Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kerry Goes Underground

I had the launch for my Art on the Underground project, working with artist Ruth Ewan and a load of pesky youngsters at Hackney's Laburnam Boat Club, at the Museum of Childhood last week, meaning I could cast a dewily nostalgic eye at my old manor just behind it. (I still love you, Mulberry House!) The mini-concept album that I created from the spoken word/songs/field recordings of the LBC-ers, or as it was rather nicely called by Culture24, 'an a cappella scrapbook', is available online and I guess the pillarbox red posters will be around soon, meaning my name will be all over the tube network, hurrah! Do bend your ear to these marvellous kids here and share it around if you like it!

Next up at the weekend was the Association of British Choral Directors' Convention in Birmingham, where the National Youth Choir of Great Britain premiered my ABCD 25th anniversary commission, The Earth Hath Voice, in Birmingham Town Hall. It was a fairly meaty concert, with Ars Nova and the spookily good (like a load of super-poised high priestesses. With uncanny intonation.) Cantamus packing out the first half - the latter's Judith Bingham piece, Lace-making, being a big highlight. The NYC did a fine job on my piece in the second half, and it seemed to go down pretty well with the audience. Mike Brewer, I think, put everyone else's pieces to shame with their wonderfully funky, boisterous joyfulness. Though of course nothing is more exciting than having Eric Whitacre gracing the Convention with his blonde-maned presence, and ripples went through the choral delegate audience, turning everyone into a bunch of tittering maiden aunts as he swept on, looking like some sort of glamorous, sharp-suited Hollywood star compared to all of us pasty, snaggle-toothed Brits, hur hur. I'm utterly fascinated by his success: what other choral composer is also a) signed to the Storm Model Agency and b) gives keynote speeches to the UN Leaders' Programme, for goodness' sakes!! I was very sad not to get a chance to meet him and if nothing else, have some sort of Fabulous Choral Composers' Hair-Off Smackdown, in which obviously I would win the 'Edgy Quiff Award' but he would wipe me out with the 'Mr Glossy Locks' and the 'Hair-Tosser of 2011' gongs. Ah ha ha.

Still, I DID get spend time with an actual friend who is, some might say, MORE famous than Eric: Paul Mealor, erstwhile Composer To The Royals, who was there to give a talk about rewriting his music into Ubi Caritas for the Royal Wedding. Paul used to hold court in the postgrad room at York, bestowing all sorts of useful compositional advice and plenty of giggles back in the day, and it was a real pleasure to see him again, and have a few buckets of white wine in the hotel bar with the ABCD-ers. He fed me drops of juicy gossip about all his composer friends, hanging out at the Classical BRITS, popping over to America, and all the other things he does now that he is MAD famous, and was as entertaining as ever. What a star!

Two cultural things of late: Twombly and Poussin at the Dulwich Picture Gallery - I much preferred Cy's solo show at the Tate, though it was lovely to spend time sitting in the company of the big splodgy beasts in his Quattro Stagioni; and Ralph Fiennes in The Tempest, a treat from Andy, who somehow managed to suppress his fear that I would throw myself onto the stage in wilting ardour. Actually, Ralph is a bit old and terrifying now, but it was still great to see him live (I saw him do Richard II many moons ago), even if he looked a little uncomfortable in Prospero's cape, especially when he had to groove to his sprites' fairly awful crooning. Ha ha.

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