It was quite a year at CLS. We began 2015 with our Émigré series, full of music by composers who travelled the globe looking for fame and fortune, new artistic experiences, or just a safe place to call home. We did some travelling of our own when we visited Mexico in the spring, before setting up camp once again with Opera Holland Park over the summer. This autumn saw the beginning of our RE:Imagine series, which explores composers’ new interpretations and perspectives on existing works. Take a stroll with us down memory lane and see some of our highlights from 2015…
With the help of some brilliant cat gifs, we channelled our inner dancers for the tango-inspired CLoSer: To and From Buenos Aires. We also reminded ourselves just how weird cats can be!
The real dancers who joined us for the concert were brilliant, though!
In April, Russian-born New York composer and violist Ljova joined us for a special residency. He delighted us all with his beautiful blend of classical music, Russian folk, Klezmer and jazz, reflecting his own émigré roots. In anticipation of his arrival, we all thought up our favourite viola jokes…
We have had a fantastic start to the year here at CLS as momentum has built preparing for our long-awaited Émigré concert series, not to mention a wealth of other concerts and projects, including First Time Live in Harlow and the first two lunchtime concerts as part of City of London Festival’s Free Winter Concert Series at St Andrews Holborn. Just scroll down to see some of our favourite moments from the last couple of months, as well as our Chief Executive, Matthew Swann’s recent adventures in Tokyo, Japan.
It’s a couple of days since our Émigré series kicked off with our concert of Argentinean tango music at Village Underground, and we’ve loved reading about your experiences. Whether you were with us in person (with or without dancing shoes) or watching online, it looks like you enjoyed this magnificent music by Piazzolla, Bartók, and Golijov as much as we did.
“there was plenty to enjoy, not least the tightness of the ensemble and the sultry, deep sonorities” – Hannah Nepil, The Financial Times
What did you think? Did our concert put a tango fire in your belly? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you missed the concert, or want to experience it all over again, here are some pictures from the evening, and don’t forget, you can still watch the whole concert online until Thursday 5 March.
The next concert in our Émigré series is a modern-day tale of immigration from Russia to the USA with the brilliant Ljova, whose music is an exhilarating mix of classical, Russian folk, jazz, Balkan Gypsy, and Klezmer.
This Wednesday, we’re delighted to be going to Village Underground, Shoreditch for a very special tango-inspired CLoSer – To and From Buenos Aires – with live dancers and a free tango taster from 6.45pm! Whether you’re joining us for this exciting event, thinking of coming (there are still a few tickets available from Spitalfields Music Box Office website or on 020 7377 1362!) or planning on watching it on live-stream, we’ve put together a few bits of information that you might need on the night.
Info on the event
Astor Piazzolla left Buenos Aires in the 1950s, taking tango music to New York, Paris and the world. Three decades earlier, Osvaldo Golijov’s family escaped anti-Semitic persecution in Romania to find a new life in Buenos Aires. Part of our ground-breaking intimate concert series CLoSer, and the first performance in our ÉMIGRÉ concert series, the concert explores these composers’ take on tango’s sultry, melancholic rhythms and dance. CLS musicians will be joined by bandoneónist Julian Rowlands who together will perform repertoire to include Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, Tango del Diablo and Golijov’s Last Round.
Before the concert begins, we will be joined by dance teachers, Greg Warren-Wilson and Liz Tomlin, who will host a FREE tango taster from 6.45pm. If you don’t fancy participating, the bar will also be open from this time where you can grab a drink and watch us all attempt this elegant dance form!
After the concert, the bar remains open and our leader, Alexandra Wood, will be opening up the dance floor for a free dance to live tango music, where the audience is invited to show off their new-found tango dance moves, as learnt earlier in the evening!
How to find the venue
The venue is less than 5 minutes walk from Shoreditch High Street Station (Overground). Alternatively, you can walk from Liverpool Street Station (Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan and Central Lines) which only takes 15 minutes. To view a map of the area click here. There are no planned engineering works on this day so your journey by tube / train should be undisrupted.
Food and drink
If you fancy going for food or drink before or after the event, we’ve compiled a quick list of some of our favourite places in the area. We’ve also created a handy map to show you where they are located.
A converted warehouse space similar in vibe to Village Underground, Pizza East is popular with both resident Shoreditchians and those from further afield. The menu is inventive and original with pizzas only costing from £8-£14, whose unique topping combination are regularly rejigged.
A contemporary restaurant with an open kitchen, leather sets and a lounge area, Hoxton Grill serves a range of Classic American food from steaks, tapas-inspired small plates, burgers and mac ‘n’ cheese. This trendy restaurant is part of Hoxton Hotel and also serves some very appetising cocktails, so worth visiting even if just for a drink!
Andina is as much a bar as a restaurant with a range of Peruvian-inspired ceviches, street food, cocktails and colourful smoothies. Of a very reasonable price, the food is both delicious and full of variety; enough to satisfy any craving.
Recommended for steaks and burgers which are cooked on a real charcoal grill, Hawksmoor Spitalfields is the place to go for the best British meat in Shoreditch. Along with food they also have a library of print cocktail books to revive some great forgotten drinks, wines from obscure small producers and big name vineyard alike, and ice-cold, locally brewed beers.
Clue yourself up on tango music and dance with our recently published blog posts:
Before the concert begins, why not get into the mood with our tango playlist, featuring music by Piazzolla, the Gotan Project, Sexteto Mayor and more!
This concert will be live-streamed!
If you can’t make it in person, you can catch the concert on live-stream for FREE on our website and YouTube channel. Just click on any of the following links at 7.30pm on Wednesday 25 February and you will be able to watch the concert for free from the comfort of your own home!
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.’
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!
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,
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.
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.
We’re delighted that our wonderful leader Alexandra Wood appeared on BBC Radio 3 In Tune yesterday with Sean Rafferty, performing ahead of our ÉMIGRÉ concert series.
She talks about what it means to celebrate émigré artists, London as a cultural hub and life as a musician, before playing Astor Piazzolla’s Tango Etude No.3 for solo violin and Prokofiev’s Sonata for Solo Violin, op. 115, First Movement live in the studio.
You can listen to her on catch up from approximately 1 hour 43 minutes in.
In continuation of our last post and in advance of our next CLoSer concert and FREE tango taster, To and From Buenos Aires on 25 February, we are delighted to present Part Two of ‘How to dance the tango (in cat gifs)’. Having already learnt the basics in Part One, our animated feline friends will now lead us through the exact steps and movements needed to conquer this sensual, romantic, elegant dance.
As we mentioned before, the tango is all about the relationship of the man and woman and so the very first thing you need to do is to find a partner and embrace…
The embrace should be sensual, loose but firm, and very poised. In other words, both you and your partner’s postures should be impeccable.
Within the embrace, there should be a clear leader (this is normally the man).
Generally speaking during the dance, both parties mirror each other.
The tango steps is a simple combination of two slow walks and a “tango close”. The five steps are counted ‘slow, slow, quick quick, slow” or ‘walk, walk, tan – go close’, the latter cue helping dancers remember when to close their feet and stop temporarily.
The basic steps needed can be better explained on this diagram. Remember to count ‘slow (1), slow (2), quick (3) quick (4), slow (5)’ (sorry, we just couldn’t find a cat gift to explain this…)
Each step begins and ends with the knees bent – there should be no rise and fall, sway or body flight… just smooth, seamless movements.
As we mentioned in the last post, the walk is absolutely crucial to the tango. Each step should be a short, staccato-like movement.
Tango walks typically curve gradually to the left.
Remember to be considerate of others on the dance floor. The tango is danced anti-clockwise like a horse race. Dancers try to stay on the outside edge of the floor and away from the middle.
Once you’ve mastered the basic steps, you can add all sorts of embellishments from shimmies, swivels and turns.
To find out more about dancing the tango, come along to next concert, To and From Buenos Aires (details below), which features a FREE tango taster.
We’re very excited to be joined by bandoneónist Julian Rowlands on 25 February for our tango-inspired CLoSer: To and From Buenos Aires. Before the concert we thought we’d give you lovely readers a whistle-stop tour of this fantastic instrument. Enjoy!
In advance of our next CLoSer concert, To and From Buenos Aires and to get you in the mood for the FREE tango taster from 6.45pm, we put together a list of our favourite tango dances on film. Would you agree with our Top 10?
The film traces the life of Eva Duarte (Madonna) who rises from poverty to become an Argentinian actress and wife of powerful President Juan Peron (Antonio Banderas). Through a series of flashbacks, Eva transforms from an impoverished teenager into a woman of influence and power.
9. Strictly Ballroom
In this Baz Luhrmann classic, a maverick dancer risks his career by performing his own moves. This tango with protagonist Paul Mercurio is certainly in line with the plot, with some interesting embellishments!
8. Never say Never Again
This scene has all the drama, class and glamour associated with its fellow Bond films. This rather Viennese version of the tango is danced by Sean Connery as James Bond and Kim Basiger.
7. Shall We Dance
Starring the incredible Richard Gere as a meek workaholic who is trapped in a mind-numbing existence, this film his story as he falls for a dance instructor (Jennifer Lopez). The film is mainly about ballroom dancing, but at one point the aforementioned protagonists dance the tango in beautiful lighting.
6. Je Ne Suis Pas Là Pour Être Aimé
Featuring two of the best French actors, this romantic film has won a ton of awards. The plot revolves around two individuals (Patrick Chesnais and Anne Cosigny) who are both unhappy with their lives and meet, after being advised by a doctor, to take tango lessons. This particular scene is stunningly filmed.
5. Moulin Rouge
Another Baz Luhrmann classic, this film is based on the story of a poet who falls in love with a dying prostitute at the nightclub, Moulin Rouge. Drawing on music from familiar 20th-century sources throughout, the tango is played at the gypsy club and is a tango-fied version of The Police’s Roxanne.
4. Last Tango in Paris
One of the most influential and controversial films of the 20th century, Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider’s appearance in this romance revolves around a tango bar in Paris where Schneider, an unknown Parisian woman, begins to reveal more about herself.
Centred on two criminals who find themselves on death row, they right for the fame that will save them. In the film there is a prison where they perform a ‘Cell Block Tango’ with avid suggestions of both sensuality and violence.
2. True Lies
This action film-come-comedy begins and ends with the tango: “Por una cadez” by Carlos Gardel. The ending scene is our favourite of the two, featuring the two protagonists, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, and the stereotypical tango rose in the mouth!
1. Scent of a Woman
The story of a blind army colonel (Al Pacino) who hires a prep school student (Chris O’Donnell) to take care of him over the holidays, Al Pacino’s performance is this film is second to none. The tango scene, which occurs when the two are out for dinner and O’Donnell spots a beautiful young lady, demonstrates some of the most important aspects of tango: instinct, lust and passion.
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.
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
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
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.
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.