Hello, have you missed me? You know me…I might have answered the phone to you, sold you a ticket, served you a drink, said hello as you came in, goodbye as you went out – back in the days when you came to the building, all flushed from the November night and in anticipation of the sonic treats to come. Remember then?
Of course you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this. I’m sure you’re looking forward to going to a concert again just as much as I am to running one but, in the meantime, you might not have had the chance to find out what all those artists you’re waiting to see have been up to whilst they’re waiting to play for you. Happily, a part of my job during these last few months has been to do just that, so I’m going to share some of the highlights that I’ve found with you. You’re very welcome.
It was pretty much definitely me who rang you up if you had a ticket for Ashley Henry’s gig in April, which was rescheduled to November and which has now been re-rescheduled to March next year. I popped onto the 4OD website today to watch Sing it Loud:Black and Proud, which was part of Channel Four’s Black History Month celebrations, set in a locked down Ronnie Scott’s and featuring Ashley, along with Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Rueben James, Zara McFarlane, and Poppy Ajudha, all performing covers of iconic black artists’ protest songs. Ashley performs Mississippi Goddam; Nina Simone’s first civil rights song and is afterwards interviewed, as are all the artists, by Maya Jama. The performances are all pretty moving and the programme ends with an old Turner Sims favourite, Soweto Kinch, performing a piece of his own.
I know that many of you were disappointed when the SYJO with Tim Garland concert in April was cancelled – and then Acoustic Triangle (his trio with Gwilym Simcock and Malcolm Creese) was subsequently cancelled in June. I discovered two lovely videos which are well worth a watch. One is on Tim’s website and is a film made by Ollie Gough of some magical snowy landscapes to accompany The Snows; a piece from Tim’s orchestral album Weather Walker, taking inspiration from The Lake District and recorded at Abbey Road with a 43 piece string section.
The second is a video of Union Overture and Celebration, a piece composed by Gwilym and performed by a virtual orchestra of 80 young musicians, aged 15-18, all studying at the UK’s five specialist music schools, to mark the 40th anniversary of the government’s Music and Dance Scheme. It was commissioned, recorded and filmed during the summer term of 2020, entirely in isolation, and is the first time, apparently, that five separate orchestras, located hundreds of miles apart, have collaborated so successfully on such a large scale. Definitely worth seven and a half minutes of your time!
It’s very interesting to see what musicians have been getting up to during Lockdown. Liam Noble, who we hope might be coming to Turner Sims with his trio in the near future, has been doing livestreamed concerts every Saturday between 4pm and 5pm, each one covering music by other artists, including Madonna, Jimi Hendrix, Prince and Led Zeppelin. He is playing from his living room, on a rented piano, while his wife and baby are upstairs. One camera is on his face and another on his hands and he says ‘Hands are where it happens for me: the audience sees what I see. That feels more intimate…it’s almost my ideal setting… It’s a kind of lovely intimacy, not quite a gig – something else.’ Watch the gigs live here or catch the old ones by searching for Liam Noble on You Tube . There is no charge for watching but there is a link on the Twitch site for donations.
Beverley Craven has also started posting performances of her own songs from her home studio, sometimes accompanied remotely by another musician. There are four songs so far and you can find them on YouTube.
If you want more of an insight into Beverley’s life, she has also made two tours of her house; upstairs and downstairs, filmed by her daughter Molly and showing you all the pieces of furniture she has found in charity shops and dumps and ‘upcycled’. She seems like a nice person and I’m looking forward to welcoming her with some vegan snacks when she comes to TS with the Gabriella Swallow String Quartet for her rescheduled gig in June next year.
If you’ve been following our News since this June, you will have been excited to learn that composer/musician Tunde Jegede is going to join us for a project as part of the Mayflower 400 anniversary, focusing on stories from Southampton’s migrant communities, and culminating in a set of choral pieces which will be premiered at Turner Sims, potentially now as a digital event, early next year. He has also composed the music for a film called African Apocalypse, which is a new documentary with parallels to Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, except that, in this film, the protagonist is British-Nigerian poet Femi Nylander, who goes on a journey from Oxford to Niger to uncover the horrifying story of French Captain, Paul Voulet, whose gruesome genocidal mission in 1898 still scars Niger and its people today.
The film was premiered at The BFI London Film Festival this year and you can watch the trailer and read an interview about it here. If that whets your appetite, the film is available to rent here.
Finally, let’s take a look at folk and, in particular, Lau, who have been impressively prolific during lockdown: Kris Drever and Aidan O’Rourke both releasing solo albums and Lau as a band releasing a live album in July and now a new album, entitled Folk Songs, just in time for Christmas.
Aside from this, I have been lengthily side tracked by the activities of Lau’s Martin Green, who has been busy making podcasts. A Place of Crisps and Pianos was a lockdown project commissioned by the BBC, Opera North and The Space, where Martin collaborates with Laura Jurd and his young daughter to produce a podcast designed to be listened to as you are going on a walk (they were recorded with a biaural microphone so that when you listen on headphones, apparently, it’s as close as you can get to being there. I haven’t tried it yet but the title’s appealing enough to tempt me).
I have however, just listened to the first episode of The Portal, which is a podcast in 12 episodes Martin describes as being ‘for unusual times’. I’m not sure I can tell you anything about it apart from that there were some scary morris dancers, a sinister haunted or haunting ‘Tup’ and an introduction to two lovers who, possibly, never met. Apparently, it’s the story of ‘Obsession, 40 years of nightlife and 4000 years of human connection’ and I’m not entirely sure if it’s fictitious or not. I thought I’d listen to the rest rather than Google that because it sounds really interesting and you can listen to it for free on various streaming platforms… or you could buy the CD from Bandcamp. Access to both are on Martin’s website.
Lau are now rescheduled to play at Turner Sims on the 20th of June 2021.
So, I think that’s enough to be going on with. I hope you enjoy some of the things I’ve discovered and I’ll be back when I’ve got a few more. What I am picking up from this research is that artists do really need our support right now, so that maybe it’s the time to be buying their downloads and CDs instead of listening to things online for nothing, and that watching and following what they are doing on any social platform is, perhaps, a way of demonstrating your appreciation for the fortitude that they are showing in these wibbly wobbly times.
‘See’ you soon, Maggie