Experiment in the flow of free improvisation, the other of them performing William Cole’s ‘me faytz trobar’.



 
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The Britten Sinfonia return for the second of this year’s (and the third overall) ‘At Lunch’ concert series of mid-day performances across the east of England, this time managing to stretch as far as the south coast.

Britten Sinfonia presents ‘At Lunch Three’

Daníel Bjarnason (photo by Samantha West)

Daníel Bjarnason (photo by Samantha West)

Programme:

Claude Debussy – Syrinx
Franco Donatoni – Small II
Daníel Bjarnason – new work (world premiere tour)
Franco Donatoni – Marches
Claude Debussy – Sonata for flute, viola and harp (L137)

amended setlist for Southampton adds:

André Jolivet – Petite Suite
Toru Takemitsu – And Then I Knew ‘Twas Wind

Performers:

Emer McDonough (flute)
Clare Finnimore (viola)
Lucy Wakeford (harp)

“The combination of flute, viola and harp may not be the most familiar trio ensemble, but it is one that certainly lends itself to the rich exploration of colour and harmonies that is typical of Debussy’s output. A deeply expressive curiosity in soundscapes and association with visual art also features in the compositions of Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason, whose new work features alongside that of Debussy in this programme.”

The London and Cambridge gigs include an “in conversation” event (a pre-concert discussion on Daníel Bjarnason’s new work) before the concert at 12.15pm in London, or after the concert at 2.15pm in Cambridge. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance in London, and are only available to concert ticket holders in Cambridge.

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Back in Norwich, there’s a promising trio concert…

Busch Trio, 2016

(Norfolk & Norwich Chamber Music Festival presents:
The Busch Trio
John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney Lane, Norwich, NR4 7UH, England
Saturday 20th February 2016, 7.30pm
more information

“Named after the legendary violinist Adolf Busch and inspired by trio member Mathieu van Bellen’s possession of Busch’s 1783 J.B. Guadagnini violin, the London-based Busch Trio – previously The Busch Ensemble – are emerging as one of the leading young piano trios among the new generation, receiving enthusiastic responses from audiences and critics across the UK and Europe. Recognised for their achievements and the “incredible verve” of their playing, they were winners of the 2012 Royal Overseas League Competition and went on to win several prizes including 2nd prize and the recording prize at the 2012 Salieri-Zinetti International Chamber Music Competition and the 3rd prize at the 2013 Pinerolo International Chamber Music Competition in Italy as well as the 2nd prize at the International Schumann Chamber Music Award in Frankfurt.

Since its formation in 2012 highlights of the Trio’s performances in the UK have included the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Sage Gateshead and a critically acclaimed appearance at Wigmore Hall. They have also given concerts in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Denmark. The trio enjoys the support of the Tunnell Trust, the Kirckman Concert Society, the Park Lane Group and the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust, as well as being awarded the MMSF Philharmonia Orchestra Ensemble Award. Most recently they have completed the prestigious ChamberStudio Mentorship Programme, which has offered them teaching from some of the world’s leading musicians. They are currently receiving guidance from members of the Artemis Quartet at the Queen Elizabeth Music Chapel in Brussels.”

This concert includes a pre-concert discussion with the trio members at 6.30pm. In addition to two familiar Romantic-era classics, the programme includes a performance of ‘Ackermusik’ by jazz/Eastern-cultures-inspired Dutch composer Theo Loevendie (which Loevendie notes is “written in a mosaic form of five repetitive elements” and which possibly, though not explicitly, pays tribute to the low, breathy vibrato clarinet stylings of late British trad-jazzer Acker Bilk).

Programme:

Theo Loevendie – Ackermusik
Johannes Brahms – Piano Trio No. 2 in C major Op. 87
Franz Schubert – Piano Trio No 2 in E flat D929

Performers:

Omri Epstein – piano
Mathieu van Bellen – violin
Ori Epstein – cello

Here’s a recent recording of the Busch Trio performing the third (Poc adagio) movement of Dvorak’s Piano Trio in F minor, op.65, as well as a previous performance of ‘Ackermusic’ by the Van Baerle Trio.


 

 

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Finally, news on an ongoing concert and commissioning series…

Susanne Kessel - 250 Pieces For Beethoven

Bonner Kunstverein presents:
Susanne Kessel: ‘250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven’
Klavierhaus Klavins, Auguststrasse 26–28, 53229 Bonn, Germany
Thursday 25th February, 2016, 7.30pm
more information.

“In the year 2020, the world will celebrate the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, who was born in Bonn. In partnership with German radio station WDR Köln, pianist and Bonn native Susanne Kessel has begun an international composition project, inviting composers from all over the world to write a short piano piece “for Beethoven” with a duration of four minutes or under.

Since the start of the project, Susanne has been performing all the pieces at a series of concerts in Bonn (with some pieces also being presented at Speicher am Kaufhauskanal in Hamburg). All pieces will subsequently be published in a “precious paper” sheet-music edition by Editions Musica Ferrum of London.”

As of February 5th of this year, Susanne has received fifty-seven of the planned two hundred and fifty pieces. The next of the concerts in the performance series takes place on February 25th, in the Bonn instrument store Klavierhaus Klavins, and will feature premieres of work by the following composers:

  • Ivo van Emmerik – Dutch composer and onetime student of, among others, John Cage, Brian Ferneyhough and Morton Feldman (regarding whom he’s sometimes been suggested as a successor) with a strong interest in multi-media musical staging, electronic music and computer applications.
  • Mike Garson – cross-disciplinary American jazz, rock and experimental pianist and arranger (best known for his mid-‘70s work with David Bowie).
  • Robert HP Platz – German composer and founder/conductor of Ensemble Köln, generally better known for large-scale projects which can include operatic works, children’s music, literature, poetry, audio tapes and visual arts.
  • Claudio Puntin – Swiss composer, clarinettist and loop musician best known for wild, beautiful and moody electronica and post-jazz as a member of ensembles including ambiq and Sepiasonic as well as work for film, television and theatre.
  • Markus Reuter – German cross-disciplinary composer, touch guitarist, teacher and instrument designer, known for his work with centrozoon, Stick Men and others (as well as for his recent full-scale orchestral piece ‘Todmorden 513’).
  • Klaus Runze – German “intermedia” artist, composer, educator and theorist (pursuing, amongst other things, structured improvisation, composition, sonic sculpture, and painting-while-performing)
  • Mateo Soto – award-winning Spanish composer and recent winner of YouTube CODE 2016 Series Call for Scores.
  • Knut Vaage – Norwegian composer and member of the ensembles JKL and Fat Battery, whose work explores the boundaries between composition and improvisations.

Five of the composers (van Emmerik, Platz, Puntin, Reuter and Vaage) will be attending and possibly speaking, as will German percussionist/composer/music professor Dennis Kuhn and Swiss composer-pianist Lars Werdenberg (founder of New Music platform Chaotic Moebius), both of whom have previously contributed pieces to the project.

News on the ongoing project can be followed here.

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More gig news shortly, including William D. Drake in Italy and Louis Barrabas on the rampage across Scotland and northern England.

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