This weekend – the PRS Foundation and Southbank Centre’s New Music Biennial

Last year saw the inaugural New Music Biennial weekender, and now to celebrate the initiative’s 10th birthday PRS Foundation and Southbank Centre are presenting a whole weekend of essential new music. You will require tickets for each visit to the three-day festival, but the good news is that those tickets are FREE!

Two shows have already sold out – Coby Sey’s From The Vestry and Anna Meredith’s HandsFree – so well done if you’ve already bagged a ticket for those. There is however a whole heap of good music still on offer, including:

New works by composers and music creators such as Yazz Ahmed, Paul Purgas, AFRODEUTSCHE, Martin Green, Rakhi Singh / Vessel, Keeley Forsyth, Coby Sey, Roopa Panesar, Toby Young and Philip Herbert. The full list is as follows:

The Moon Has Become, commissioned by WOMAD, written by British-Bahraini trumpeter and composer Yazz Ahmed

Tape Music, commissioned by Supersonic Festival, written by sound, performance and installation artist, Paul Purgas

He Sings Over Me, commissioned by Manchester Camerata and NEWFORM, written by composer, producer and DJ AFRODEUTSCHE

Split The Air, commissioned by The National Youth Brass Band of Great Britain and Lepus Productions, written by Martin Green     

It commissioned by NYX Electronic Drone Choir, written by Rakhi Singh, Vessel & NYX Electronic Drone Choir,

Bog Body, commissioned by Sound UK, written by composer, singer and actor Keeley Forsyth

From The Vestry, commissioned by Serious and written by vocalist, musician and DJ, Coby Sey     

The Crossing, commissioned by Opera North and written by the sitarist Roopa Panesar

Breathlines, commissioned by Armonico Consort and written by Toby Young  

Towards Renewal, commissioned by the BBC Concert Orchestra and written by Philip Herbert

AFRODEUTSCHE – Unquiet (credit Vivaldi Rocks)

There will also be a selection of highlights from the last 10 years of the New Music Biennial, in the company of Anna Meredith, Brian Irvine and Jennifer Walshe, Daniel Elms, Errollyn Wallen, Philip Venables and David Hoyle, Aidan O’Rourke and Kit Downes, Jason Yarde, Jessica Curry, Arlene Sierra and Gazelle Twin. Here’s the full list:

HandsFree, commissioned by National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, written by Anna Meredith and choreographed by David Ogle

13 Vices, commissioned by Moving on Music and written by Brian Irvine and Jennifer Walshe

Bethia, commissioned by BFI and written by Daniel Elms

Mighty River, performed by National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and written by Errollyn Wallen.  Originally commissioned by The Rector and PPC of Holy Trinity Clapham Common and the Revd. John Wates

Illusions, commissioned and co-promoted by London Sinfonietta and written by Philip Venables with performance artist David Hoyle

One Story: 365 Words, commissioned by the Edinburgh Arts Book Festival and written by multi-instrumentalists Aidan O’Rourke and Kit Downes

Skip, Dash, Flow, commissioned by Wonderbrass and written by composer, producer and saxophonist, Jason Yarde

She Who, commissioned by National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and written by English composer, radio presenter and BAFTA winner, Jessica Curry

Urban Birds, commissioned by INTER/actions Festival of Interactive Electronic and written by Arlene Sierra

The Power and the Glory, commissioned by BBC Concert Orchestra and written by performance artist, composer and producer, Gazelle Twin

The festival starts tomorrow, Friday 1 July, and runs through until Sunday 3 July. For more information head to the Southbank Website

Pieces from the New Music Biennial will also be available through NMC Recordings. As well as releasing the new pieces at this year’s festival, and to celebrate this milestone in the partnership, NMC is re-issuing the ten existing works being performed this year. This special re-issue bundle entitled Celebrating 10 years of New Music Biennial, is available for download from the NMC online shop at a discounted price, providing a lasting legacy for this new music.

In concert – Do we need a new compass? / BCMG NEXT @ Jennifer Blackwell Performance Space, Symphony Hall, Birmingham

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Meredith Four to the Floor (2005)
Heather Ryall, Emily Wilson, Beth Nicholl, George Blakesley (bass clarinets)

Mason Heaven’s Chimes Are Slow (2010)
Rebecca Speller (flute), Joe Howson (piano)

Howard Cloud Chamber (2006)
Emily Wilson (clarinet), Mikaella Livadiotis (piano)

Anderson Scherzo with Trains (1993)
Heather Ryall, George Blakesley (clarinets), Beth Nichol (basset horn), Emily Wilson (b-clarinet)

Jennifer Blackwell Performance Space @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham
Thursday 17 March 2022 (1pm)

Written by Richard Whitehouse

BCMG NEXT may have had a major role in tonight’s concert at CBSO Centre, itself marking the culmination of a major project that has already featured events in Bologna and Hannover, but it was a worthwhile move to include more of these young musicians in a lunchtime recital.

Anna Meredith has written numerous chamber pieces, among which Four to the Floor has an immediate appeal – not least through the uniform line-up of its clarinet quartet in music whose methodical exploration of timbre almost inevitably results in the descent intimated by its title. It may have been a transcription of the final item from his song-cycle after Christina Rosetti, but Christian Mason’s Heaven’s Chimes Are Slow felt no less evocative in this incarnation for flute and piano – not least as rendered with such poise by Rebecca Speller and Joe Howson.

Emily Howard’s composing career has unfolded parallel to her scientific research, such that Cloud Chamber bridges any likely divide through its iridescent timbral interplay for clarinet and piano – realized here with precision and verve by Emily Wilson and Mikaella Livadiotis. The recital ended with Scherzo (with trains), one of Julian Anderson’s most engaging shorter works whose inspiration in Thoreau as well as rhythms of high-speed trains puts its diverse clarinet quartet through an unpredictable discourse here ensuring a characterful performance.

This diverse and enjoyable recital was also the second BCMG-related event to be held at the Jennifer Blackwell Performance Space, adjacent to the Circle level at Symphony Hall – itself much improved as a setting with the overhead promotional screen turned off for the duration.

Further information on BCMG events in the 2021/22 season can be found at their website. Click on the names to read more detail on composers Julian Anderson, Emily Howard, or for more on Christian Mason and Anna Meredith

In concert – Hockley Social Club & the CBSO present: Symphonic Sessions

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Symphonic Sessions

Hockley Social Club, Birmingham
Thursday 21 October 2021

Written by Richard Whitehouse Photos courtesy of Hannah Fathers

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Out & About’ schedule has seen musicians playing at venues from railway stations to suburban pubs, but tonight’s Symphonic Sessions, billed as ‘‘the perfect evening for the musically curious’’, was a more ambitious undertaking.

The venue was Hockley Social Club – located closer to Newtown and an area which, with its rundown warehouses next to remnants of faded civic planning, is ripe for redevelopment of a kind encountered on the other side of Great Hampton Street. Such urban realism aside, it was an ideal setting for an event designed to appeal to the young professionals living or working in this area, and the capacity (300 or so) attendance was gratifying to club and orchestra alike. Assorted street food and designer cocktails were some of the attractions available on the night.

The live element consisted of two half-hour sets played by a quartet drawn from the CBSO, situated on a raised central platform, and amplified so neither visibility nor audibility was an issue. The first set enjoyed a lively start with Year of the Boar from Sufjan Stevens’s zodiacal electronica Enjoy Your Rabbit, popularized in Michael Atkinson’s arrangement for the Osso Quartet. One of the most arresting younger American composers, Caroline Shaw has written widely for quartet but, while Entr’acte provided a showcase for the musicians’ dexterity – not least cellist Arthur Boutillier – its fractured continuity tried the patience of numerous punters. Not so those teasingly ironic excerpts from Anna Meredith’s Songs for the M8 – with Sigur Rós’s evergreen Hoppípolla, as reimagined by the Vitamin Quartet, a delightful signing-off.

The inward fervency of Stevens’s Year of our Lord began a second set that touched on more Classical fare with a visceral take on the second movement of Shostakovich’s Eighth Quartet, then a lucid First Contrapunctus from Bach’s The Art of Fugue that only gained in eloquence on restarting after violinist Colette Overdijk had lost her battle with a dislodged microphone. The undoubted highlight was Bryce Dessner’s Aheym (Homeward) – a commission from the Kronos Quartet for the guitarist of The National, this is music whose propulsive energy and tensile interplay were to the fore in a performance which brooked no compromise. Violinist Kirstie Lovie and violist Amy Thomas then came into their own in excerpts from the Danish String Quartet’s folk-song anthology Wood Works, which made for a scintillating conclusion.

Either side of and in between the live music, low-key DJ sets (at least until the half-hour prior to closing) from ‘local tastemaker’ Pritt Kalsi did much to enhance the atmosphere for what throughout was a lively and appreciative audience. What proportion can be persuaded to make CBSO concerts at Symphony Hall a regular part of its fixture-list remains to be seen, though feedback on the ground was encouraging. Whatever else, the future of live events looks to be one in which listening across the spectrum of musical styles and genres has become the norm.

Good news, therefore, that Symphonic Sessions is destined not to be a one-off experiment, with the follow-up having been set for Thursday 2nd December. Whatever the line-up of musicians and music, it would seem certain that ‘‘A splendid time is guaranteed for all’’.

Further information on Symphonic Sesions can be found here. Further listening on the featured music can be enjoyed through the Spotify albums below:

Stevens:

Shaw:

Meredith:

Sigur Rós:

Shostakovich:

Bach:

Dessner:

Danish SQ:

cbso-symphonic-sessions