Friends Newsletter Peter Hill explains ’
pages one an d two Messiaen D iscovery page three Conversatio n pieces Composing for a lithoph one page four Fundraising update page five Tri p to Steinway Hall pages six an d seven All change Transformat ions page eight News from fu rther afield
the story behind his exciting Messiaen discovery I have an archive of photocopies made during the four years (between 2001 and 2004) when I was fortunate enough to be allowed to work among the papers in the Messiaen apartment in Paris. About 18 months ago I reviewed my photocopies with the intention of putting them in order, and came across several pages of scribble in Messiaen’s untidiest handwriting. I must have overlooked these at the time, or simply felt they were too difficult to read to bother with. Anyway, I set aside an afternoon to see what I could make of these pages, and found that with patience and care I was more-or-less able to decipher the handwriting. As I worked I became more and more intrigued. What began to emerge was a musical sketch in an advanced state of
completion, with not only the notes but also markings of dynamic, touch, pedalling, and even the fingering. The music was a birdsong piece, in the manner of Messiaen’s great piano cycle, Catalogue d’oiseaux (1956–58), but featuring a bird new to Messiaen’s music, the Fauvette Passerinette, or Subalpine Warbler.
As the piece took shape a form began to reveal itself, with three sections for the main soloists (a pair of duetting Passerinettes) set in a context of other birdsongs that occupy the middle part of the piece. This central section presented a challenge, a jigsaw of birdsong fragments whose order was determined by an alphabetical scheme, typical of Messiaen’s method of composing.
Unfortunately, the logic of the scheme was not immediately apparent, and it took a lot of patience and detective-work to find the answer. The latter part of this passage was especially difficult to construe because it existed in the sketchiest composer’s shorthand, with only the harmonies in place. Luckily Messiaen had noted what these chords were to represent – a flock of six Jays. I made a trip to Paris to search through Messiaen’s birdsong notebooks, and had a ‘eureka’ moment when I found the notation that perfectly matched the harmonies in the sketch. This enabled me
to flesh out the chords with the correct gestures – the rhythms, dynamics and accentuations. The result is remarkable, a passage that is fast, rhythmical and ruthless, and quite unlike anything else in Messiaen. Messiaen’s notebooks also helped me to date and locate the piece, which is based on birdsong notated in the spring of 1960 and the summer of 1961, near the village of Nizas, in the arid ‘garrigue’ landscape north-west of Montpellier. The dating to 1961 makes perfect sense. Messiaen’s orchestral work Chronochromie (1959–60) had just received its premiere, and in the absence of any commissions Messiaen may well have intended to compose a second ‘Catalogue’ of birds to go with the earlier cycle. (He always maintained that he’d meant to do this, but had never had the time.) If La Fauvette Passerinette was indeed the start of a second birdsong cycle, it was overtaken by events. Later in 1961 Messiaen received no fewer than three important commissions for orchestral works: Sept Haïkaï (inspired by a trip to Japan), Couleurs de la Cité céleste, and Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, a work to commemorate the dead of the World Wars that would receive its premiere in 1965 in Chartres Cathedral. Given the pressure of work, it’s not difficult to imagine how La Fauvette Passerinette got sidelined and ultimately forgotten. Now that I’ve pieced together Messiaen’s intentions I feel enormously excited. The new piece is a substantial addition to the repertoire (it lasts about 15 minutes) and a virtuoso challenge
to the pianist. Among its many unique features is the way the piece develops, with the main soloist birdsong borrowing characteristics from the other birdsongs: the elegant, detailed writing at the opening becomes progressively more hard-edged, so that the final section develops into a thrilling toccata. The birdsong style is also new, much more harmonised than in the earlier Catalogue d’oiseaux, and in this way anticipates Messiaen’s music in the 1970s, the majestic La Fauvette des Jardins for solo piano (1970) and the treatment of birdsong in Messiaen’s opera Saint François d’Assise. A Messiaen premiere is obviously an event of importance. I decided I’d like this to be in my home town of Sheffield, and I’m delighted to be giving it as part of the Music in the Round autumn series. The programme I’ve devised sets La Fauvette Passerinette in the context of my interest in Bach, masterpieces by Berg and Schoenberg, and other birdsong music by Messiaen, including Messiaen’s own favourite from Catalogue d’oiseaux, ‘Le Traquet Stapazin’ (Black-eared Wheatear) with a setting between the mountains and sea on the Mediterranean coast. I’m sure the premiere and the broadcast by BBC Radio 3 will arouse considerable interest and I expect to be playing the new work in many venues around the world over the next couple of years.
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Angus Smith introduces the first concert in an occasional series The premise owes a significant debt to the excellent, long-running BBC Radio 3 series ‘Private Passions’, devised and hosted by the composer Michael Berkeley. Over the course of 60 minutes, Berkeley leads his guests on a musical journey, starting with pieces that they already know before heading off in new and unfamiliar stylistic directions that he thinks they may enjoy.
discussing the music with a particular focus on articulating how, as performers and listeners, we respond to music. For me, part of the fascination lies in asking the question of whether or not it is possible to verbalise the emotions that are inspired by music. From the conversations I have had with Marina, I am confident that she can do this extremely well!
In our version, on Thursday 17th October, the acclaimed author Marina Lewycka will be the guest of Ensemble 360 for a programme that reflects Marina’s Ukrainian heritage and her youthful experiences of attempting to get to grips with the keyboard works of Mozart, Chopin and others. Marina and Ensemble members will spend a few moments between pieces
We intend that future guests will come from a variety of different professional and personal backgrounds that may or may not be related to the arts. This will be the first time that Marina has heard Ensemble 360 playing. Remembering my own excitement at hearing the Ensemble for the first time (at the 2010 May Festival), I can’t wait to hear her responses.
Barbara Mangles spent the day with Vivien Whitaker, composing for her unique alabaster lithophone, she shares her experience here “A bright, shining Thursday. Excitement, apprehension, trepidation, nerves. All because I won the bidding for the composing day with Vivien Whitaker. I set the Sat Nav for Barlow thinking ‘I must have been mad’. I had already shared a poem I wrote, inspired by the alabaster piece ‘The Power of Four’ which I had also acquired at the auction. Viv liked it. It was agreed that we would use both the alabaster lithophone and The Power of Four for our special day. A gentle start, some general chat, greatly assisted by Viv, and Fraser Wilson from MitR. Lots of different instruments to play with – drums, bells, beaters, then down to work. Using my poem as a framework we went through a creative process that I could not previously have imagined. Ideas, thoughts and inspiration bounced around the room among the three of us. Gradually a piece took shape. We took quiet breaks, going outside to look at the wonderful view or sitting peacefully in the sun. At one point Viv served a delicious lunch. Then back to work. Attempts at recording, false starts, some giggles, but underneath everything a real sense of purpose, a creative unity. Goal finally reached – a piece for Viv to use at her retrospective in Burnley this autumn, along with my poem! My thanks to Viv and Fraser for the privilege of being part of this. Truly an amazing day out of time.”
Fundraising update Ebony & Ivory Fund
Total donations to the fund stand at just over £34,000. With Gift Aid on eligible donations, and match funding from the ACE Catalyst scheme, we have achieved our original target and have funds to go towards a series of special concerts and events to celebrate the piano’s arrival in Sheffield. Tim and Paul Lewis will be heading off to the Steinway factory in Hamburg to do the first selection visit on 11th December. We’ll keep you posted on how the visit goes and when we might be saying hello to a wonderful new piano. Thank you all for your donations, and the activities that you’ve undertaken to help us raise funds for this. Included in the amount raised so far are donations of £2,888 from the Silent Art Auction. We are so grateful to Vivien Whitaker for the inspirational idea, the hugely generous donation of her work and her time in the composing and sculpting days, and for the funds raised. The exhibition of sculptures stimulated really interesting discussions around the inspiration of music and the process of creation, and added a very special experience to this year’s May Festival.
‘Scilla Thornton Fund for Musicians
Following on from our notice in the last newsletter, we’re pleased to announce a new fund in memory of ‘Scilla Thornton to support musicians that we work with in
the development of their careers, including Ensemble 360, but not restricted to them. It will be managed by The Lindsay Foundation trustees, and used to realise longheld ambitions, such as Adrian’s idea for a new film to accompany Britten’s Six Metamorphoses After Ovid, and particular career opportunities. The Arcadia String Quartet’s concert this autumn is the first activity to be supported by the fund. The group is at a pivotal moment in its career having just won the Wigmore Hall International String Quartet competition, and this concert will help give them greater visibility as well as the chance to perform for a very discerning audience in Sheffield before going on tour to some of our partner venues.
Music in the Community
We were successful in our application to the John Lewis Music Matters Fund which will be used to support our schools programme this year. The Garfield Weston Foundation has made a second award in support of our specially commissioned children’s concert series, and we’re in the process of applying to local trusts and foundations to raise the final funds needed for the new concert, Stan and Mabel. We’re very grateful to all the supporters and funders of our education and outreach work especially Mayfield Valley Arts Trust and the Andrew McEwan Fund, whose donations are invaluable in sustaining and building the future of music-making in the city.
MitR Friend, Neil Bennett describes his visit to Steinway Hall On 27th June, my wife Celia and I joined Peter and Hilary Bull to travel down to Steinway Hall in London with Tim Horton and Deborah Chadbourn. This was a prize auctioned at the fundraising dinner last December. On arrival, we were introduced to our host Ulrich Gerhartz , Director, Concert & Artists Services for Steinway. By happy chance, we were joined by Paul Morgan, a tuner-technician from Liverpool who knows Tim well. We were taken to lunch, where we were delighted to be joined by Daisy, late of MitR, now working at nearby Wigmore Hall. Ulrich then took us back for a tour of Steinway Hall, and we learned something of the history of the firm. Heinrich Steinweg, a German cabinetmaker, first built pianos in his kitchen in 1833, emigrated to the USA, altered his name and set up the Steinway Company in 1855. This soon became the leading manufacturer that we know today. The design and manufacture of a Steinway grand were described. There are two factories; in New York and Hamburg. Although the pianos are handmade by highly skilled craftsmen there is a difference in sound between otherwise identical American and European models. Ulrich explained how a
completed piano is regulated, fact that they may be identical voiced and tuned before initial models. use and subsequently for each Downstairs was a work area major concert. where pianos undergo final A working model of the action preparation before dispatch. of a single note, revealed the We saw two model Ds prepared highly complex mechanism and ready for this season’s of balanced wooden levers promenade concerts; one connecting the key to the was tuned slightly higher as hammer. Preparation and visiting foreign orchestras may maintenance of a concert tune to a higher pitch. Older, piano requires a skilled tuner- reconditioned instruments are technician who regulates, also processed and Tim played separately, the action and a beautiful-sounding restored touch of every note, voices 1882 grand. the piano by adjusting the Our visit ended all too soon. We hammers, then tunes the instrument which possesses had learned about the complex nature of these instruments; over 220 strings. the high quality of the In the showrooms, we materials and components; saw several new and the skills, traditional reconditioned grands craftsmanship, and obsessional and uprights; also pianos attention to detail that goes into manufactured by Boston and their manufacture; and how Essex to a Steinway design. this process continues with We then entered the inner the preparation, maintenance sanctum where the walls and continuing care of these were covered with signed fine and beautiful-sounding photographs of leading instruments. pianists, past and present. So, back to the station, a very This room contained top-ofwelcome glass of wine before the-range Steinway grands, our journey, and to reflect on a including three new model most enjoyable and informative Ds, the largest piano they manufacture. Tim played all day (with thanks to Ulrich) at a three, demonstrating Ulrich’s centre of pianistic excellence, in the good company of Tim and dictum that every piano Deborah. sounds different despite the
At the beginning of September we welcomed Fraser Wilson permanently to the staff team as our new, fulltime Learning and Participation Manager. Fraser will work closely with Polly in her new role as Creative Producer, Learning and Participation, to deliver the great work that Polly has led so successfully over the last few years, giving her more time to work on creative ideas. Fraser will help us achieve ambitious plans to reach and involve more children, teachers and families across the city, bringing them into contact with highly professional and inspiring musicians, including Ensemble 360.
Paul Allen on retiring as Chairman
We’re delighted that Kathryn Gasic joined us as fulltime Project Coordinator in February. Kathryn ably demonstrated the calm, methodical and ultra-efficient concert management that you associate with Music in the Round during the Mozart mini-festival and May Festival, and many of you will have already said hello. If you haven’t had a chance to do so, please do introduce yourselves during the autumn. Congratulations to Marty Mills, our Marketing Manager who has been appointed to the Stroke Association as their new Product Development Manager. Marty brought our marketing systems and practice firmly up to date, and helped us attract 840 new faces, including 116 members of the Under 35 scheme launched in 2011. We’re very sorry to see Marty go and wish him all the very best in his new role. We’ll be recruiting a replacement over the autumn.
In February we welcomed two new board members to Music in the Round. Glyn Foley, former Chief Executive of the Buxton Festival, 1998 – 2012, and Sarah Cockburn, Marketing Manager of Sheffield-based international touring company Forced Entertainment; both bring new skills and insights to our company.
plans in an increasingly uncertain funding landscape for the arts.
Paul Allen stepped down as Chair having achieved a huge amount in the four years since he took over the role. Under his leadership, Music in the Round has gone from strength to strength and has raised its profile considerably, culminating in the highly prestigious Royal In July this year John Cowling became the Philharmonic Society Award for Chamber new Chairman of Music in the Round’s Music, 2012 (the second year in a row of Board of Trustees, having been a longour nomination), securing the valuable Arts standing supporter since the early 1990s, Council England Kurzman legacy, gaining and member of the board since 2002. John recognition of our wider education activities was the Sheffield Office Senior Partner and through the British Academy of Songwriters, a senior regional partner of PwC until he Composers and Authors Education Category retired in June 2012. He brings a wealth of Award for Paul Rissmann, our Children’s experience from his professional practice as a Composer in Residence, and more national Chartered Accountant, as well as a thorough press coverage. Paul will continue to serve on understanding of the organisation, and a real passion for chamber music. We’re delighted that the board helping us with press coverage and championing our Diversity and Equality plan. he is taking up this role as we work on future
In the 1980s when the BBC regions still had their own agendas (and money) a television arts magazine called Northern Lights sent me to interview a string quartet which had settled in Sheffield. Its leader talked about the virility of their music-making. Hang on, I thought, can you talk in that gender-specific way about performance now? I soon discovered that Peter Cropper could talk about anything and everything with no regard for fashionable thinking, or formal footwear.
But I did know Deborah Chadbourn and her team. I respected their work as much as I had the musicianship of The Lindsays. I’d worked with our brilliant Ensemble 360, stepping in when Stephen Johnson, due to make a ‘Discovering Music’ about the Spohr Nonet for BBC Radio 3, was too ill to leave his own bathroom, let alone London. Who wouldn’t work with these people?
I’m proud of the range and quality of our music and our relationship with the wider community, immensely grateful to you, our Two decades on, Peter shouted from a Friends, and the rest of the board who accepted neighbouring restaurant table to ask if I’d consider chairing Music in the Round? Steady and supported me and I’m humbled by the constantly fresh work of Angus, Deborah, on, I thought, does it matter that I know Tracy, Marty, Polly, Kathryn and Fraser. John relatively little about chamber music? About as relevant as the gender politics of the 1980s, Cowling is a lucky man. he thought. Am I still going to be involved? Does Peter Cropper like red wine?
Fraser Wilson gives a brief update on Music in the Community projects This summer we ran a new school’s project, Transformations. Working in partnership with the Showroom Cinema, it was inspired by the concert that took place during the May Festival, which featured a newly commissioned film by Katie Goodwin alongside Adrian Wilson’s performance of Benjamin Britten’s Six Metamorphoses after Ovid. The schools project similarly sought to combine film and music, challenging the children to come up with their own creative responses to the ideas of changing and reflecting. Over four weeks, Polly and I worked with Emma-Jayne Russell from the Showroom, Katie and Adrian, and sixty
Year 3 pupils at Watercliffe Meadow Primary School, in north-west Sheffield. We based our film, artwork, and music on two movements: Phaeton and Narcissus. We created colourful portraits that mirrored emotions and feelings; composed and recorded music that reflected, raced, and transformed; and invented songs and actions that we knew would tell the stories visually, then we edited all the material into a complete film. The children couldn’t believe they had created a film in just four short sessions as they tucked into their popcorn at the premiere screening in their school hall! In July it was screened at Showcomotion and you can watch it here:
www.vimeo.com/70166257. As the autumn approaches, we turn our attention to the new commission from our Children’s Composer in Residence Paul Rissmann, Stan and Mabel. Following the success of last year’s Sir Scallywag and the Golden Underpants, there will be fun, participatory family and schools’ concerts (at the Octagon) with Polly and Ensemble 360, and a variety of lead-up events including Family Workshops on 28 October. We’re also looking forward to a wealth of other projects in the autumn and beyond, including an exciting event in December that invites ‘lads, dads, and grandads’ – males of all ages – to come together and sing!
News from further af ield A new partnership is launched
The 10th July saw the beginning of a new partnership between our regular tour venue the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and Keele Concerts. The partnership brings the world-class concerts already presented by both promoters together into one series with Ensemble 360 forming the bedrock of the concerts at the New Vic. The collaboration was launched at a pre-concert reception by Peter Cropper; who better? It was at the New Vic in the 1960’s that The Lindsays, then resident ensemble at Keele University, pioneered chamber music ‘in the round’ with their ‘Beer and Ale’ concerts under the then-Director of the theatre Peter Cheeseman. As a result Music in the Round was founded fourteen years later. Peter said “I’m delighted that the New Vic and Keele University are now working together with Music in the Round to keep the tradition alive in this wonderful in-the-round space. And it’s in the safe hands of Ensemble 360. I hope it’s a partnership with a long future – it’s all the legacy I could ask for.”
First year of Portsmouth Chamber Concerts a success
We are pleased to announce that it has been a year since the launch of Portsmouth Chamber Concerts Series and it has been a great success. The University of Portsmouth, has been one of our regular tour partners since 2004 and last year we supported them to begin a collaboration with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra who were keen to branch out into chamber music. The result was an extended series of concerts under the umbrella of Portsmouth Chamber Concerts. We very much look forward to watching it develop and grow in the future.
New venue for Doncaster
Doncaster’s inspiring new venue, CAST, opened its doors this September and we’re delighted to be part of its inaugural season. We were approached by the people behind the new venue to work with them on something for the building’s opening season. They wanted something new, something unique to Doncaster and something that was for everyone that at the same time kept its heart in high quality chamber music. The result is Shadow Game; a brand new work written by the incredibly talented Charlotte Bray. It’s in Sinfonia Concertante form for four soloists from Ensemble 360 and amateur and youth orchestras. The World Premiere will take place in CAST on Saturday 8th February 2014 at 7.30pm as Ensemble 360 take to the stage with Doncaster-based Boyce Chamber Orchestra and Beechfield Youth Orchestra. The two groups will also have the opportunity to work with Ensemble 360 musicians and Charlotte in advance of the performance. Please put the date in your diary to take a trip over to Doncaster to support us and to explore this wonderful new South Yorkshire venue.
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Published on Jan 21, 2014