Congratulations to yangqin player Reylon for his winning performance at Battle of the Bands on 23 January! We had a great time at this annual night, which featured everything from scratch performances of Cornelius Cardew to mesmerising experimental works, all performed in front of a packed out audience – and our judges Eleanor Ward, Jessica Cottis and Dominic Murcott.
“It was probably one of the best Battle of the Bands we’ve ever had,” says Eleanor Ward, our Executive Director, “We always say that, but it always gets better every year. Any one of these acts could come back and play at a nonclassical night.”
For those of you who missed it, here are some of the highlights from Battle of the Bands 2019.
Performing works from his new EP Flim Flam, composer and Filthy Lucre’s artistic director began the evening with a distinctive electronic set. Using a unique microtonal language, one of his works – called Sorbet – was inspired by out of tune ice cream van chimes and the doppler effect, a track described by Dominic Murcott as “quirky and floating somewhere between classical music and electronica.”
Playing two improvised works about the ancient Assyrian short epic The Descent of Ishtar to the Underworld, saxophonist and recorder player James Hurst performed a virtuosic set which wowed the judges enough to earn him a special commendation. “We thoroughly enjoyed this sense of virtuosity and flights of fancy. These two very different instruments somehow sat side by side very comfortably – I personally loved the recorder playing, which was otherworldly,” says judge and conductor Jessica Cottis.
“After a couple of minutes, everyone in the room just stopped,” says Jessica Cottis. “I think we were really drawn into this visceral world of colour. It was very special.” Reylon performed a new work by composer Alex Ho, entitled Rituals and Resonances, which grew out of Alex’s desire to explore stories of the Chinese diaspora and the paradoxical sense of nostalgia one may feel for a place they did not grow up in. The performance was outstanding, leaving both the audiences and judges speechless and earning him top place at this year’s Battle of the Bands.
Scordatura Women’s Music Collective
Committed to promoting music written by women which has been unfairly neglected, Scordatura Women’s Music Collective – a flexible group, though in this context a cello quartet – performed Gabriela Lena Frank’s unique programmatic work Las Sombras de los Apus, a piece which requires each cello to be tuned differently. Dominic Murcott commented, “The playing was fantastic; the piece was tremendously exciting and engaging; and it’s the right time to have an ensemble dedicated to just playing women’s music.” Their performance impressed the judges enough to win them a special commendation.
This newly formed ensemble, which featured a unique set of instruments (viola, flute, tuba, trombone, bassoon and accordian), performed James Saunders’ meditative Instruments with Recordings, a work that explores drones in fascinating ways. “How anyone can play such long notes on a brass instrument – or any instrument for that matter – so cooly and calmly is very impressive. We were really drawn into this performance. It took us to a different sense of time as though it didn’t really matter and we were just in it, wondering what note was going to be played next,” says Jessica Cottis.
Rita Says and the Jerico Orchestra
By far the biggest group of the night – featuring 10 singers, a conductor and a sound engineer – performance art group Rita Says and The Jerico Orchestra kept the spirit of Cornelius Cardew alive with a scratch performance of ‘Paragraph 7’ from The Great Learning. Dominic praised, “One of Cardew’s missions in his later work was to break apart the social constructs of classical music and make music that was played by all, for all. I think we had the spirit of Cardew here tonight and it was delightful.”
Our Battle of the Bands may be over for another year but we’ve still got lots of exciting gigs for you in the coming months. Our next gig features three daring contemporary artists – flautist Kathryn Williams, performance artist Andy Ingamells and violinist-composer Aisha Orazbayeva. For more information, and to book tickets, visit our event page.