Friday 8th October 2021 – 30th Anniversary Season
Kol Simcha Suite
The Sun, the Moon and their lobster children World premiere
The Galaxy Rotation Problem
Commissioned by Psappha in 2013
vibrato/scratch lottery/vegetable soup World premiere
Three Games and a Nocturne
Commissioned by Psappha in 2017
Grind World premiere
Commissioned by Psappha in 2018
Conrad Marshall flute . Dov Goldberg clarinet
David Horne piano . James Woodrow guitar
Tim Williams percussion . Delia Stephens vibraphone . Michael Harper percussion
Benedict Holland violin . Heather Wallington viola . Jennifer Langridge cello
Jamie Phillips conductor
Psappha launches its 30th-anniversary season with a typically adventurous programme celebrating the possibilities of new music – and the fearless brilliance of young British composers.
Three of tonight’s seven works are world premieres written by emerging Manchester-based composers for Psappha’s Composing For scheme: Michael Betteridge’s abrasive duet, Bofan Ma’s playful viola solo and Philip Rousiamanis’s haunted tale of a broken family. Three others were commissioned by the group in the last decade: Tom Coult’s hat-trick suite, Tom Harrold’s pulsating hoedown and Nina Whiteman’s journey through our universe and others. Adam Gorb’s Klezmer-inspired dance suite makes a thrilling introduction to Tim Williams’ final season as Psappha’s Artistic Director.
Tonight’s concert will last around 75 minutes with no interval, ending around 8.15pm.
Kol Simcha Suite
Kol Simcha, translated from the Hebrew, means ‘Sounds of Joy’. The work was originally commissioned for the Rambert dance company and was in their repertoire with performances in theatres in the UK and the USA from 1995 to 1997.
In the 1990s I had a new desire to connect with my Jewish ‘folk’ roots and through the help of my second cousin, the clarinettist Merlin Shepherd, grew to love the vitality, humour and pathos of Klezmer music, with its performance characteristics and quirks. Merlin played in the original production of Kol Simcha, a 25-minute suite of dances and interludes. For this new version, scored for a Pierrot ensemble (flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, cello) I have cut the piece down to 17 minutes. The movements are as follows:
- Scalerica De Oro – Literally, ‘Ladder of Gold’ – a Sephardic dance, all in melodic unison
- Sher – A medium-fast tempo march thought to imitate the cutting action of scissors
- Doina – Originating from Romania, this is more recitative-like in character
- Hora – A circular dance in medium-slow triple time
- Terkishe – An uptempo habanera (not from Turkey!)
- El Mole Rachamim – A Jewish prayer for the soul of a person who has died
- Bulgar – Fast, riotous, and celebratory (but in the minor key…). Le Chaim (cheers) everybody!
About the Composer: Adam Gorb
Professor Adam Gorb (born 1958) studied Music at Cambridge University and Composition at the Royal Academy of Music in London. His compositions include operas, orchestral, ensemble, chamber, solo and choral works, and have been performed, broadcast and recorded world-wide. In the UK his compositions have had performances at contemporary music festivals in Huddersfield, Cheltenham, Manchester, Hampstead and Highgate, Spitalfields and Canterbury, and he has had concerts entirely devoted to his music in the UK, the USA and Canada. His concert band works have won prizes in the UK and abroad including three British Composer Awards.
Three CDs devoted to his work have been released in 2010, 2011 and 2016.
His first opera Anya 17 (2012) has been performed in the UK, Romania, Germany and the USA. His second opera The Path to Heaven was premiered in Leeds and Manchester in June 2018 and received two further productions in the USA in 2019 and 2020. A forthcoming CD of 24 Preludes for piano played by Clare Hammond will be available in early 2022.
Adam Gorb is Head of School of Composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, UK.
The Sun, the Moon and their lobster children World premiere
The Sun and the Moon are parents to two lobster children. The Moon takes care of one while the Sun takes care of the other. On the rare occasion of them meeting (during an eclipse, when the two celestial bodies are in conjunction), they are filled with excitement for the few moments they have to play and reminisce. After a few moments of play, they part and dream of the time when they can be together again. Their separation is bittersweet and never-ending, yet they understand it is a part of the mystical cycle of life and nature.
About the Composer: Philip Rousiamanis
Philip Rousiamanis was born in Greece in 1997. During their time in Greece they studied classical and Byzantine music with focus on violin, piano and the divan saz. Currently, they’re studying composition at the RNCM for which they where awarded scholarship by Countess of Munster Trust, George Henry Peters and Ralph Vaughn Williams Trust. Their work has been performed by performers such as Juliet Fraser and ensembles such as the Greek National Radio Orchestra (ERT) and Riot Ensemble. Alongside their instrumental composition, they write and perform with the art rock band Sylvette and the experimental pop project sexwithmdonna.
The Galaxy Rotation Problem Commissioned by Psappha in 2013
Vera Rubin (1928–2016) was an astronomer whose research led to theories of dark matter in the universe. Her discovery that objects at the outer limits of galaxies rotate much faster than the laws of physics predict was an important landmark in our understanding of space: unseen, non-luminous, dark matter of significant mass must exist. The Galaxy Rotation Problem is an impossible journey through some of the galaxies observed by Rubin: their properties are reimagined sonically, guiding the listener through terra incognita light years apart. The Galaxy Rotation Problem was commissioned by Psappha for the 2013 New Music North West festival.
About the Composer: Nina Whiteman
Nina Whiteman is a composer and vocalist based in Manchester. Her music has been performed widely in the UK and abroad by ensembles such as Manchester Camerata, Quatuor Danel, the BBC Philharmonic, Dutch accordion duo TOEAC, Ealing Youth Orchestra, Psappha, Colinton Amateur Orchestra (Adopt-a-composer scheme), and Distractfold Ensemble. Recent work has drawn inspiration from mazes and labyrinths, placing performers and audience in disorienting spaces and employing maze-like semi-graphic notation and video (House of Mazes, TOMB, Everything near becomes distant). Current projects include research and development of a new opera with writer Nadifa Mohamed supported by the Royal Opera House Engender programme. The opera is an adaptation of Nadifa’s novel The Fortune Men (shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2021). Nina performs in and co-directs Trio Atem, and is Artistic Director of Manchester Contemporary Youth Opera. She teaches at the RNCM and at Royal Holloway, University of London.
vibrato/scratch lottery/vegetable soup World premiere
This is a piece about viola jokes. It aims to question how much of a resistance we tend to have against those stereotype-informed opinions on who we are and what we do; and how this resistance manifests itself. Threaded together by a distorted version of Bach’s G Major Prelude, most of the materials in this piece are arranged from a MIDI transcription of a recording of myself telling viola jokes. They are to musically uncover as well as articulate the multiple layers of sarcasm entrenched within the intersection between cheap punchlines and incredible versatility. And by drawing associations between sound and words, in as implicit a way as it is, I hope for the resistance and an emergent theatre to naturally surface. Hence, this solo viola piece essentially embodies a network of dialogues between a violist who tries hard – a distant joke-telling voice, a superimposed narrative in which the jokes are greatly appreciated, the active resistance towards and against this narrative – and a viola virtuoso who subverts all existing prejudices.
About the Composer: Bofan Ma
Bofan Ma is a Manchester-based composer-performer. Originally from China, he makes music that embodies an intricate entanglement between sound and performative actions, as well as a normalised, transnational creative identity. He has worked with ensembles/initiatives including Shanghai Conservatory Chinese Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Psappha, Ensemble Mise-en, Ensemble X.y, Vonnegut Collective, Music Theatre Wales, Kinetic Manchester. His music has been heard across the globe, namely in the Shanghai Spring International Festival (China); Mise-en International Festival (USA); Hearing Art Seeing Sound International Festival (Armenia); and Darmstädter Ferienkurse (Germany). Bofan is also an active researcher working closely with the RNCM Centre for Practice & Research in Science & Music (PRiSM), and the RNCM Experimental & Exploratory Music Research Centre (EEMRC). He is currently one of the core members of both the composer collective The Incógnito Project, and the Manchester branch of the international Contemporary Music for All (CoMA) network.
Two Games and a Nocturne Commissioned by Psappha in 2017
Game I – Fidgety, skittish
Game II – Meccanico ma accelerando
Nocturne – Drifting, malleable
The first two movements (the ‘games’) have a sense of play – the first game alternates skittish piano solos with moments of absolute stasis, before the whole ensemble joins in a bluesy, insectoid jamboree. In the second game, an initially ominous trudge in marimba and piano is incrementally disrupted and sped up to become a fast and volatile rush to the finish. The nocturne that ends the piece is the more sombre older cousin of these games. Here, insistent, chiming octaves in the glockenspiel and piano are surrounded by gently swaying chords and astringent contributions from piccolo and violin, as the music drifts towards its conclusion.
About the Composer: Tom Coult
Tom Coult is a composer born in London in 1988. His work has been championed by many of the UK’s major orchestras and ensembles, resulting in a series of acclaimed large-scale pieces, including Beautiful Caged Thing for soprano Claire Booth and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Sonnet Machine for the BBC Philharmonic, and Spirit of the Staircase for the London Sinfonietta (nominated for a South Bank Sky Arts Award). He is currently Composer-in-Association with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and St John’s Dance was premiered by Edward Gardner and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to open the First Night of the 2017 BBC Proms.
Grind World premiere
Grind is a musical exploration of the act of two items coming into contact with one another repeatedly and aggressively. While the act of a bow thrown against a string, or a hammer hitting a dampened coil of wire, is an obvious physical manifestation of the word and its meaning, the long-term impact on our bodies and minds (teeth grinding, the daily grind, etc) is perhaps less easy to pinpoint.
About the Composer: Michael Betteridge
Described as ‘inventive’ (The Financial Times) and ‘bold’ and ‘colourful’ (The Times) Michael is a composer with an eclectic output creating work that challenges and inspires audiences and performers alike. Predominantly working with voice, theatre, and with nonprofessional/young performers he has created work for the likes of Alþýðuóperan (Folk Opera Iceland), Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Cheltenham Music Festival, Den Jyske Opera, London Symphony Orchestra, Nicola Benedetti, Opera North and Welsh National Opera. His music has featured on BBC Radio 3 and 4 and he has received accolades for his work in the UK and abroad including nominations for an RPS Award (Across the Sky) and an Icelandic Music Award (#echochamber). He is artistic director of the open access low voiced LGBTQ+ choir The Sunday Boys based in the city of Manchester, UK.
Dark Dance Commissioned by Psappha in 2018
This is perhaps one of the most unusual pieces I have ever written. It is basically a perverse viola concertino, where the viola’s material remains almost completely disparate from the energised, angular music that surrounds it. The accompanying ensemble are treated as one unit, which sets the viola against the rest. Structurally, the piece never settles, climaxes, arrives or feels confident in what it is trying to say: it loops within small, boxed-in corners, and continuously tries to become unstuck from itself with little success. I suppose with this piece I am experimenting with these ideas of unusual structures and methods with which to handle musical material; my recent output has been predominantly of music with extremely clear structures and narrative, from which I wanted to escape in this work. It was very much a cleansing and enlightening experience for me to write this piece. Its writing acted as a means to lift me from my rut of writing the same music over and over and over…
About the Composer: Tom Harrold
Tom Harrold was born in Glasgow in 1991. His works have been performed across the globe at venues which include the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Albert Hall and Maison Symphonique de Montréal. His recent works include a concerto for saxophonist Emma McPhilemy and the BBC Philharmonic, a ballet, Saudade, which was co-commissioned by Birmingham Royal Ballet and Queensland Ballet (Australia), To the Light for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Unchained for percussionist Colin Currie (the premiere of which Harrold conducted), Voices of Vimy for the BBC Singers, and Raze, which opened the Last Night of the 2016 BBC Proms.
Jamie Phillips – Conductor
Jamie Phillips’s penetrating insight and innate musicality convey an infectious joy in his music-making. Praised for his “ability to pick up a familiar piece by the scruff of its neck and shake invigorating new life into it” (Bachtrack), Phillips is a natural story-teller whose clear and expressive hands deliver his ardent vision.
Jamie Phillips has developed a strong guest conducting profile across Europe, recently conducting the Philharmonia, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra, Antwerp Symphony Orchestra, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie, NDR Radiophilharmonie, Munich Chamber Orchestra, and the Philharmonie Zuidnederland, Het Gelders Orkest, Oslo Philharmonic, Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Opera de Lyon, Camerata Salzburg, Odense Symphony and Orchestre National d’Ile de France.
Phillips enjoys a close association with the Hallé Orchestra. Following his successful appointment as Assistant Conductor (aged 20) the orchestra created the title of Associate Conductor for him and he returns to conduct subscription concerts in May 2022. Elsewhere in 21/22 he conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the orchestra of Glyndebourne Opera and the Wuerttemburgische Philharmonie, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie and Deutsche Radio Philharmonie where he is a regular guest.
His repertoire ranges from baroque to the present day, and it is contemporary works he has so far committed to disc. With the Hallé his recordings of works by Tarik O’Regan and Helen Grime for the NMC label were “spot-on” (Classical Music magazine). His October 2020 release of 11 commissioned works inspired by JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations with the NDR Radio Philharmonie and violinist Niklas Liepe for Sony won an Opus Klassik Award, and further recordings are planned.
During his studies at the Royal Northern College of Music Jamie Phillips was a semi-finalist in the 2011 Besançon Competition and came second in the 2012 Nestlé Salzburg Young Conductors Award. In 2016 was awarded a Dudamel Fellowship with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Psappha is the North West’s only stand-alone professional contemporary classical music ensemble. Founded in 1991 by Artistic Director Tim Williams, the group is dedicated to commissioning, performing and promoting new music – particularly by living composers and emerging musicians.
Throughout its 30-year career, Psappha has commissioned and premiered music by more than 500 composers and has performed across the UK and worldwide on five continents. In the process, it has worked with the likes of Aldeburgh Music, the BBC Philharmonic, the BBC Proms, BBC Radio 3, Glyndebourne Festival, NMC, Opera North, Phoenix Dance Theatre, the Royal Northern College of Music, University of Manchester and the Royal Opera House in the UK; Guggenheim New York, the New York Philharmonic and Princeton University in the USA; and Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, the Jerusalem Festival and Muziektheater Transparant worldwide.
Psappha supports composers at all stages of their careers, inviting them to work with its core musicians to create, develop and present new work. Through its pioneering ‘Composing For…’ scheme, which launched in 2014, the group has worked directly with more than 140 emerging composers on brand new compositions. All these works are premiered via high-quality films on the group’s extensive YouTube channel, which contains more than 230 free-to-view films of live performances and has received more than 120,000 views in the last 12 months alone. The group also launched its own record label in 1997, and its catalogue of recordings are set for re-release in 2021 through its new relationship with NMC Recordings.
Composer Mark-Anthony Turnage was appointed as Psappha’s Patron in 2018 – succeeding Peter Maxwell-Davies, former Master of the Queen’s Music, who served as Patron for 20 years and was an enthusiastic supporter of the group’s work until his death in 2016. An Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation and PRS Foundation Talent Development Partner, Psappha is based at Hallé St Michael’s, the former Italian Chapel in the central Manchester neighbourhood of Ancoats.
Thank you for coming – and do join us at Hallé St Peter’s for our next concert on Thursday 25 November
For details and to book tickets, visit psappha.com/diary