Contemporary Music Mania!

My last couple of weeks have been completely filled with contemporary music! From an orchestral club night performance with the Southbank Sinfonia to a collaboration with the 15 Second Harp project and preparations for two upcoming solo concerts with the Park Lane Group, I've had to get used to sight reading unusual rhythms, leaping around uncomfortable intervals and deciding how best to interpret the music in front of me...

 First SbS rehearsals for  Rise of the Machine  at St John's Waterloo

First SbS rehearsals for Rise of the Machine at St John's Waterloo

After a couple of weeks off over Easter, Southbank Sinfonia were thrown back in at the deep end, with our first concert being for the 'Nonclassical' music festival, conducted by Gerry Cornelius. Our performance - entitled Rise of the Machines - explored the theme of the mechanical in classical music and featured the UK premiere of Gabriel Prokofief's Concerto for Trumpet, Percussion, Turntables and Orchestra. Our venue was Ambika P3 - an underground nightclub next to the University of Westminster. I couldn't believe that I'd been walking down Marylebone Road to the Academy for four years and never knew it existed! The concert was recorded by BBC Radio 3 for 'Hear and Now' and was a huge success, with a packed crowd and great performances by the orchestra, soloists and DJs. 

 Performance at Ambika for the orchestral club night (Photo: Southbank Sinfonia)

Performance at Ambika for the orchestral club night (Photo: Southbank Sinfonia)

Earlier in the week, I met up with harpist Olivia Jageurs, founder of 15 Second Harp. You may remember that I featured Olivia in one of my recent blog posts and, since then, she has reached over 1000 followers on Facebook and received over 100 pieces from composers all around the world. To celebrate this achievement, Olivia decided to start commissioning duo works, for harp and another instrument, and I was honoured to be asked to be her first collaborator!

 Post-recording session for 15 Second Harp

Post-recording session for 15 Second Harp

After sending out a message encouraging composers to write for trumpet and harp, Olivia and I received five pieces, each one completely different in style. We recorded them together and posted the final versions online on Friday 15th April. I couldn't believe how time-consuming it could actually be to record such short pieces of music, but we were really pleased with the results, and it seems that our five composers were too! You can view all 5 videos and more here:

https://www.instagram.com/15secondharp/

Finally, a large amount of my time over the last two months has been spent practising new repertoire for my concerts at St John's Smith Square next week. These two performances are part of the Park Lane Group 2016 Series, with a different composer featured every day next week. The two concerts which I'm involved in feature composers James MacMillan and Sally Beamish.

Tomorrow (Monday), I shall be perfoming Seraph by James Macmillan, a concerto originally written for Alison Balsom in 2011. I actually went to watch the premiere performance at Wigmore Hall, so it feels amazing to now be performing Seraph myself. Pianist Jen Hughes and I will be playing during the 6pm concert/talk - James MacMillan in Conversation - and this is likely to be the first performance of the work with trumpet and piano, rather than trumpet and strings.  

Details & tickets here: https://www.sjss.org.uk/events/james-macmillan

 James MacMillan - St John's Smith Square - Sally Beamish

James MacMillan - St John's Smith Square - Sally Beamish

Our second concert, on Friday 22nd April, will feature music by Sally Beamish and Stephen Dodgson. We are particularly excited to be performing the World Premiere of Trinculo - a piece commissioned by the Park Lane Group for Jen and me, written by Sally. We will be working on Trinculo in a coaching session with Sally on Thursday at the Royal College of Music, where Jen is a professor. We will also be performing Stephen Dodgson's Trumpet Concerto, written for me in 2011, in its new version for trumpet and piano. 

Details & tickets here: https://www.sjss.org.uk/events/sally-beamish

It's been a really interesting and rewarding challenge for me and Jen, working on so much new repertoire and having to know each other's parts as well as our own. In rehearsals, our ensemble playing actually came together much quicker than we were expecting, and so it was just down to personal practice (with a metronome!) to ensure that we both felt comfortable with our own parts. I'm really looking forward to finally performing and sharing the music that we've been working on - hopefully some of you can be there to hear it!