Nico Muhly’s weekend festival at the Barbican is happening right now and it’s outrageous. So much good music, some of it easily beautiful and uplifting and other bits challenging and intense. Last night So Percussion got an audience of drunk people clapping in 3 against 4. How cool is that? I have been dronemaking on the treble viol (see above, photo: James McVinnie) and will tonight play Valgeir Sigurðsson’s gorgeous Architecture of Loss thing with Nadia Sirota. Come come come!
Tonight I’m playing Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri with St James Baroque and the Westminster Abbey choir. It’s my first time performing in the abbey, although I’ve been there many many times to see some of my dearest friends play and sing. I completely adore the chandeliers, which a friend always likens to Joan Collins’ earrings. This building simply always looks good, no matter how you hipstamatic it.
On Wednesday we had a fantastic evening at the Wigmore with the wonderful mezzo Susan Bickley, in a programme of George Benjamin and Alexander Goehr. We played George’s piece Upon Silence (with him conducting!), which was the first new piece written for Fretwork back in 1990; it’s extraordinarily difficult and extraordinarily beautiful. It was an honour to work with him. It was also an honour to be sharing the stage with Tabea Zimmermann and Antoine Tamestit, who played George’s Viola, Viola. It was literally the finest string playing of any kind I’d ever heard. They were like a single, beautiful organism.
Here’s a review in the Guardian.
This is a video of two pieces from a performance with Valgeir at Parterre in Basel, during the Architecture of Loss tour. More anon.
I’ve just played the first block of quite a few concerts I’ve got coming up with il Bacio, a new baroque collective headed up by oboist Ann Allen. This particular incarnation of the ensemble also included the extremely fabulous soprano Anna Dennis, and my favourite harpsichordist Tom Foster. We did Purcell, Handel and Geminiani, and Tom and I played a Finger sonata as well. It started with a lunchtime concert at St Anne & St Agnes in London, and the next day was an evening performance at Chetham’s in Manchester, followed by a lunchtime concert at Manchester University and an afternoon masterclass with students from the music department. It was fun and different playing baroque stuff with Ann and Anna, as the three of us had met doing an entirely different kind of thing in Damon Albarn’s Dr Dee. These guys are all such classy music makers, and even if Handel is not really your thing, it’s definitely worth hearing Anna sing it. Our next gig is next week in London. Check it out.
We’re in Madrid with the wonderful Michael Chance doing a programme we call Old Wine in New Bottles, or New Wine in Old Bottles, or something alluding to the fact that we’re playing new music on old instruments (although in some cases the actual instruments are newer than the music, which complicates things). It includes Orlando Gough’s Birds on Fire and Tan Dun’s fabulous A Sinking Love, in which Michael sings in impeccable Chinese and we play all in harmonics. Also these gorgeous settings of Pessoa poems by John Woolrich and songs by Stephen Wilkinson and Duncan Druce and even a bit of Vaughan Williams. It’s really gorgeous, but I’m desperate for a green vegetable.
Today is day three of the viola da gamba leg of the Architecture of Loss tour with Valgeir Sigurðsson. After a great show in Cologne last night, we’re currently on a snowy train journey to Berlin, where we’re playing tonight at Radialsystem (see Diary for a lynk). I’ve been passed the viola baton for the second half of this tour from the fabulous Nadia Sirota (da braccio). All three of us played a ‘handover’ show in Leuven on Saturday and that’s where the picture is from. It’s gorgeous, gorgeous music and a wonderfully challenging role for me. There’s an album too, which you should totally get.
Last weekend I spent the most delightful Sunday afternoon in an eerily-lit, uncannily cervical structure making music with the fabulous soprano Sarah Dacey from Juice. It was inflatable! This was a new collaboration for us, and we did everything from Monteverdi to folk arrangements to Arthur Bliss to new pieces by Sarah’s fellow Juicer Kerry Andrew. The unusual environment for our debut was the tent-thing called Colourscape, on the lawn of the Holburne Museum in Bath. It was all sensual, playing music in response to colours and the energy of the audience. But don’t worry. Sarah and I will be polishing our act and bringing to more garden variety venues in the near future…