Carmen-Elektra has pulled off another unforgettable evening, filling a huge disused warehouse with lights, staging, some seriously LARGE speakers, an orchestra, a bar, a dance troupe, singers (one of them dressed as a toy lion with sunglasses) and last but not least, a big, enthusiastic and wonderfully attentive audience.
This was a double bill of Terrible Lips, an exciting new opera by Kate Whitley, and my video opera A Sudden Cartography of Song. Performances of both pieces were committed and intense, drawing on Cambridge’s very best singers and players, conducted by Will Gardner and Harry Ogg. See more pictures of both pieces.
It was fantastic to have Alistair Appleton (who wrote the words and made the video) come to speak his own lines. And Alistair and I were delighted with the energy, professionalism and sheer beauty of the singing, and of the production, both imaginative and sensitive, by Thom Andrewes. All in all it was an evening to remember. Carmen Elektra believe that if you rescue new music from ‘old-music’ venues and etiquette, and let it do its own thing, people will want to hear it. They’re certainly making a good case with productions like this. There is talk of a Rite of Spring in a Peckham car park next. Not to be missed.
I’m delighted that CARMEN-ELEKTRA are going to put on a production of the video-opera that I wrote with Alistair Appleton a couple of years ago for the Spitalfields Festival. Carmen Elektra have a fantastic track record of putting on new opera in new spaces for new audiences. This time they’ve found a huge warehouse off the Newmarket Rd in Cambridge, soon to be demolished, with a great acoustic and – once the lights and the sound system are in – a great atmosphere too. It’s fantastic that Alistair will be doing the narration (which he wrote – he also made the video). The piece is being done in a double-bill with Kate Whitley’s new opera Terrible Lips, a sci-fi thriller which should be spectacular.
There’s more about this in a recent post on the biting point
A SUDDEN CARTOGRAPHY OF SONG and
Friday 17 June, 9pm.
Last week we were in the studio recording the singers for a DVD of A Sudden Cartography of Song. This is a ‘video-opera’ Alistair and I wrote last year, which was put on in the Spitalfields Festival, in Wilton’s Music Hall. Because video was such an important strand in the whole experience, DVD seems like the right medium for this piece. We are aiming to have the whole thing completed by the end of the summer. It will be great to see and hear the finished result.
I’m very pleased to have received the George Butterworth Award 2007, together with composer Claudia Molitor. The award is made by the artistic director of the spnm for new compositions which make ‘an outstanding contribution to the the year’s programme’. Three of my works were cited: Music for Strings and Hammers (for six pianos), Endlessly Enmeshed composed for the Jai Hind project, combining Indian and Western European instruments and players, and A Sudden Cartography of Song, a video-opera composed in collaboration with Alistair Appleton and premiered at this year’s Spitalfields Festival. These have all been exciting projects for me and offered valuable experiences, so I’m delighted to have been able to work with the spnm this year and to have been chosen for the award.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on a new piece for Lesley-Jane Rogers and the Bergamo Ensemble, under their director Michael Downes. I’ve found a fantastic story about a poor pedlar who has an extraordinary dream – it’s an old folktale, and this particular telling of it is from the diary of Abraham de le Pryme, a 17th-century cleric who knew Pepys and Newton, among others. This will be my second folktale setting, following on from The She-Wolf which was premiered by Marie Vassiliou a couple of years ago. And now I’m beginning to think about a third…
The new piece is called The Pedlar of Swaffham, as is scored for the whole ensemble (which is the often-used combination established by Schoenberg in Pierrot Lunaire: soprano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano). It’s going to be premiered together with a new work by Roderick Watkins in a concert at 3pm on Saturday 27 October in the Canterbury Festival, and will receive a second performance at Fitzwilliam College Auditorium, Cambridge at 8pm on Sunday 28 October, before being recorded the following day.
Music by Jeremy Thurlow
Last week was a fury of activity putting together all the ingredients for a double-bill of new multi-media pieces devised in collaboration with writer Alistair Appleton – one by Tazul Tajuddin, and one by me. The two pieces were performed on Saturday night in Wilton’s Music Hall – a wonderful Victorian theatre which has been preserved in its original decor, somewhat faded but all the more atmospheric for that, and with a beautiful acoustic. Both tazul’s and my own piece shared the same basic format: new texts spoken and written by Alistair – an artful balance of factual documentary and personal reminiscence, wonderfully designed so as to be able to work with music, rather than just be spoken over it – together with a specially composed video (ditto; also created by Alistair) and the same musical forces (4 singers and live electronics). But beyond those common elements, our two pieces were completely different, and that made for an exciting programme. Both performances went extremely well, and the feeling of absolute attention from the audience was magical.
Alistair has written in his blog about what it felt like better than I can, and there’s also a very sympathetic review by Ivan Hewett in the Telegraph, who seems to have grasped exactly what it was that we were trying to do. It must be said that a great deal of dedicated work went into making it happen, and I’d like to thank all those involved: especially the four singers (named in the previous post below), the conductor George Corbett, the electro-acoustic wizard Daniel Halford, who took several decades off his life expectancy by working 29/7 in the weeks running up to the show, and Alistair – all of whom gave zinging performances. And many thanks too for essential behind-the-scenes work from all those at spnm and Wilton’s.
Maps, songs and babies were some of the themes of the piece, by the way (also, signing, birds, words…). It’s hard to explain without actually seeing and hearing the show, but a glance at Alistair’s text may help.
Music by Jeremy Thurlow
I’ve recently been collaborating on a new piece with Alistair Appleton, the blog-writer and TV presenter. Called A sudden cartography of song, it’s a combination of music, words and video. Alistair will join four singers on stage in front of a large video projection, in the wonderfully atmospheric setting of Wilton’s Music Hall. The piece is about 20 minutes long and follows a thought-provoking and surprising journey from a summer afternoon through a meditation on maps and on the wonders of sign language, ending with Alistair’s strange and haunting vision of utopia. It’s all voices: Alistair speaks, the music is entirely sung, and at times the singers’ voices are transformed or augmented with real-time electro-acoustic processing. It’s been fantastic fun collaborating with Alistair on the writing, and now I’m looking forward to working with the singers and the sound-engineer to make it all a reality.
A sudden cartography of song will be presented at 9pm on Saturday 9 June in Wilton’s Music Hall, London as part of the Spitalfields Festival, together with a new work by Tazul Tajuddin.
– Ildiko Allen, soprano; – Frances Jellard, mezzo-soprano
– Julian Stoker, tenor; – Edward Grint, bass
– Daniel Halford, live electronics; – Alistair Appleton, speaker/video
Together with A Terrace in Corsica at 7 the same evening, these events are part of spnm’s SECOND SIGHT series; artistic Director: Rolf Hind.
Box office: 020 7377 1362 Tickets: £17.50 for both events, £10 per event (£5 spnm members)
For more details see spitalfields festival
Music by Jeremy Thurlow