Tag Archives: jazz

“They don’t know where to put it…”

It was kind of satisfying to read Harriet Moss’s comments in the Independent earlier this week about the (not so) unusual situation that faced Nils Frahm’s Barbican concert in the summer. The event sold out, and had lots of support from eclectically minded DJs like Gilles Peterson and Mary Ann Hobbs, but not one classical reviewer came.

No problem, you might think. In a sense, you would be right. The concert sold out. Broadsheet classical reviewers not showing up is just another sign of the changing media landscape.

I should also say that the lack of reviews surrounding the world of contemporary crossover classical is not the fault of the reviewers. They are fighting for column inches, print and online just as orchestras and venues are. As readerships fall, arts editors are increasingly pushed for space, and if something doesn’t have an immediate genre fit it doesn’t go in.

Again, perhaps no problem. There are so many other channels to market available that not having broadsheet coverage isn’t the issue that it was maybe 20 years ago.

The article does highlight a wider issue though: many people in classical music are increasingly looking to break out of perceived genre shackles, and there are plenty of artists from other genres who are keen to help them to do this.

But classical music in the main remains risk averse. I remember that when we invited Ljova to work with CLS a couple of years back. Audiences loved him, our musicians were inspired. Success. Except that no reviewers turned up to see him either, and one promoter friend, who is a fan of Ljova, congratulated me on being so ‘brave’ in promoting him. It was meant as a supportive but I remember feeling terrified when they said it!

 

CLoSer: Sketches of Miles. 6 April 2016. Village Underground.
Gwilym Simcock performing with CLS in April 2016 Credit: James Berry

When the Jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock joins us, it’s perhaps less of a problem as jazz audiences are keen to hear the expanded tonal palette an orchestra gives someone like Gwilym (although the world of jazz can be as reactionary as some corners of classical music). Gwilym is happy to explore the flexible hinterland between two genres, and has created some memorable concerts with us.

sam-lee-tfit1-by-frederic-aranda-lo-res
Sam Lee joins CLS on 17 November. Image credit Frederic Aranda

 

When Sam Lee joins us in November, I imagine that we will face the same problem. Sam is a folk artist, we are an orchestra. Never the twain, etc. Except that classical music has borrowed from folk music for centuries (L’Homme arme anyone?). I think part of what makes CLS what it is is that we can find artists who are prepared to give this tradition of cross genre collaboration some contemporary relevance. It would be too easy with both folk and jazz, and Ljova’s hybrid mix of classical and klezmer to look backwards – we want to create something new in those experimental hinterlands.

Sam’s music is every bit as contemporary as Nils Frahm’s in its own way. Sam borrows ancient Travellers’ songs, but the surrounds he gives them, while definitely folk could not be from any time other than our own. It will be incredible to hear them on an even bigger scale than his albums and usual live shows allow.

We’ll get good audiences – Sam has a great following – but will we get any reviewers? Perhaps if their editors work out where to put it….

Matthew Swann, CLS Chief Executive

Sam Lee joins City of London Sinfonia for CLoSer: Died for Love on 17 November at St John at Hackney. 

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Retrospective on CLoSer: Sketches of Miles

We do things differently here at CLS, and on Wednesday 6 April we lived up to our promise to surpise with a concert of the music of Miles Davis – CLoSer: Sketches of Miles.

For this, the final CLoSer concert in the RE:Imagine series, we were joined by the exceptional talents of Gwilym Simcock and his trio, vocalist Cleveland Watkiss and – in a last-minute addition – saxophonist Tim Garland.

Relive the experience

Checkout the highlights video below and some beautiful photos from the concert by the wonderful James Berry along with your reactions from Twitter. Just tweet us at @CityLdnSinfonia to let us know what you thought!

Photos by James Berry:

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Read the review by Schmopera:

Last night’s concert at the Village Underground will go into the books as one of the most memorable shows we’ve seen yet.” – Schmopera

From Twitter:

 

 

 

Join us for the season finale

Paris Reflected
Wednesday 20 April, 7.30pm

The sounds of Paris are reflected across the centuries in this finale of the season. Providing the centrepiece to the programme is Duruflé’s Requiem setting based on ancient plainsong melodies, preceded by Fauré’s Pavane with its ancient dance forms and Ravel’s tribute to the earlier French composer, Couperin. Composer Charlotte Bray provides the final instalment in our ‘Bach RE:Imagined’ series.

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Things we’ve been listening to this week…

Our sad songs post on Tuesday got us thinking about what music we’d been playing recently. It’s been a week of headphones in the office, as everyone’s busy preparing for our new RE:Imagine season. But what’ve we all been listening to? After a very quick and entirely unscientific survey, here is this week’s somewhat eclectic CLS playlist…

PL: I’ve been listening Stan Getz – The Bossa Nova Albums (trying to prolong a holiday feeling…!)

 

AL: I’ve had Tomasz Stańko Quartet’s ‘Song for Sarah’ on repeat this week. It’s beautifully melancholy, and takes me back to fantasies of sequined gowns and smoky jazz clubs.

 

ZH: Chicago-based rapper Mick Jenkins has a new album Wave[s] and it’s very good.

PM: This week I’ve been mostly listening to ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ by Chet Baker. It’s a jazz standard that I’d never heard before until the recent John Wilson Orchestra prom, where Seth MacFarlane sung in the style of Frank Sinatra at a packed out late night concert.

 

MS: This has been a week of ‘concentrating on papers and presentations’ music on headphones, so Palestrina, Bach, Electronica, and some good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. And of course the BBC Proms…

 

GHG: I haven’t been listening to much music lately, but with a fussy baby comes a lot of walking, so I’ve been doing lots of listening to podcasts to keep me entertained. These are a few of my favourites:

This American Life: A great podcast with a different theme each week and a variety of stories on that theme.

Scummy Mummies: A comedy podcast on parenthood, co-hosted by a good friend of mine

The Moth Podcast: Storytelling podcast with fantastic real life stories

Serial/Undisclosed: I loved the popular Serial podcast about the case of Adnan Syed so much that I’ve been listening to a follow-on podcast called Undisclosed which is following the story as it continues to unfold

Retrospective: CLoSer – Ljova

Our two-week collaboration with the fantastic New York composer and musician, Ljova kicked off yesterday with the final CLoSer concert of our Émigré series at Village Underground. We loved getting to know Ljova and his atmospheric music, as well as his wife and singer, Inna Barmash who joined the Orchestra for some Klezmer-inspired vocal numbers.

We received some fantastic feedback on Twitter and Instagram from the concert, which we thought we’d share post-concert, as well as some of our favourite snaps! And don’t forget – the whole concert is available to watch for free via our live stream until Wednesday 6 May on our website and YouTube channel

Continue reading Retrospective: CLoSer – Ljova

Banned and dangerous art: Eisler, Korngold and Stravinsky

Our upcoming concert, From Hollywood to New York, explores the work of various European composers who sought fame, fortune or refuge in the USA in the early part of the 20th century. Several of these composers fled to the New World to escape from wartime Europe, at a time when Nazi Germany began to encroach on the personal and professional lives of millions. Eisler, Korngold and Stravinsky, whose music we perform on 2 May, were publicly denounced by the Third Reich as ‘degenerate music’ (‘Entartete Musik’ in German), a condemnation which had severe affects not only on their career, but also general livelihood.

In this blog, we take a closer look at ‘degenerate music’ and these composers’ associations with the term.

We perform Eisler’s Kleine Sinfonie, Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements and Korngold’s Adventures of Robin Hood Suite at Cadogan Hall on 2 May.

From Hollywood to New York
Saturday 2 May 2015, 7.30pm
Cadogan Hall, London
Tickets from £12 (concessions available)
£5 tickets available for students and 16-25s (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) Cadogan Hall Box Office / 020 7730 4500

Piazzolla: The Man and His Music – The Journey towards Tango Nuevo

Last week, we began looking at Astor Piazzolla’s life and history in relation to his émigré background in America. In this Part Two of the series, we track his climb to fame after moving back to Argentina back in 1939 and the creation of his beloved and ever-popular Tango Nuevo

The move to Argentina

In 1937, Astor Piazzolla and his family return to Mar de Plata where tango is very much prominent on the cultural scene. Although Piazzolla finds it difficult to let go of the American jazz that dominated his life over in America, he immerses himself in Argentinean tango and forms a quartet for a while before moving to Buenos Aires to try and get a position in one of the orchestras over there.

Piazzolla lands his dream job

When in Buenos Aires, Piazzolla lands a job as part of the Anibal Troilo orchestra as their bandoneón player, later becoming their arranger. The band was extremely popular in Argentina and his position was a very prestigious one! For Piazzolla, his time as part of the Troilo orchestra was an important one:

‘I learned the tricks of the tangeros, those intuitive tricks that helped me later on. I couldn’t define them technically; they are forms of playing, forms of feeling; it’s something that comes from the inside, spontaneously.’ 

Piazzolla with the Troila Orchestra c.1945 http://www.piazzolla.org/biography/biography-english.html

During this time and shortly after, Piazzolla decides to dedicate his time to composition, studying Bartok, Stravinsky and jazz. During the next few years his music has an odd, yet fantastic fusion of tango and classical.

 

Nadia Boulanger and the return to Classical Music

Constantly adding fugues, counterpoints and eccentric harmonies into his compositions, 5 years later Piazzolla realised that his music was on a different key and decided to focus on Classical music. Following this idea and after winning a scholarship, he moved to Paris to study music with French composer Nadia Boulanger. When Astor begins to learn with Nadia, he is really embarrassed about his non-classical tango past so he initially hides it from her!

Boulanger and Piazzolla c.1955 http://www.piazzolla.org/biography/biography-english.html

The Birth of Nuevo Tango

In 1955, Astor Piazzola returned to Argentina with his family. That year, he formed his orchestra Octeto Buenos Aires. Although the new band did not last for too long, it was very important for the development of Tango Nuevo, challenging the idea of the traditional tango quintet with two bandoneons, two violins, a bass, a cello, a piano and an electric guitar.  This unusual combination of instruments marked the beginning of Tango Nuevo. Fusing together the worlds of classical music, jazz and tango,

Octeto Buenos Aires
Octeto Buenos Aires http://www.verytangostore.com/legends/astor-piazzolla.html

 

Piazzolla’s revolution towards traditional tango sparked some very fierce criticism from many, but he continued to develop the genre with new rhythms, sound efffects, string counterpoint, excellent soloists and an  improvisational electric guitar nonetheless.

 An international star

1958 sees Piazzolla move to America, where his experimentation with Tango Nuevo continues in the form of infusing jazz. Eventually gaining world-wide acclaim across Europe, Japan and America, this new style of tango made Piazzolla a real superstar! This was just the beginning of a very successful, prolific and innovative music career.

Piazzolla c.1995 http://www.piazzolla.org/biography/pics/astorbando.html

In 1960, Piazzolla returned to Buenos Aires where his career continued to thrive for several years. He played in magnificent venues, orchestras, and recorded a range of discs. Continuing to compose for the next 10 years and now at the pinnacle of his career, he moves frequently between New York and Buenos Aires , performing in prestigious places such as New York’s Carnegie Hall. In 1985 is named an exceptional citizen of Buenos Aires and sadly dies in 1990, leaving behind more than 1000 works.

 

Join us on Wednesday 25 February as we perform a range of tango music from Piazzolla, Golijov and Bartok with live dancers and a FREE tango taster from 6.45pm. 

CLOSER: To and From Buenos Aires 
Wednesday 25 February 2015, 7:30pm
FREE tango taster from 6:45pm 
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.

Piazzolla: The Man and His Music – An American Life

Astor Piazzolla (1921 – 1992) is best known as the father of Tango Nuevo – a revolutionary new genre of tango which infuses elements of jazz and classical music. A talented and innovative musician as well as a composer, he became one of the foremost contributors to tango, spreading its sultry, melancholic rhythms and dance across the world.  In this blog series, we track his life and history in relation to his émigré background in America as a boy and then in Argentina later in his career in advance of performing his music at our CLoSer concert on 25 February

Italy – Argentina – New York… 

Born in 1921 in Mar del Plata near Buenos Aires, Argentina, Piazzolla’s family were émigrés of Italian background (all four grandparents were Italian immigrants who moved to Argentina). When he was 4, his family moved to New York’s Little Italy where he stayed for most of his youth, returning back to Argentina only briefly when the Great Depression hit the world in the 1930s. During these years, Astor Piazzolla learned English, Spanish, Italian and French.

Vicente Piazzolla and Asunta Mainetti
The Piazzollas. Taken from http://www.verytangostore.com/legends/astor-piazzolla.html

Living very close to Jewish community in New York and immersing himself as part of the Italian immigrant culture, Piazzolla used to earn some money extinguishing candles in a local synagogue. Later in life, he explained that the Jewish music had a profound influence on him:

“My rhythmic accents, 3-3-2, are similar to those of the Jewish popular music I heard at weddings.” – Astor Piazzolla

Piazzolla learns the bandoneón

In 1929 his father bought 8-year-old Piazzolla a bandoneón (an Argentine version of the concertina). While he wasn’t too pleased with the gift to begin with, he clumsily tried to learn the instrument to please his Dad:

“My first bandoneon was a gift from my father… he brought it covered in a box, and I got very happy because I thought it was the roller skates I had asked for so many times… Dad sat down, set it on my legs, and told me, ‘Astor, this is the instrument of tango. I want you to learn it.’ My first reaction was anger. Tango was that music he listened to almost every night after coming home from work. I didn’t like it.” – Astor Piazzolla

Piazzolla as a boy. Taken from http://www.todotango.com/english/history/chronicle/112/The-friedship-between-Gardel-and-Piazzolla/

After some success playing the bandoneón on stage, Piazzolla took classes with musician Andres D’Aquila and when he was only 11, he wrote his first Tango song, La Catinga.

A love of classical music and jazz

Despite knowing tango through his father, the music he listened to most of all was the jazz music of figures like Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway that was in vogue at the time in New York. Alongside his interest in jazz, he also got to know a great deal of classical music through his pianist and neighbour, Bela Wilda (a disciple of Rachmaninoff). As he was so immersed in the Italian immigrant cultures of Little Italy, the Argentinean tradition of tango was not important to him.

“In my head I had Bach and Schumann and Mozart and very little tango.” – Astor Piazzolla 

A new friendship

When he was 12, by a freak coincidence (and hilarious anecdote), Piazzolla met Carlos Gardel, a legendary Tango singer and musician, who used him as a bandoneón player in private gigs and as a translator (Gardel didn’t know much English).

Carlos Gardel

Gardel also offered Piazzolla the part of a newspaper boy in his movie El Dia Que me Quieras. His friendship with Gardel was monumental for the young Piazzolla, as it was partly Gardel who encouraged him to venture more into this Argentinean genre of music.

The young Piazzolla in Carlos Gardel’s El Dia Que Me Quireas

Look out for Part Two of this blog where we look at Piazzolla’s development when he returns to Argentina in 1937.

Join us on Wednesday 25 February as we perform a range of tango music from Piazzolla, Golijov and Bartok with live dancers and a FREE tango taster from 6.45pm. 

CLOSER: To and From Buenos Aires 
Wednesday 25 February 2015, 7:30pm
FREE tango taster from 6:45pm 
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.

Month in Pictures: March and April

With everything from conducting bumble bees, synaesthetic lighting, rhythmic jazz-piano, spiritual choral music and comedians reading poetry, these last couple of months have certainly been hectic for the City of London Sinfonia. We’ve had so much fun putting on our Natural / Supernatural series which began at the end of March performing in beautiful venues such as Southwark Cathedral and Christ Church Spitalfields, and we’ve even been able to fit in some regional touring and lots of education work too! Here are some of our favourite pics from the last couple of months:

 

 Our education team trying on animal masks ahead of our Crash Bang Wallop! Animal Antics family concert at Cadogan Hall in March!

 

Some snaps from our First Time Live projects in Mansfield, Thurrock and Peterborough which gives young people the chance to produce and experience a live orchestral concert for the first time! Can you spot the bumble bee conductor?

 

Rehearsals for our Tavener Celebration concert with the fabulous Hilliard Ensemble and Holst Singers at Southwark Cathedral. Our trumpet player obviously was so overwhelmed by the brilliant sound that he had to have a nap! 

 

Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time resonating through the atmospheric surroundings of Village Underground for our last CLoSer. We hope those who logged in to watch the performance via livestream enjoyed the performance too! Check out some more photos here.

 

 Some of our musicians got up to some exciting things in April, including being conducted by England Cricketer Stewart Broad with Opera Holland Park and performing at Dorsey & Whitney’s offices behind a view of the City!

 

Some pictures from a selection of our other concerts around the UK including the National Concert Hall in Dublin and Snape Maltings.

 

British actor and comedian John Sessions rehearsing for the final concert of our Natural / Supernatural series tonight at Cadogan Hall!

 

Natural / Supernatural
Thursday 1 May 2014, 7.30pm
Cadogan Hall

Mozart –  Overture from The Magic Flute
Gwilym Simcock – On a Piece of Tapestry (London premiere)

Gwilym Simcock – Cumbrian Thaw
Beethoven – ‘Pastoral’ Symphony No. 6 

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Commission Crowd… help us commission a piece of new music!

Commission Crowd


We are embarking on a crowd funding campaign to support a new piece of music, written by jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock, and we need your help!

This year, City of London Sinfonia has commissioned a brand new piece of music from jazz pianist and composer, Gwilym Simcock, which will be part of the UK-wide New Music Biennial 2014 and featured at Glasgow UNESCO City of Music in August 2014. On a Piece of Tapestry has been commissioned especially for our Principal Conductor and renowned clarinettist, Michael Collins, piano and orchestra and will be performed across the UK, culminating in a London premiere at Cadogan Hall on 1 May 2014. Taking inspiration from his jazz and classical roots, Gwilym’s new piece will feature spoken word and improvisatory elements that will make for an exciting new piece of orchestral music for City of London Sinfonia to perform.

Building on the success of last year’s Gabriel’s Angels campaign, which saw over 100 people contribute to a new commission by Gabriel Jackson, we need our audience to club together and help support our commission and London premiere of this fantastic new work by Gwilym Simcock.

A little bit about Gwilym Simcock…
Gwilym Simcock is one of the most gifted pianists and imaginative composers on the British scene.  Able to move effortlessly between jazz and classical music, he can, at times, inhabit both worlds and has been described as stylistically reminiscent of Keith Jarrett, complete with ‘harmonic sophistication and subtle dovetailing of musical traditions’ as well as being a pianist of ‘exceptional’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘dazzling’ ability.

First ever BBC Radio 3 New Generation Jazz Artist, winner of the Perrier Award, BBC Jazz Award 2005 and Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize nominee in 2011, Gwilym has worked extensively throughout Europe with the cream of British and international jazz artists including Steve Swallow, Adam Nussbaum, Steve Rodby, John Taylor, Norma Winstone, Dave Holland, Kenny Wheeler, Lee Konitz, Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, Bob Mintzer and Bobby McFerrin.

How can you get involved?
This February, we’ll be launching the Commission Crowd; a campaign to help raise the £2,000 needed to make our London premiere of Gwilym Simcock’s new piece happen. New music is at the heart of what we do and you’ll be able to support the performance by donating any amount online, from £5 to £500.

How does it work?
You can support the Orchestra by donating online (click the orange link at the bottom of the page). Everyone who donates will have their name printed in our Cadogan Hall programme, with additional benefits available at different levels of donation, from limited edition badges to invites to meet Gwilym and Michael!

Click here to donate to Commission Crowd and support Gwilym Simcock’s new commission for Michael Collins and City of London Sinfonia!

October in Pictures

After a manic October, we’ve finally had a chance to catch our breath and bring you the highlights from the past month. In the last four weeks, we’ve completed the second leg of our Fauré Requiem Cathedrals tour, enjoyed some stunning orchestral jazz in our Hot Tunes/Cold War series, watched 1920s Soviet propaganda and traversed the Suffolk coast with our Lullaby concert tour. From Village Underground in Shoreditch, to Paddy’s Wigwam in Liverpool, our seemingly nomadic musicians have battled falling trees, gale-force winds and, er, really bad traffic jams.

queen_elizabeth_hall_auditorium

Ok, so this was technically September, but the impressive Queen Elizabeth Hall in the Southbank Centre played host to Music from across the Iron Curtain, the first concert of our Hot Tunes/Cold War series.

HTCW

Our Hot Tunes/Cold War series explored music influenced by the political events leading up to and during the Cold War, examining the development of jazz culture from the early 1920s and its effect on classical music against the backdrop of the turbulent political events of the mid-20th century.

Cathedrals October 2013 004

Our Cathedrals tour began in Coventry’s epic Cathedral, with Stephen Layton conducting the Orchestra and the Cathedral choir.

Cathedrals October 2013 054

The beautiful Guildford Cathedral was the location of the first of two Come and Sing events, which offered singers the opportunity to sing Tallis’ majestic Spem in Alium.

CLoSer

We returned to the ever-atmospheric Village Underground for the next installment of our CLoSer series: a screening of Kozintsev’s The New Babylon with the Orchestra providing the score.

017_D8E0033_Lullaby Concert, Ipswich, Oct 2013_LOW-RES (P Coghlin)

Our musicians react in a measured and mature way to Haydn’s Symphony No. 94 (the “Surprise” Symphony) during our Lullaby tour.