:: John Paul Jones


John Paul Jones premiere at the Swaledale Festival

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Amores Pasados at Grinton Church

We don’t often do gigs the UK, so when we do they’re really special. We were delighted to be in Grinton for the Swaledale Festival – pretty well home territory for Jacob Heringman and me, and Anna Maria Friman and Ariel Abramovich have often joined us in Yorkshire to rehearse so they’re almost local too. We’ve kicked off every secular programme with  John Paul Jones’ Amores Pasados  and we couldn’t resist doing it again this time, but we also premiered John Paul’s setting of Blake’s Cradle Song, which he wrote for us, having heard our York gig last year.

It was one our most memorable gigs ever, not only adding another fantastic JPJ piece to our repertoire, but being joined onstage by the man himself on mandolin and festival director Malcolm Creese on bass.

 

Musik i Syd

Before that Anna Maria Friman and I joined Daniel Stighäll and the Swedish ensemble Mare Balticum in Kristianstad, rehearsing a project for Musik i Syd with actress Cecilia Frode which will come to fruition with a tour in southern Sweden from the autumn onwards. I’ll post a list of dates nearer the time (there’s more info in Swedish here).

June 14-17 Nieder-Olm Festival for Young Voices

I’m returning to Nieder-Olm for another ensemble singing summer school with my old friend Werner Schüßler. There will be several young ensembles, who will take part in concerts in Kettenheim (16th) and Nieder-Olm (17th).

Werner’s new book is almost ready. This is a comprehensive and inspirational instruction manual for singers of all sorts. I’ve been metaphorically looking over his shoulder while Germany’s most famous Geordie has been working on this, the product of a lifetime’s engagement with singers of all descriptions.

Gavin Bryars Ensemble

June 22 Winestead, June 30 Hull, July 8 Royal Festival Hall, London

This will be a new commission from Opera North in connection with the City of Culture and the New Music Biennal (the ‘possibly one singer’ referred to is yours truly). Winestead church is believed to be where the poet Andrew Marvel was christened, and Gavin Bryars’ new work will have a Marvel text. The RFH concert is at 3.00 in the afternoon and tickets are free but you have to apply for them. You need a PhD in Googling to be able to do this…

 

Ongoing tenor musings

 

 

A couple of years ago I gave a paper at the Schwert Tenor: Mythos, Geschichte, Gegenwart conference and the book of the conference has just landed on my desk. It was a great conference and the book is full of interesting stuff – especially if you speak German. Mine’s the only chapter in English and it discusses the nature of the voice since recording began.

Red Byrd rides again

The progressive music site The Quietus has an interesting piece about Factory Classical, with a section on Red Byrd’s Songs of Love & Death album.  I prefer this pic to the rather boring one on  their site. There aren’t many of me in white trousers with red braces…

 

Well, it was the 1980s…

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Amores Pasados at the NCEM

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

There’s something really special about doing a gig on your own doorstep. Apart from doing concerts with students at the university I’ve only ever performed in York courtesy of the NCEM and the Conductus Project, and it was great to be able to do Amores Pasados to the most friendly audience imaginable, largely made up of family and friends. It was also special because it was the first time my granddaughters Emily and Grace had been to a ‘proper’ concert, and it made the heart sing to see them there (and Grace making a beeline for John Paul Jones’ leg shows she’s already heading in the right direction).  We were privileged to have both John Paul  and Gavin Bryars up to hear their pieces for the first time. John Paul spent a lot of time with Jake and Ariel discussing tunings and scales for his new piece (and did some exquisite busking on the piano). It’s going to be  quick, he says (somewhat alarmingly).

 

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Twitter was alive with Zeppelin-inspired names of the superlute group these three might create…

Gavin Bryars’ Sonnet 128 from his Nothing Like the Sun is one of my favourite pieces. The original (the recording of our Adelaide performance is about to be released) has a rich texture of Gavin’s signature string quartet (2 violas, cello and bass) plus piano, guitar and cimbalom, and I was a bit worried he might find Jake’s miraculous two lutes arrangement a bit of a shock. He loved it and we managed to persuade him to join us for the postlude. I’d had the idea that as we got near the postlude, an old bloke would get up out of the audience and approach the piano, which he would then play. And sure enough it came to pass. Gavin didn’t knock over any chairs or glasses on his way, but apart from that it was a nicely successful surprise. We’re used to either grand Spanish churches where the lutes really carry or big theatres where we have to use PA, so we enjoyed the intimacy of the NCEM (though I suspect it wasn’t quite resonant enough for the lutes).

We continue to accumulate repertoire. The Warlock and Moeran pieces worked very well this time round, and there are more to come. Our next performances as an ensemble are in Germany: a late night in Blaibach on September 10th, then the Weltmusikfestival Murnau  October 23rd and Enjoy Jazz Heidelberg October 24th. That’s all for this year at the moment. We hope to return to the UK next year, and we  have concerts in Spain, Italy and Argentina in the diary at the moment.

 

 

 

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Amores Pasados comes to York

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Vote yes or stay at home?

Our gig at the NCEM York on June 9 will be our first (and at the moment, only) performance in the UK. It’s rather timely, a European ensemble giving a concert a couple of weeks before the referendum. Like many of my contemporaries I don’t get to perform in England very often. It’s a great place to live, but when it comes to audiences and fees (the two basic requirements for performers) the European mainland seems to be more able to come up with the goods. There are exceptions of course (thank you NCEM!) – though it’s weird (and slightly frightening) that after amazing gigs all over the European mainland our only UK performance is here in my home town.  As far as the referendum is concerned I’m almost (almost…) inclined to stay at home, so pathetic and vision-free has the Remain campaign been,  led by a bunch of opportunists who’ve been whingeing about Europe for decades and now find themselves having to justify it: none of them seems to know or understand anything about the Europe most performers inhabit.  The arts, scholarship and education are inextricably bound up with the European project, as the Guardian (rather late in the day) reminds us. Incidentally, I have a postal vote since I can never be sure I’m going to be around on election day, and my PhD wasn’t enough to enable me to understand the ballot form which I ‘spoiled’ by mistake by tearing off a bit of tear off stuff that was just asking to be torn off. I phoned the election help line several times to ask for a replacement, but they obviously have very long lunch breaks at the York chapter as no one has picked up so far. I hope we don’t lose by one vote.

 

Avila selfie

 

Amores Pasados – rock & reverse engineering

Amores Pasados has been a huge adventure. Our basic premiss is that a song is a song, whether it’s written by Schubert or Paul McCartney. If you’ve had vernacular language beaten out of you (as we of the English choral tradition mostly have) you can’t actually sing a Paul McCartney song without sounding like a middle class twat. But given a tune and harmony and a poetic text all sorts of things become possible, and you can tap in to some of the most creative song-writers around. I’ve been banging on about this for years, and John Paul Jones actually wrote his three Amores Pasados songs for Red Byrd back in the Eighties; it took decades to persuade Tony Banks to write me a lute song (and now we have four). As luck would have it, with serendipitous foresight in my 1998 book Vocal Authority I suggested Sting singing early music would be revelatory and sure enough, having listened to my Dowland album (among many others) along the way, he eventually did.  When Ariel Abramovich was a student at the Schola Cantorum he shared a room in Basel with Edin Karamazov, who would become Sting’s lutenist many years later. As students at the Schola, Ariel and Edin both played in a Hilliard early/new music project involving Swiss composers, putting up with the old gits that we were even then. So getting Sting to agree to give us a song only took an email or two. Russell Crowe had rejected his contribution to the Robin Hood film (not the right stuff, apparently) and Sting kindly passed it on to me.  And it turned out that Jake Heringman had even played the lute at one of Sting’s parties. It was clearly meant to be.

The other strand of our work is the reverse-engineering of 20th century English song, creating lute songs that Warlock. Quilter,  Moeran and others would surely have written had they known any lutenists.   Philip Heseltine, aka Peter Warlock, transcribed hundreds of lute songs, bringing them into the 20th century light as songs with piano. His obsession with 17th century music and poetry was shared by many of his contemporaries, especially his drinking buddy Jack Moeran. Their music is as lyrical and pastoral as Dowland, as English as the songs of Genesis and Sting. We’re fortunate that Jacob Heringman choses not to fly anywhere, which means that the many hours he’s spent crossing Europe by train have enabled him to work lutey magic on other people’s piano parts, bringing  back into circulation a repertoire that fell out of fashion a generation 0r two ago.

York Festival of Ideas

The NCEM concert is part of the university’s Festival of Ideas. Our insistence that a song doesn’t need to be Winterreise to have artistic value would probably qualify on its own (a sort of counter-intuitive Leeds Lieder…).  We’re also acknowledging the Shakespeare centenary:  as well as bardic connections from Warlock and Moeran there will be the first performance of Tony Banks’ That time of Year (Sonnet 73) and a unique version of Gavin Bryars’ Sonnet 128, originally written for the last Shakespeare fest,  which may have a surprise or two in store.

Tickets

Tickets are selling fast but can still be had at a special discount if you quote voucher code AP 241 (https://tickets.ncem.co.uk/en-GB/shows/amores%20pasados/info

or ring 01904 658338).

 

 

 

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Amores Pasados updates

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Avila selfie

 

Amores Pasados – dates so far

Dates are coming in at quite a rate for the Amores Pasados quartet (Anna Maria Friman, Ariel Abramovich, Jacob Heringman and me). ECM are on track for a June release and we will launch the album at the Festival Música Antigua Aranjuez on June 13. We’ll be in Santiago de Compostela on July 2nd for the Festival Via Stellae and on September 5th we’re in Estella for the 46 Semana de Música Antigua de Estella and in Gliwice (Poland) on September 20. We’ll be touring Germany in the first half of November, and travelling to the Triskell Arts Centre in Cork on November 27. The main feature of the programme is the new music by Sting and Tony Banks and the new arrangements of John Paul Jones’ Amores Pasados which will be receiving their first performances. The live programme will consist of all the music from album plus new transcriptions of 20th century English songs for voice and two lutes by Warlock, Dunhill, C W Orr, Quilter and Vaughan Williams. There will of course also be some Dowland and a couple of insane lute duets.

We’re very excited about this – it’s ground-breaking stuff – and we’re bringing new music on stream all the time (both lutesongs by rock musicians and transcriptions of early 20th century English songs – two brand new repertoires for voices and lutes).

Ariel Abramovich and I will also be doing the Sting and Tony Banks songs in Havana on October 10th at Leo Brouwer’s Festival of the Human Voice.

 

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University of Gothenburg conference

In the meantime I’m off to Gothenburg for a very unusual conference. It brings together a number of specialist performers and academics to debate the future of performance in higher education. Its full title is ORNAMENTING (force) an ECOLOGY of TRUST (form): Exploring Force and Form through Performance /Performativity and it’s organised by the Swedish polymath performer Elisabeth Belgrano (whose presentation at the  NEMA conference in York caused quite a stir). If you’re in Gothenburg this week come and hear/see/experience some challenging events:

The aim of this entangled encounter (an alternative way of meeting) is to turning the forces and forms of academic traditions slightly upside-­‐down/inside-­‐out, somehow mirroring ‘the uneasiness’ sensed around us in our global society. Our common task will be to create an environment where boundaries between subjects and objects at first remain undefined and uncertain in order to intra-­‐actively articulating new knowledge while ORNAMENTING (force) an ECOLOGY of TRUST (form).

Trollhättan Early Music Days

Coincidentally, I’m in Sweden a couple of weeks later for the Trollhättans tidig musik dagar, singing a concert of music for St Brigit of Sweden with Anna Maria Friman and Daniel Stighäll.

 3 Medieval Tenors

Then it’s the start of the Conductus season at the Beverley Early Music Festival. More on this and the complete list of upcoming gigs through to 2016 in a bit.

 

 

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