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:
I had the great privilege this afternoon of jamming with pianist Rekesh Chauhan and percussionist Alok Verma. These guys are extremely talented and are recognised as such by many seriously respected musicians. I’m very excited about the future of this project. We’ll be bringing you ear candy very soon!
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!
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.
Happy 2013! I hope your year got off to a good start and continues as you would hope.
I returned yesterday from a tour of China with the Kent Sinfonia orchestra. After two thirteen hour flights, several internal flights, innumerable coach and train journeys, I’m feeling rather wrung out. However, China is a fascinating place. We visited cities including Zigong, Foshan, Kunming, Nanning, Yibin and Shanghai and got a real flavour for some of this monumental country. Despite an obvious language barrier, the people were always full of warmth and a genuine desire to lend a helping hand. Although the cities are generally sprawling concrete jungles, we were never short of an unusual distraction, whether it was a street vendor selling bizarre foods, a market full of eastern oddities, or another example of an incredible usage of the English language (‘Stop namely to walk namely’… prizes for translation). My highlights of the tour were a trip up the Jin Mao building in Shanghai and a river boat ride in the Guilin province where we saw some breathtaking karst mountains.
On an equally exciting note, I have just today collected my new Hardanger fiddle hybrid violin (dubbed the ‘sympolin’) from David Bruce Johnson at Moseley Violins. He has done a fabulous job on this experimental project; the instrument looks and sounds absolutely stunning. It has 12 strings: 4 playable and 8 sympathetic. I will be doing many concerts and recordings with this instrument in 2013. Watch this space.
Highlights already planned for my diary this year include performances and recordings of the music of Louis Mander, a collaborative venture with Rekesh Chauhan, performances with the Park Quartet and the first release from my new jazzy groovy group (unnamed as of yet). See you during the year!