I am thrilled to announce that I have just been awarded a 6-month Artist Residency at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It’s in connection with the opening of their new Europe 1600-1800 galleries and there will be all manner of fabulous performances and events happening, both at the museum and online. My residency runs from May-October 2015. Loads more to come about this so stay tuned.
I’ve just had the most wonderful 36 hours in Reykjavik for Iceland Airwaves festival. In keeping with tradition, each year Bedroom Community curates a series of performances in the hipster bar Kaffibarinn, and I had the immense pleasure of playing a solo set there on Friday night. It was Marais, Hume, Abel, Muhly and Finnis. It really is quite a thrilling thing to be playing amplified unaccompanied baroque music in a bar rammed full of people standing around drinking craft beer and wearing what was a truly astonishing array of knitwear. I am more and more falling in love with the half hour set.
On Saturday, Valgeir Sigutrðsson and I returned to Kaffibarinn to premier Dissonance, a 25-minute temporal suspension of 90 seconds from a Mozart string quartet. It’s my new favourite thing and it’s bonkers. We then went to the beautiful new(ish) music venue Mengi for the Bedroom Community main show, where I got to be “special guest” and played lots of lovely things with James McVinnie, Daníel Bjarnason and Valgeir.
After a roaring good time at the Union Chapel with Oliver Coates, James McVinnie and I went downtown to the Swiss Church to play a kind of Abendmusik concert with the flutist Eric Lamb from Vienna. This was unamplified and involved me and Eric hanging out of the organ loft in true Buxtehudian fashion. I played Ortiz, Rognoni and Nico Muhly and Eric played Quantz, Biber and Berio. Jamie played Bach and more Nico and we all finished with Nico’s gorgeous twitchy organs. The Swiss Church is an incredible space, and very very white. Yes, there is an office inside the organ….
Yesterday I got to play a truly fabulous concert in a beautiful space with two of my favourite musicians, Oliver Coates and James McVinnie. We did about two hours of all our favourite pieces, some alone and some together. I played Forqueray with Olly, and had an incredible time playing Rognoni diminutions with Jamie wailing away on the big organ (I was amplified, which made the whole thing possible). I also played Edmund Finnis’s absolutely divine Lines Curved Rivors Mirrored (recording forthcoming, I promise!). Look inside the stone altar and you can see Jamie peering out.
I’m back at Greenhouse Studios in Reykjavik with my good friend Valgeir Sigurðsson. We’re finishing recording all the viol bits from his piece Wide Slumber and also beginning to work on some new things together. We’re taking apart some old pieces of music from Marais to Mozart and putting them back together in some bizarre but delightful ways. You can listen to what we did with a Bach organ prelude here.
I’m back at my old stomping ground, Magdalen College Oxford, to play two short concerts with Phantasm and the college choir. It’s Ward and Gibbons. So glorious to be back in this chapel where I spent so many hours rehearsing years ago. I never tire of how beautiful this window looks with this chandelier.
I’m very excited to be taking part in a new project with Opera Erratica called Celestina, commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Basically it’s an installation piece in a courtyard with 10 sculptures, each of which will have its own speaker channel. It’s scored for ten singers and me (because one statue is holding a string instrument) and is a collaboration between composer Matt Rogers and sound designer Seamus Fogarty. Matt has written lots of cells of musical information that are acting like a kind of sonic tool kit for Seamus to play with. And I’ve had a lot of fun working closely with both of them to get all sorts of weird and wild things out of the viol, as is becoming my wont. Yesterday we spent 7 hours in a studio getting it all down, and in the coming weeks the guys will be making a lot of magic happen. The installation runs at the Met in March, and you can read more about it here.
Arngeir and I are in St Mary’s Church tonight in Totnes, doing a programme of weird and esoteric early Italian and Spanish instrumental music. It’s lots of viola bastarda settings, as well as some chansons and deliciously wacky pieces of Agricola. I love it when concert promoters specifically ask for the unusual, and Totnes is fearless on this front. Always a great pleasure to play for them.
I’ve just finished a series of concerts of Telemann’s Paris Quartets and other chamber music with Tom Foster, Laura Piras and Julia Kuhn. We played at Handel House and Fenton House (whose gorgeous bathroom window is pictured here) in London, as well as in a concert series in the small German town of Haselünne. It’s been wonderfully refreshing to play entirely 18th-century chamber music for a change, and especially to do it with such excellent musicians.
Daniel Pioro (of London Contemporary Orchestra) and I are going to be playing tomorrow with psychedelic folk band Grumbling Fur at Corsica Studios in Elephant and Castle. It’s to launch their gorgeous new album Preternaturals, which you can listen to here. They are great guys and great musicians and this feels like the beginning of something new.
I am in Honfleur, Normandy with my dear friends in the trio Bel Ayre. They’ve invited a few other people to joint them in this fabulous programme called Adieu Anvers, which chronicles the journey of some musicians from Antwerp to Italy in the 16th century. It’s been incredibly fun playing old music with these guys, because I know everyone in the group only from playing contemporary music projects. We know each other very well musically, but now we’re conversing in a different language. And oddly enough, our previous rehearsals had always been in English but in this project there is a critical mass of Francophony so the balance of our actual spoken language has tilted in a different direction as well….
I am back in Edinburgh again doing some recordings with electronic musician Martin Parker. He and I started working together via BBC’s Late Junction, and it was the beginning of a really fascinating project. This time we’re doing some multi-multi-microphone recordings of old music and new sounds, as well as traipsing around Edinburgh recording pieces and improvisations in a variety of intense acoustics. I’m so excited about what’s going to come out of this. Read more about our previous work and listen to some of it here.
Tonight’s concert venue is a beautiful medieval nun’s dormitory at the Abbey in Vadstena, a lakeside town in central Sweden. We’re doing a selection of arias from Scarlatti and Cesti and others, with Swedish soprano Annastina Malm and one of my favourite harpsichordists ever, Brice Sailly. It’s sunny and warm and we’ve been swimming and it’s my birthday!
I’ve just finished two glorious concerts with the Dunedin Consort and Iestyn Davies, one at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh and the other at Wigmore Hall in London. It was mostly Bach, with a little JCF Bach – that amazing cantata “Ach! daß ich Wassers g’nug hätte”. I was there for the JCF and Brandenburg 6, which was loads of fun. John Butt is a masterful director and it was wonderful to work with him again.
This piece is one of the most beautiful things I have ever done and it just happened again at Holland Festival. It’s a new masque written by Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond) with a libretto & design by Andrew Ondrejcak for the awesome Belgian group Baroque Orchestration X. It involves some amazing performers and music that is both charming and deeply moving. Here’s a review. And what’s most exciting is that everyone at Holland Festival loved it, and it is going to happen in a lot more places in the near future. So watch out!
The wonderful AIDS charity Red Hot have just released a compilation album containing covers, reworkings and remixes of pieces by ol’ J.S. and I happen to have the pleasure/honour/good fortune to feature on two tracks. Valgeir Sigurðsson and I collaborated on “I Call to You”, which involves many layers of viol and some synths looping the first section of BWV 177 “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ”. And Shara Worden wrote “Time Drinks Three Shots” for a scene in her brilliant new masque You Us We All, during which the character Time drinks vodka in his underwear and listens to three viols play Shara’s deconstruction of BWV 851. I’m playing treble viol on this one.
There’s also an iPad app, so go get it and help fight AIDS with Bach.
About a year and a half ago, I had the great pleasure of taking part in a project with the Scottish group Concerto Caledonia, in which we played Tobias Hume’s music with a big group of fun instruments, most of which were sanctioned by the composer in his title page. The others were just too fun not to include. It was two viols, sometimes involving sympathetic stringing, Swedish nickelharpa, flutes, virginals, a pair of orpharions, cittern and theorbo. Luckily, this project turned into a recording, and it’s now out. So you can all go listen and buy it here!
Read more about the original project here.
Last week I took a few days off from Wide Slumber rehearsals to run down to Madrid to play a programme of all your favourite English viol consort chestnuts with Concordia. I’ve always loved playing with that group because they are wonderfully spontaneous. It’s so very rare and special to have an ensemble made entirely of such sensitive players and listeners that one can feel free to take big risks in performance, trusting that others will follow. But Concordia is unique in its almost ouija-board-like flexibility, and unexpected things always happen in their concerts, in the best possible way.
This gig was broadcast live on Spanish radio, and you can listen here.
I’ve just come home from Australia, where I had the honour of being invited as a guest tutor at the AusNZ Viola da Gamba Society’s annual Easter Viol School. It was a wonderfully intense four-day workshop of consorts, lectures and concerts in Sydney. I also went to Melbourne to give a musicology lecture at the Melbourne Conservatorium, as well as a masterclass for the HP department. And while in Melbourne I got to hang out and play a duo recital with the amazing Laura Vaughan. Laura is one of my favourite viol players in the universe, and we plan to do a lot more together in the future. So watch this space.
I’ve also fallen a bit in love with Australia, and will definitely be going back there again soon. But tomorrow, it’s off to Iceland for a month working on Wide Slumber with Valgeir Sigurðsson and co.