Saturday 8 March 2014

Orchestral manoeuvres: Jo Quail plays Poland

A short(ish) but hopefully sweet entry this time - not really a full, new post: more of a post-script to the last one.

People of Poland - rejoice! Jo Quail, who featured in the gig I wrote about previously, is playing an extraordinary concert in Gdansk in a few weeks' time - 23 March to be exact. It struck me that, as I get overseas 'hits' on this blog page, I should let everyone know about it on here. Please - if you like this music and you're in Poland or have people there with taste as excellent as yours - share this liberally and get the word out.

As you can hopefully make out from the flier, Jo's own compositions are the main focus of the concert. Playing at the invitation of the ensemble Cappella Gedanensis, Jo will be performing part of the programme solo - but also with three of her pieces scored for, and performed with, the orchestra.

If you're not familiar with either Jo's work (or my blog), I'll briefly introduce you. Jo primarily writes and performs as a solo artist, using only electric cello and loop station. (Her recordings feature some embellishments, but the layered cello is very much the focus and core.) To give an idea of her energy and versatility, the video below is the one I almost always show people first - the piece demonstrates how Jo can evoke folk, electronica and classical atmospheres while only ever really sounding like her own personal genre. It's a virtuoso performance visually - the opening beats on the cello, the dance of the feet across the loop pedals - and sheer exhilaration to listen to.

However, I'm also including this live footage of 'Rex Infractus', because it is one of the pieces being orchestrated for the Gdansk event. You can fall for it ahead of time here - the two or three minutes from around 4:45 I find particularly beautiful (oh, 5.30 to 5.40 - snakes alive!) as the melodies are layered 'downwards'... it's an exciting thought to imagine how an ensemble might approach it.

As if that wasn't enough, the evening includes a performance of 'Svyati' - John Tavener's exquisite composition for solo cello and chamber choir. Jo has a strong love and affinity for Tavener, and I know her performance will be full of empathy and understanding. As a fan, too, I doff my cap to the ensemble for programming the Tavener alongside Jo's own music. I'm not trying to draw parallels, or even lines of influence. But I think it is totally right to recognise Jo as a contemporary composer as well as performer, and perhaps draw certain links or shared aims to listeners' attention: resounding, recurring melody to create a sense of calm, and space.

I hope the Polish event is a huge success - it may mean that more, similar gigs could take place nearer to home. I cannot be there - I have opera tickets the exact same date (*adjusts pince-nez*) - otherwise I know I'd be booking leave, flights etc. On my behalf, then - if you are nearby, or you have friends (of friends, of friends) who could get to this, let them know! It'll be a spectacular night.

Date - 23 March 2014.
Time - 6pm.
Place - Kościół Zielonoświątkowy Zbór Radość Życia, Street Menonitów 2a in Gdańsk.
...and it's FREE to get in.

The Jo Quail website is here.
And this photo, taken from the same event literature as the flier image (above), is of Jo performing in St Leonard's Church, Shoreditch. The photographer is the fearsomely talented Karolina Urbaniak, whose website is here.

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