The Edge of England
Lecture: Composers of the North-East
Friday, September 24, 5.00 - 6.00 pm
Michael Worboys, BMS Artistic Director
From Charles Avison to John Casken; from William Shield (Auld Lang Syne) to James Weeks, this lecture will attempt a necessarily incomplete survey of composers of north-east England from the 18th century to the present day. It will also provide an introduction to some of the contributions from north-east musicians to BMS 2021.
Performance: Stephen Upshaw
Saturday, September 25, 2.00 - 3.00 pm
American violist Stephen Upshaw regularly appears in festivals around the world including the BBC Proms, Cheltenham, and the Salzburg Chamber Music Festival. He is a member of the Solem Quartet and, as a noted interpreter of contemporary music, is also a member of London’s Riot Ensemble. He has worked closely with many of today’s leading composers, including John Adams, Thomas Adès and George Benjamin. He has been the artistic director of “Sounding Motion” – a company exploring the relationship between live contemporary chamber music and dance. Stephen has also toured regularly in the USA, Europe and Asia with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields. He was recently a featured guest on BBC Radio 3’s ‘This Classical Life’.
A native of Atlanta, Stephen studied at the New England Conservatory in Boston and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Stephen plays a 1715 Daniel Parker school viola currently made available to him by Nigel Brown and the Stradivari Trust.
Errollyn Wallen LAVINIA
Errollyn Wallen’s ‘LAVINIA’ was commissioned for Stephen by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation and Riot Ensemble. Errollyn writes of her piece: “Based on the Ancient Greek character Lavinia, this piece seeks to convey the overwhelming and consuming nature of jealousy which most often grows out of pain at the prospect of loss. Towards the end of the piece, we hear some notes from Lavinia’s aria from my opera, Dido’s Ghost.”
Michael Worboys Allanton Air
Michael writes of his work: “Allanton Air began life at a workshop for viola lead by Stephen at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in 2017. At the same time, I was working on recording the working processes of Allanton artists Charles Paulsen and Pauline Burbidge, as well as sounds from the environment surrounding their studios. As Pauline said, “the spaces we created here are very important to us”, and Allanton Air blends the sounds made in the course of creating the art with more lyrical, pastoral elements evoking the spaces in which the artists live and work.”
J.S. Bach. Cello Suite No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1009, transcribed for viola
- Bourée I and II
The six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach were probably composed during the period 1717–23, when he served as Kapellmeister in Köthen in the employment of Prince Leopold. They follow the traditional form of the German instrumental suite—an elaborate prelude followed by a fixed series of dances. At the time, and indeed for all time, they provide one of the most outstanding examples of polyphonic composition for a solo string instrument. The transcription for viola opens up a new sound world from that which we are used to, with the viola providing more brightness and agility.
John Casken. From One Thread
The title of this work is a phrase from the English contemporary textile artist Alice Kettle: “A piece can develop from one thread”. ‘From One Thread’ was composed by John Casken for the London Royal Academy of Music in recognition of its 200th Anniversary in 2022. It was given its first performance there in 2020 by Miguel Sobrinho, a postgraduate student at the Academy. Its structure comprises an elaborate Fantasia followed by a pair of dances (slow and faster) and looks back in reduced form to the baroque German instrumental suite. It is therefore a fitting companion to the aforementioned Bach Cello Suite.
György Kurtág Selections from ‘Signs, Games and Messages’
Hungarian composer György Kurtág’s ‘Signs, Games and Messages’ is a collection of compositions of varying length written for different types of occasion: musical ‘letters’, tributes and playful experiments in instrumental technique. Music journalist Tom Service writes that Kurtág's music "… involves reducing music to the level of the fragment, the moment, with individual pieces or movements lasting mere seconds, or a minute, perhaps two.
Lecture: The Chamber Music of Felix Mendelssohn,
Friday, October 8, 5.00 - 6.00 pm
Michael Worboys, BMS Artistic Director
The chamber works of the German composer Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847) range from early piano quartets begun when he was only 12 years old, through the magnificent Octet (1825) to a large collection of mature works culminating in pieces such as his last completed chamber piece, the String Quartet in F minor, written in the year of his death. This talk will briefly survey the range of work, before focusing on the String Quartet in A minor, to be performed by the Frankland Quartet. This work was composed in 1827, a few months after the death of Beethoven, and relies heavily on compositional techniques of the late Beethoven string quartets. It is Mendelssohn’s first mature string quartet and a fine example of work in the early romantic period.
Performance: Frankland Quartet
Saturday, October 9, 2.00 - 3.00 pm
Sophie Appleton violin
Sarah Roberts violin
James Slater viola
Daniel Hammersley cello
Berwick Music Series welcomes back the Frankland Quartet, remembered for their stunning performance of the Ravel quartet here in 2019. Formed in 2017, the Frankland Quartet’s musical identity is embedded in the North East of England. Long-time colleagues in Royal Northern Sinfonia, the region’s professional chamber orchestra, all four of its members share a deep commitment to the cultural life of the area, inspired by its landscape, its history and communities. The Frankland Quartet’s music-making is dedicated to an equal marriage of past and present, and a desire to look beyond the standard repertoire, championing composers from outside the traditional canon, including female composers and underrepresented groups. They are also committed to the voices of the North East, and work regularly with the region’s leading composers. In 2019 The Frankland Quartet became Quartet-in-Residence at Durham University, leading workshops and coaching for the university’s student ensembles, performing student compositions, and giving recitals, most recently of Ravel, Tippett and Medekšaite in April 2021.
William Marsey, Be nice to see you
William Marsey writes of his piece: “In summer 2019 I recorded my phone calls with my parents and wrote music around their voices. The result was a seven-minute piece for string quartet, recorded voices, and field recordings made around my London and Hartlepool homes. The piece is a bit homesick and a bit a tribute to my parents: a bit sad and a bit happy. The string quartet was the Ligeti Quartet, and the piece was written for New Creatives North.”
Michael Worboys, Coming to Rest
Michael writes: “The title of the piece refers to physical oscillations such as the movement of a pendulum, spring, yo-yo or the vibration of a violin string. In each case, the motion decays as time passes because of friction, and is called by scientists ‘damped harmonic motion’. Altogether there are six full musical ‘swings’ before the pendulum comes to rest. Each full musical swing back and forth in this work takes more than four minutes, so an actual pendulum made for this piece would be more than 20km in length!”
Felix Mendelssohn, String Quartet in A minor, op. 13
- Adagio – Allegro vivace
- Adagio non lento
- Intermezzo: Allegretto con moto – Allegro di molto
- Presto – Adagio non lento (A major)
The String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13, was composed by Felix Mendelssohn in 1827 when he was 18 years old. Despite his young age, Mendelssohn was already an experienced composer of chamber music. Mendelssohn wrote the quartet a few months after the death of Ludwig van Beethoven, and the influence of Beethoven's late string quartets is evident in this work. As one music commentator writes: “...This quartet, relying heavily on compositional techniques of late Beethoven, links classical form to romantic expression.”
Saturday, October 23, 2.00 – 3.30pm
The physical and emotional benefits of chanting have been well documented in the scientific literature. In this workshop, participants will learn about chanting traditions around the world and have the opportunity to sample several chanting practices, from Japanese chant to a modern American chant about pandas. All are welcome and no previous experience or ability with singing is needed. Come and experience the joy of making sound in a group!
Finals of the BMS International Composition Competition: Theme - North
Sunday, October 24, 1.00 - 2.00 pm
Earlier in the year composers of all ages, nationalities, genders and musical styles were invited to submit a short piece on the theme ‘North’. Some of these have been selected for performance at this event. It is now your chance to decide on the winners!
Exhibition and Sound Installation: "ReMixed"
Saturday, October 30 and Sunday October 31