Welcome back Autumn

And so it is on this grey and dreary day that we welcome back our wandering friend Autumn, with a wan smile and a misty ‘hello’. We bid adieu to the green leaves,  blue skies and sun-stroked picnics of August as we stoke the fire, dust off the stripey scarf and hurry to a warm embrace. Pray we to the glacial god of winter for a white blanket on Christmas, not a blizzardy burial.

What better a way to celebrate today than with a themed album release! Earlier in the year, I worked with composer Louis Mander on this set of original compositions and arrangements, largely inspired by the English folk tradition and, of course, this beautiful country in autumn. It was also the first opportunity I had to bring my new instrument, the ‘Sympolin’, to the outside world. This very special violin, commissioned by me and designed by David Bruce Johnson, is based on the Hardanger fiddle of Norway and the viola d’amore: whilst it plays like a modern violin, it also has 8 sympathetic strings which give it a ghostly, glassy sound.

So, without further ado, please allow me to present to you ‘Autumn Twilight’ (also available in the Discography section):

On the jazz side of life (always look on the jazz side of life), I was very privileged to be invited to play with Tobie Carpenter‘s group ‘The Lobbus’ last week, featuring the incredible emerging talents of Chris Young, Nadim Teimoori, Lluis Mather and Hamish Livingstone. Here’s a little snippet from the beginning of the gig:

Mander ‘Da Man’ Session

U kno wut Iym saying lyk dere iz gud fings on da horyzan n shizle.

Sorry, just had to get that out of my system. Anyway, to translate: I would just like to share with you, my friends, that there are exciting things on the horizon, and shizzle (that last word is lamentably untranslatable). I joined Jane Wilkinson (soprano) and Tamara Young (harp) today to record an album of the music, and folk-song arrangements, of Louis Mander, a talented young composer from London. With a folky English feel, these works delicately bridge the gap between the rich musical heritage of this wonderful country and its exciting contemporary scene. We were lucky enough to record in a beautiful house opposite Christ Church, Spitalfields. It is the first opportunity that I’ve had to share my glorious 12-string violin (sympolin) with the world, and I’m very excited to hear how it sounds on record. More to come soon!

Recording Mander's music, Spitalfields

On another note, my quartet (the Park Quartet) performed Lutoslawski’s String Quartet on Monday at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre. It is a difficult piece to get to grips with, but incredibly atmospheric if you are willing to accept its unorthodox nature. Click here to read a delightful review of the concert.

Fortunately the Park Quartet came through unfazed in this respect – teasing out the initial subtleties of detail, before investing what follows with a surging expressive charge which was then carried over into the prolonged leave-taking with its vestigial allusions to earlier and dimly remembered events.