Dowland Project (Prague) with John Surman (sax/bass clarinet), Milos Valent (viola/violin) & Steve Stubbs (lutes)
extrapolations & improvisations on Monteverdi, Merula, Sances, Purcell, Busatti, der Kanzler & anon
This was our only European performance this year, so it was a very special occasion (Steve Stubbs flew from Seattle just for the gig). The Strings of Autumn Festival is magic – very efficient and friendly staff, great audience and the Tyn church is spectacular. Czech TV took part of the concert and even asked sensible quesitions afterwards. It took a while to sort the sound out (the church is almost higher than it is long) but we had a great time. For an encore we did La Dolce Vista. I didn’t tell the guys what it was, just ‘drone in D…’, and it worked surpisingly well in a slightly swung triple time…
Gavin Bryars Ensemble (London)
London International Festival of Exploratory Music at King’s Place
programme includes Laude, Singe/Petrarch sonnets & new versions of English Madrigals by Gavin Bryars to poems by Blake Morrison for tenor, electric guitar, viola, cello & bass
Only UK performance this year.
What a wonderful concert hall King’s Place is. Crisp, bright acoustic – lovely to sing in, helpful backstage staff – perfect. It was a pretty hectic day as Gavin Bryars was held up in motorway traffic so we didn’t start the rehearsal till very late. But the new Morrison Songbook seemed to go very well – Blake’s words combine a strong sense of narrative with a linguistic sensuality that singers live for and Gavin is perfect at capturing – and Penny was very touched by Gavin’s dedication of the work to her. Great to see so many friends in the audience too. The Euston Ibis was a bit of a contrast to the Prague Intercontinental – no airconditioning so windows open to the roar of London traffic...
Next performance: Université d’Orléans (France), January 28
A Musicall Banquet (Birmingham) with Ariel Abramovich
songs by Dowland, Holborne, Martin, Hales, Batchelor, Tessier, Guedron, Caccini & Megli from Robert Dowland’s 1610 book
lutsesong workshop with Ariel Abramovich
Learning Centre, Birmingham University 10.30 – 1.00
The Birmingham Early Music Festival’s theme of The Poet Sings was perfect for our Musical Banquet performance. The Birmingham & Midland Institute was a gem of a venue (and apparently features acoustic tiling based on the Fibonacci series) and we had a wonderfully attentive audience who’d braved the atrocious weather. It’s a great festival – well worth checking out the other concerts. Our workshope was also terrific – what a great bunch of students – and how lucky they are to have Mary O’Neill to look after them!
Being Dufay (1st London performance)
I don’t do many gigs in the UK, and they’re sometimes distinctly odd. I looked up during the second number, to see someone apparently doing gymnastics swinging from the balcony ironwork. I hope it was out of excitement rather than boredom. The bar was in the auditorium (something I’d advocated at the York Music Department, but which – predictably – found no support) and it was great to see people sitting at tables rather than strung out like washing. Even so, Ambrose had to leap into the audience before we started to tell them to slurp their beer rather more loudly than they had during the recorder playing that preceded us. The day didn’t start well: I forgot the laptop that plays the video programme, so Ambrose and the Albany techies had to spend hours trying to re-construct it – which they did with seconds to spare. We always travel with plenty of backup, but it’s the sort of thing you only want to do once. I don’t think Ambrose enjoyed himself much, but I thought the show went quite well.
next performance: Parco della Musica Auditorium (Rome) February 26
We’ve just got this short video interview with excerpts from our Dancity Festival performance in Foligno earlier this year:
Roger Marsh 60th birthday concert (York)
Not a Soul but Ourselves sung by Anna Myatt, Linda Hirst, John Potter & Bill Brooks
This was a grand occasion and a lot of fun: a tribute to Roger Marsh masterminded by William Brooks – two of the brightest stars of their generation. I first met Bill and Roger when Electric Phoenix took on their Madrigals (Brooks) and Not a Soul but Ourselves (Marsh) in 1978/9 (both pieces written the year before for the seminal Extended Vocal Techniques Ensemble of San Diego). They became the Phoenix signature pieces (and daft as it may seem, one of the reasons that I left EP having put a huge amount of effort into getting it going was that the success of those two pieces completely undermined the group’s commitment to permanent revolution (alas, I wasn’t to discover Gramsci for another seven years…). They’re still among my very favourite 20th century vocal pieces – and they more than stand comparison with those of their slightly older more famous contemporaries Berio, Stockhausen et al. Roger subsequently re-wrote Bits and Scraps for me, and I toured with his wonderfully mad solo piece DUM (which I once performed in a field full of cows – absent in these pics as they were busy licking the camera).
If someone had said back in the seventies that Roger, Bill and I would end up in the same university at the same time, I would have thought, blimey – that would be quite some music department…
Anna Myatt, Linda Hirst, Bill Brooks and I just about survived Not a Soul (which Linda and I last did in Finland about 10 years ago), and there some lovely excerpts from Roger’s Pierrot Lunaire sung by The 24, Juice and the assembled company. I survived garrotting by Richard Wistreich once again. The cycle of mostly acappella pieces was originally commissioned by the Hilliard Ensemble in 2000 for one of their last German summer schools and completed a couple of years later as a Music Department Practical Project which Roger and I directed (and is one of my fondest memories of the Department). It was later recorded for NMC (the booklet includes an article by yours truly on working with Roger). There were also new pieces for me to sing by Ed Jessen and Morag Galloway (both of whom had studied with Roger). Ed’s, for tenor, Charlotte Bishop on cello and tape, was a typical Jessen oeuvre, the musical realisation of a fascinating wider intellectual process which in this case began 35,000 years ago. Morag’s was a duet for me and Damien Harron on marimba – an evocative setting of D H Lawrence’s The Healing. Composers and players were a joy to work with. But the best thing of the evening was a pop sog composed and sung by the student Marsh, accompanying himself on guitar, back in 1972. We were stunned – he was a fully formed blues singer…
This was my Music Department swan song, and there was a rather nice symmetry about it: it was Roger Marsh who was responsible for my coming to York 12 years ago, and the first York student I met was the newly graduated Morag Galloway. So Roger, if you see this, a belated happy birthday – I owe you a large one…
Launch of UYMP Songbook (compiled by John Potter & David Blake)
It was great to hear most of the songs from the volume, sung with great assurance by the Conservatoire students. There was some excellent cello, clarinet and marimba playing too. David Blake and I (especially David) spent a lot of time choosing which numbers to include, and the singers were coached (very sensitively, I thought) by Mary Wiegold. It was a very nice occasion – hosted with great charm by Julian Pike (a demon with one figure at the keyboard). I do hope university and conservatory students pick up on it – there are some fine pieces, and it’s a long way from the traditional voice & piano stuff.
I’m taking December off for book finishing!