Creative Director, #ConcertLab
It’s been 866 days since one of the most remarkable evenings of my life, Thursday 8 June 2017. And nope, I'm not talking about the political upset of Theresa May’s government losing its majority in a snap general election, but the creation of a new kind of orchestral/dance/theatre hybrid in which musicians were unleashed from music stands and free to move around the venue throughout a performance. It was – still is – the single most exciting concert I’ve ever seen, and yet it still only scratched the surface of what might be possible.
Now, after over two years of planning, we’ve reunited with the same creative team – led by movement director Imogen Knight – to see where else this concept might take us.
So, why join us for FLUX in Hackney this Thursday (24 October)?
Risks are scary, but they can also be exhilarating. FLUX isn’t going to be your standard concert, but is there to experiment with how we might present things different. Our #ConcertLab series has been doing this in various forms for three years now, but this is our boldest adventure yet.
After our 2017 taster with Imogen Knight, one audience member emailed in the next day, “The performance we were watching didn’t really fit into any category. It wasn’t just a concert, it wasn’t theatre, it wasn’t a dance piece. It was something entirely different and yet utterly natural.”
It was that last line that got me particularly fired up – "entirely different and yet utterly natural". I agreed. It felt like something orchestras should have been doing for years, something that didn’t jar at all and added so much to the experience and emotion. This is something we had to explore further.
Southbank Sinfonia first met movement director Imogen Knight while working on Amadeus at the National Theatre. Two things stood out straight away: her natural affinity in getting musicians to take creative risks, and the different, theatrical process behind the show’s creation. Rehearsal sessions were workshops to explore ideas, not just read through scripts. There was freedom to try things, to ask new questions and see where collaborative suggestions might lead. Often the results were completely different to what was originally envisioned, and all the better for that journey.
In its review of Amadeus, The Times had the following to say: “These 21 musicians are the backbone of this production, scattering and re-forming throughout, like some sort of murmuration of musically gifted starlings.”
FLUX takes the same approach and sees where it could take a concert experience.
Light can be totally transformative to a performance. Already in #ConcertLab we’ve explored this a little, with compelling results. Now, for the first time, we’re working with an award-winning theatrical lighting designer – Joshua Pharo – who will be lighting the whole show. See above for a glimpse of some of his previous work.
Hackney’s Round Chapel has a history of breaking rules: It opened in 1868 as a nonconformist church (in other words, somewhere that wouldn’t conform to the rules of the Church of England) and ruffled feathers by using iron columns in a place of worship, rather than an industrial factory.
Today, it’s an arts venue that’s stunning to be inside. It’s in the top 4% of listed buildings in the country, adding to the atmosphere at a whole range of intimate gigs and film sessions it hosts. In recent times, artists to perform there include Sam Smith, Liam Gallagher, Jamie Cullum and Bombay Bicycle Club. It's well worth travelling for (and only 30 minutes from Oxford Circus; that's only 4 minutes more than it takes to get to the Royal Albert Hall...).
Last but by no means least, FLUX is all about some incredible music performed by our 36-strong orchestra. Thundering bass drums bookend music of amazing intensity; music that probes time and life and transports you to another, ethereal world.
In Sibelius’ Valse Triste, a standard waltz starts to disintegrate from within, like a virus is slowly taking hold and transfiguring it – dragging it – into something else. Musica Dolorosa by Pēteris Vasks reaches an epic pinnacle that’s like staring into a wormhole and being totally overwhelmed by everything you can stretching through time and space before you. And from John Luther Adams comes The Far Country of Sleep, inspired by vast Arctic dreamscapes and, in his own words, “that ultimate wilderness, through which we all must pass”. Have a listen in our Spotify playlist.
Tempted? Join us for FLUX on Thursday 24 October 2019 at Hackney Round Chapel. Performances at 7pm and 9pm
Book online here. We want FLUX to be accessible to as many people as possible, so tickets are just £8 advance or £12 on the door.