The PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial, produced in Hull by Absolutely Cultured took over the city last weekend.
20 pieces of new music by the most exciting creators working in the UK today were performed at eight venues over three days for thousands of attendees.
The jam-packed programme presented a unique opportunity to experience a huge range of contemporary music including exciting newly commissioned works from established names and rising stars alike.
The weekend began with Dan Jones’ ethereal Music for Seven Ice Cream Vans which played its haunting melodies for unsuspecting audiences in west Hull before heading to Humber Street. Over the weekend the piece, which was commissioned by Absolutely Cultured, visited parks and residential areas across the city, captivating those who heard it.
Khyam Allami’s sound installation Requiem for the 21st Century took up residency in Humber Street Gallery’s Project Space with audiences dropping in to relax on beanbags, circled by ouds as the powerful piece, inspired by the instrument’s rich history surrounded them. The contemplative piece invited people to consider our millennium so far and its possible futures.
A highlight for many was Gazelle Twin’s collaboration with Max de Wardener, The Power and the Glory. Inspired by her recent album, Pastoral, her powerful voice impressed attendees at Hull City Hall as her futuristic pop blended with the sound of the BBC Concert Orchestra.
Lily Mellor, Producer at Absolutely Cultured, said: “The weekend was an astounding mix of new music from many different genres that gave people the chance to experience something they might not have heard before. It was a real opportunity to try something new and the reaction to it was wonderful, seeing people respond with such intensity to the work and hearing people’s joy at discovering new artists was absolutely brilliant”.
On Saturday afternoon Conor Mitchell’s powerful piece, Lunaria, took its influence from the last two years of politics in Northern Ireland. The immersive experience, in which audiences were invited to stand around the musicians in the middle of the stage at Hull Truck Theatre, featured spoken word elements that explored the impact of the death of Martin McGuinness, the effect Brexit will have on Ireland and ended with a touching section that spoke of the murder of journalist Lyra McKee.
Rounding off the Saturday night, the incredible music of Sarah Tandy, commissioned by J-night, turned the new former Fruit venue in Humber Street into a rocking jazz club – a little taste of what’s to come with the J-Night’s Hull Jazz Festival kicking off this week.
Sunday morning began with Claire M Singer performing glean ciùin on the organ in the University of Hull’s chapel. The mesmerising performance with the London Contemporary Orchestra left audiences with goosebumps and was a perfect, calming start to the day.
In complete contrast, Arun Ghosh’s AMBHAS, commissioned by Freedom Festival Arts Trust, was a bombastic orchestral piece featuring local participants. Performed in the open air at Nelson Street Pier, audiences looked out over the river as the musicians played, led by Arun’s extraordinary clarinet skills.
Each piece was performed in its entirety once and was followed by a Q&A with the artist or composer before the audience was given the opportunity to hear the work again with a newfound understanding of the motivation, themes and work that went into its creation. Tickets for the shows were free and with each show lasting just an hour, the festival provided an accessible way to try something new.
In addition to the festival programme, those in the city centre were treated to a number of pop-up events. From a wind quartet travelling around town on the land train for impromptu performances to Indonesian performers taking to Humber Street to dance to the sound of a gamelan.
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