Weird, ghostly music arrives to unnerve us all this spring as City of London Sinfonia (CLS) put on four concerts exploring creative responses to the natural and supernatural. Across the five weeks from 27 March-1 May, the London chamber orchestra will use music to examine how the creative process allows us to make sense of the boundaries between here and, er, elsewhere.
Events begin on 27 March, when CLS artistic director Stephen Layton brings the music of Sir John Tavener to Southwark Cathedral. ‘Supernatural Songs‘, Tavener’s ethereal collection inspired by the poems of W.B. Yeats, was written with exotic instrumentation in mind – mezzo soprano, strings, pow-wow drums and a Hindu Temple gong will combine to make for an evening we do not quite know how to describe in the words of this dimension.
Also on the bill that night will be the Holst Singers, a London-based amateur choir, and the Hilliard Ensemble, a British male vocal quartet celebrating its 40th year, who sound a lot like this:
The second concert in the series features more of Tavener’s work, with a performance of his iconic piece for cello and strings, ‘The Protecting Veil‘, at Christ Church Spitalfields on 10 April. As part of the performance, cellist Matthew Barley will direct his own arrangements of South American music inspired by the natural and supernatural worlds, drawing on his own experience in the Brazilian rainforest.
CLoSer: Quartet for the End of Time is the third event, on 23 April in the cosier environs of Village Underground in Shoreditch. This evening will centre on a performance of French composer Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the End of Time’, originally composed and first performed at the Stalag 8A Prisoner of War camp, Görlitz, in 1941. The original performance took place outdoors and in the rain, with decrepit instruments to a rapt audience of both prisoners and guards. History will be thick in the air that night.
Concluding the series will be a performance of a new piece of music by composer and jazz pianist Gwilym Simcock, commissioned specially for the CLS. Cadogan Hall is the venue on 1 May for this clarinet and string-laden show, and Simcock will also present a recent work, ‘Cumbrian Thaw’, inspired by his time on the mountains and fells of the Lake District.
Natural / Supernatural promises to be an intriguing series, and if you’re in any way interested in the mystical or spiritual you finally have a mini-festival coming to London just for you.
Image of City of London Sinfonia courtesy of James Berry.