Currie and Reich – The Colin Currie Quartet
Norwich Playhouse Monday 20 May NNFestival 2019
a review by Marion de Mello Catlin
The Colin Currie Quartet played a blinder last night in Norwich Playhouse. I didn’t know about them before the concert and was interested to go to a performance that was all percussion based as the percussion section rarely gets the glory in an orchestra, and I also like the music of Steve Reich. The Playhouse was packed with not a spare seat in the house – great to see such a turnout – obviously many people better informed than me!
The Quartet was formed fairly recently in 2018 by Colin Currie who is clearly completely passionate about percussion and the Quartet. After the first piece (Mallet Quartet by Joseph Perreira) he introduced the Quartet and explained that the composer Steve Reich was very important to the raison d’être of the quartet and that the works pivot around his compositions, with two pieces in the programme by Reich.
It was really helpful to have an in-depth but concise explanation of the basis of each piece, especially for those if us who are not familiar with this kind of music. I wish that more musicians would do that – Currie was good at it. The stage was full with instruments I hadn’t seen before – marimbas it turns out – two with long pipes and two with shorter, 4 musicians each with two ‘lollipop’ drumsticks in each hand, four per person. At times, the playing was so complex and blended that it was hard to discern the source of the sound. The marimbas’ deep tones flowed together, especially the bass instruments and sounded almost electronic.
Colin played a couple of numbers on his own Xenakis’ Rebonds B for solo percussion and Stockhausen’s Vibra-Elufa. Together they played Kevin Volans Four Marimbas and Reich’s Mallet Quartet before the last piece Reich’s Drumming Part 1.
The speed rhythm and energy was impressive throughout the evening, though none of the first 5 pieces could come near the finale piece Drumming Part 1 composed by Steve Reich. It was like the Olympics of percussion in its performance and virtuosity. Colin explained the basis of the piece, a simple (on its own) basic rhythm underpinning the whole piece beaten out on 8 tuned drums, again 4 musicians working together and in relays. The same 12 notes as a single rhythm repeated which, as an audience member was a godsend at times as it enabled me to find a point to return to and steady path throughout. Colin explained phasing and how the notes interlock and rotate around each other which really helped the appreciation of the piece.
Musically it was interesting, visually it was fascinating – watching the percussionists work in waves, first all together then periodically standing back, their arms working at blurring speed throughout. Physically, it was a feat of musicianship, almost unbelievable and breathtaking technical skill rivalling the most extreme of acrobats, daredevil motorcyclists or demanding magical coordination and muscular energy. I can’t tell you exactly that it was a lovely piece of music as I was bewitched and hypnotised by the technical skill. After what seemed an eaon of performance, they reached a crescendo and then instantly stopped with a resounding and precise ‘crack’, absolutely as one. In the drumming Olympics, then there is absolutely no doubt that they ran away with the Gold.
If you missed it, or want to listen to a sample there’s a YouTube link below but I would recommend catching a live performance if you ever get the chance. The Quartet is new and this is their debut programme so it is worth watching out for more as they add to their repertoire – they have an amazing future I am sure and hopefully will be back in Norwich before too long.
Hello Culture Shifters
It has been ages since the last update as I have been working a lot in King’s Lynn where there are lots of exciting things developing and busy with a number of projects in the first part of the year including new editions of Art in Norwich and Music in Norwich, but now I am back and excited by a number of new events coming up this week and lasting through May. This is going to be a long read I’m afraid and it's taken a few days to pull it all together so I hope you get it in time for the weekend.
This week, everyone has been excited about the Norwich City Football promotion which will be great for Norwich in many ways and has certainly given the city a lift already. But there is more going on in the city centre this week and next.
Norwich City of Stories
This week Norwich BID and Visit Norwich rebranded their organisations and also launched a new brand for the city too, building on the UNESCO City of Literature and the City of Stories campaign. The brand is intended to help everyone who loves Norwich to tell other people about the city through the stories of the city and their own stories – everyone has a story to tell and Norwich has many, both historical and contemporary. It is a good theme to work with and will help enable people to get to know the inner depths of this multi-layered city. The new brand launched on Tuesday 7 May with a brass band parading the city streets and a new poem dedicated to the City of Stories called 'What is a Norwich' which you can hear here. You can also find out all about the City of Stories campaign and how you can get involved here. https://www.cityofstories.co.uk/a-new-brand-for-norwich
The Norfolk & Norwich Festival is preparing for its big public launch event today in the city centre as circus artist Chris Bullzini undertakes a daring tight-ropewalking act - he will go on a 230-metre-long balance from Jarrold’s department store across Norwich Market, to the top of The Forum, on a journey celebrating Norwich, its history and its people. It’s a free event and crowds of people are expected. It starts at 9pm so get there in good time. I am not sure I will be able to watch – it is mad! https://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/what-s-on/n-n-festival-2019-tighrope-walk-norwich-1-6040181
The launch kicks off a whole 17 days of events - so much so that I don’t know where to start. They are packed throughout the days and evenings with lots of free events. I’ll be attending events and will be blogging plus letting you know about good events to attend so follow me on www.theshiftnorwich.org.uk or on Facebook group @makingnorwichUKcityofculture or on Twitter @norwichcultcity. You should also follow the Norfolk & Norwich Festival Twitter feed@NNFest for updates as well as their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/NNFestival/
Also part of the Festival is the Norwich City of Literature weekend Friday 24-Sunday 26 May programmed by the National Centre for Writing with a whole host of literary events, some at Dragon Hall and some in the Spiegeltent in Chapelfield Gardens in the centre of Norwich. Again too much to list all but some highlights are the Harriet Martineau Lecture with Sarah Perry and also on 21 May the wonderful Ali Smith appears at Norwich Playhouse. Tickets for this show from nnfestival.org.uk or 01603 766400
W.G. Sebald exhibitions
Timed to be part of the Festival are also two linked exhibitions dedicated to Max (WG) Sebald, a writer and lecturer at UEA who was much-loved before his untimely death in 2001. This year would have been his 75th birthday and so Norwich Castle and the Sainsbury Centre have brought together a duo of exhibitions to celebrate his life and work. Although many people in Norwich may not know much about him, he was a very well-respected international author and these exhibitions are a great opportunity to find out more about him.
Sebald was born in Germany in 1944 and relocated to Norfolk to become Lecturer at the University of East Anglia in 1970. In the space of a decade, Sebald underwent a meteoric rise from unknown academic to internationally celebrated writer, winning numerous awards before his premature death in 2001.
He is primarily known for his four novels that he described as ‘prose fiction’, Vertigo (1990), The Emigrants (1992), The Rings of Saturn (1995) and Austerlitz (2001). His literature explores history, memory, loss, identity and what it meant to be German in the wake of the Second World War. The exhibition at the Castle is sponsored by East Anglian Art Fund and The BookHive. The Book Hive, Norwich ‘s independent bookshop in London Street has a special interest with bookshop owner Henry having published Ariadne’s Thread – a book written by Philippa Comber about Sebald’s transition as a writer. The Book Hive is running a Sebald Book Club through the summer – find out about it here – you can buy a membership with or without a set of Sebald books https://www.thebookhive.co.uk/shop/
The two exhibitions are:
W.G. Sebald: Far away – but from where?
Sainsbury Centre, UEA 11 May – 18 August 2019
Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia, Norwich Research Park
Norwich NR4 7TJ
Lines of Sight: W.G. Sebald’s East Anglia
An exhibition celebrating the work of the author W.G. Sebald
Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
10 May 2019 – 5 January 2020
The exhibition includes many photographs and artefacts relating to one of Sebald’s most well-known books The Rings of Saturn, a prose fiction which traced a walking journey around the Suffolk coastline, starting on the train in Norwich and returning there some months later. The book is slow, walking pace even and pensive. I started to read it many years ago and didn’t finish but this exhibition has inspired me to try again. I found this article in the New Yorker very illuminating and helpful.
Looking around the exhibition today, it is clear that he was writing and taking photographs of even the smallest incident or detail - a kind of collector of life, a documenter or recorder of minutiae. He started writing as an escape from academic writing, his job, sadly curtailed by his early death from a heart attack resulting in a car accident at 57. Anyway, he is clearly someone that should be better valued and celebrated in Norwich and hopefully these exhibitions will bring him more clearly into the public eye and heart as he was evidently very much loved and respected at UEA. I’ll let you know about the Sainsbury Centre exhibition in the next missive as it opens on Saturday.
Also at Norwich Castle (and other venues around the city centre) as part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival artist Will Teather is exhibiting his amazing painted globes, three dimensional scenarios. Very clever and show Will's skill as an artist. He is also doing a talk and a workshop - details below.
Saturday 11 May – Sunday 1 September
Globes Across Norwich City Centre
Artist talk, Wednesday 22 May, 2pm, Norwich Castle, included in museum admission.
Artist workshop, Wednesday 22 May, 3pm, Norwich Castle, included in museum admission, but spaces are limited, call 01603 493625 to book your space. More info
East Gallery NUA
Anthony Caro : Iron in the Soul at NUA East Gallery 8 May to 20 July
Sadly I missed the preview of this exhibition which opened earlier this week at the East Gallery in St Andrew’s Street with a piece in St George’s Street outside the main entrance to the University of the Arts. A post-war artist, Caro was internationally-renowned, working for many years until his death in 2013. The exhibition includes 20 pieces that have not previously been on public view spanning from 1951-2011. Monumental pieces with bright colours, Caro was a 1960s revolutionary who changed the face of gallery sculpture. The exhibition is curated by Neil Powell of NUA.
Henry Moore at Houghton Hall 1 May – 29 September 2019
Further afield, a new exhibition has opened at Houghton Hall, near King’s Lynn - it’s a set of sculpture by Henry Moore, curated by Sebastiano Barassi and the Henry Moore Foundation. The exhibition shows the link between Moore’s work and his observation of nature and natural forms. I spent a very happy few hours there last week and also at the pop-up art and craft show Norfolk by Design which is in the Old Stables. I have written a review with some photos here. It is highly recommended as you can buy a ticket to tour the house, the permanent outdoor sculpture collection as well as Moore and Norfolk by Design.
The Edge of Things at Blickling 17 May-27 October 2019
If you like large stately homes then the National Trust Blickling Estate also has a new exhibition starting 17 May called The Edge of Things. Following on from their very successful and dramatic The Word Defiant last year, they are continuing to work with their book collection, this time with artists Neville Gabie and Joan Gabie. Looking through a contemporary lens, the artists bring to life four books exploring lost language and the edge of science, space and discovery.
Find out more at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blickling or on Twitter and Instagram @BlicklingNT Facebook @BlicklingEstateNT
GroundWork Gallery, 17 Purfleet, King’s Lynn
GroundWork Gallery in King’s Lynn also has an exhibition which opened in March. GroundWork specialises in environmental art and this current exhibition is called Water Rising, concentrating on the effects of rising water levels and runs to 1 June 2019.
Curator Veronica Sekules is running two events next week – a one-day conference on 17 May (details and booking here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/water-rising-art-innovation-change-and-development-tickets-59087414046
and a Creative Writing Masterclass with Patricia Mullen on Monday 20 May 10am-4pm
A Journey Through Water exploring Poetic Geography
Bring lunch and your preferred notebook and pens but tea, coffee and materials are provided. £45, students and under 25s £25
Find out more https://www.groundworkgallery.com/
Open Studios and Harleston & Waveney Art Trail
Many other exhibitions start during May including the Harleston and Waveney Art Trail and Norfolk & Norwich Open Studios which sees artists studios all over Norfolk opening their doors over weekends. It is a great opportunity to buy work and also see how artists do what they do, and maybe you will also be inspired to have a go yourself. You can pick up one of the yellow brochures from many places around the county and also download a map here
Fairhurst Gallery, OUTPOST, The Hostry and Mandell’s Gallery also have new exhibitions – you can find out about these and more at www.artinnorwich.org.uk or by perusing the ISSUU version of the booklet here.
We’ve talked a lot about visual art but there’s lots of music coming up too. The Norfolk & Norwich Festival has a full programme of classical music including the Radio 3 New Generation Artists – young up and coming musicians as well as more established performers such as Britten Sinfonia playing Beethoven with renowned conductor Thomas Ades, Rachel Podger and Tenebrae with more contemporary musicians – keyboard player and organist Kit Downes returns to his native Norwich, and also not to miss, vibrant entertainer Chilly Gonzales, Norwegian jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen Trio and Venezuelan singer Nella Rojas. There is really too much to mention here so best to check out the Norfolk & Norwich Festival programme here at www.nnfestival.org.uk
Music in Norwich
The Festival dominates the music in May but there are many other great concerts including the Russian Philharmonic at Theatre Royal on 19 May, Mozart Orchestra on Saturday 11th May – for other concerts please check www.musicinnorwich.org.uk
Tuesday 14 May St George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth
Creative Centres Summit: Exploring Creating Great Places in Changing Times
Following on from last year’s very successful Creative Places Summit about artist spaces which brought together people who run artists’ spaces from all over the UK. This time the focus is on changes to the high street. The Creative Centres Summit will explore the changing nature of town centres and high streets and the role of creatives (individuals and organisations) in creating great places in this dynamic environment.
Keynote Speech by Bill Grimsey
Setting the scene - how and why the high street has changed so dramatically and rapidly as well as predictions for more changes to come. Bill Grimsey worked his way up from a butcher's boy in a local department store to being head of Iceland food stores and has earned a well-founded reputation as a turnaround specialist. He recently wrote the Grimsey Review, highlighting that radical transformation is required if our high streets are to have any chance of survival. www.vanishinghighstreet.com
There are many more speakers and it will be a great value day. It is programmed by Kaavous Clayton of originalprojects; who has organised this summit as part of Making Waves Together, a Creative People and Places project funded by the National Lottery.
Book via eventbrite reduced price tickets for residents at £20, full price £40
Also by originalprojects;
'At the End of Lines' 11 May to 13 July 2019, noon to 6pm
An exhibition of paintings made in Norwich and Great Yarmouth in 2019.
originalprojects; have taken over the former Marks & Spencer store in the middle of Great Yarmouth and are starting to programme exhibitions. It is called Ex Marks the Spot and I would suggest that we all watch this space in the coming months. End of the Lines involves 29 artists from Norwich and Great Yarmouth, with many well-known names exhibiting alongside newer artists and is part of Making Waves Together, a Creative People and Places project funded by the National Lottery. With thanks to National Lottery Players.
Thanks also to support from the East Anglia Art Fund.
Into Opera are currently recruiting for two roles in Norfolk:
Norfolk Into Opera Festival Coordinator
Deadline Saturday 11th May.
More job opportunities
Norfolk Arts Forum has a whole list of job opportunities with some great roles in arts and culture. Rather than list them here, here is a link to the latest newsletter and jobs.
That's all for now as I need to send it out before it all goes out of date, but stand by for more next week.
PS Just to be clear and upfront, I don't get paid to write any of this, it is just me sharing what I know about. I sometimes get invited to previews and launches and that enables me to know more and so I can write better guidance. If you want me to send something out let me know and I will if I can. Also follow me on Facebook @marioncatlin @artinnorwich @musicinnorwich
Twitter @norwichcultcity @marionofnorwich @artinnorwich @musicinnorwich
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Henry Moore : Nature and Inspiration at Houghton Hall
1 May to 29 September 2019
‘The observation of nature is part of an artist’s life, it enlarges his form,-knowledge, keeps him fresh and from working only by formula, and feeds inspiration. The human figure is what interests me most deeply, but I have found principles of form and rhythm from the study of natural objects such as pebbles, rocks, bones, trees, plants etc. There is, in Nature a limitless variety of shapes and rhythms (and the telescope and microscope have enlarged the field) from which the sculptor can enlarge his form-knowledge experience’ Henry Moore 1934
A real privilege to be sitting in Sky Space – James Turrell’s site-specific, permanent installation at Houghton Hall – writing this review. I am at Houghton Hall to preview the new exhibition of Henry Moore sculptures, curated at Houghton by Sebastiano Barassi and the Henry Moore Foundation at Perry Green, Hertfordshire.
The exhibition is perfectly sited in the grounds and house here at Houghton, with its extraordinary outdoor spaces, vistas and eyelines which allow breathing spaces for large pieces combined with dramatic views and classical interiors which complement smaller sculptures, detail drawings and compositions of artefacts and references inside the house.
The first room, the South Wing Gallery, houses the enormous elephant skull accompanied by a set of etchings showing how Moore observed, drew and reconstructed this eroded bleached object, a gift from friends, into its component parts, abstracting the skull into shapes and details as he progressively studied and sketched the skull, getting to know every curve of the form.
Sebastiano explained Moore’s fascination with nature and human form, geography and sculpture, materials and textures/patterns into landscapes and figures, drawing references from generations of classical artists before him but making the most of his status as a contemporary artist exploring new materials and new relationships.
Working with form and scale Moore became one of the foremost sculptors of his era, choosing to work in a studio in rural Hertfordshire rather than the urban setting of London where he found endless inspiration in flints, bones, birds, hills, sheep and human beings, and the space to explore different backdrops and settings.
Along the ground floor, another small gallery room shows a smallish knobbly flint in a cabinet which was the starting point for Spindle Piece. A series of photographs show the process and progression of the abstraction and scaling up of the flints, approx 200mm high to a monumental bronze via a maquette or working model in fibreglass - a new light-weight material at the time - demonstrating the stages of inspiration through abstraction, enlargement and production.
In the Stone Room on the first floor of the house, are two smaller sculptures. One, Reclining Figure : Bone in Travertine marble clearly shows a relationship between bone and the human body translated into a landscape with open-pored, striated stone chosen to accentuate the layered pattern. Bird Form a dark sculpture made from black serpentine, is juxtaposed with an ancient bronze classical sculpture, linking diagonals - a vehicle for the curator to place and link works in their site specific location.
Out of the window, one of two large pieces located either side of the house occupies a view almost destined to be a frame for this work - a huge long vista leading the eye beyond the huge bronze Vertebrae into the far distance. Again, this work, a huge bronze this time is inspired by three vertebrae stacked together, glistening in the sun and showing the marks inscribed into the surface, allegedly made with a cheese grater - a popular tool in Moore’s studio. It hard to imagine how this piece could exist elsewhere, it looks so at home.
Around the west side of the house, equally dramatic is a white, bone-like fibreglass sculpture, a figure indeterminate from behind but clearly a reclining woman from the front, her arms as arches to the ground, her smooth bodyform crawling along the grass, bonelike but still fulsome. From the house is a view of the back for he sculpture and walking round shows Reclining Figure outlined against the house and set in the grass.
Walking away and into a wooded garden, i find myself in a central spot occupied by The Arch, again fibreglass and bone-white, a large structure to walk through and under but captured by its green and wooded surroundings. Emerging from the garden yet another vista opens up. I am quickly learning that the design of the outdoor spaces at Houghton is almost entirely to explore vistas, sight-lines and perspective.
It is almost impossible to capture the visual and emotional impact of seeing these huge works out in a landscape of such symmetry and perspective that I am compelled to try a number of ways. I am standing at a point with an avenue of planted and sculpted trees directly ahead, creating a most amazing perspective view: the house - a backdrop for the white reclining figure; the arch visible along a diagonal path framed by hedges and to my left Two Piece Reclining Figure : Cut - another large two piece bronze which has a magnetic tension between the two bronze sections with a pavilion/folly framed between them in the distance. With a large Richard Long slate sculpture behind me there was a dramatic long-shot view in all directions. I tried to draw it but scale and perspective made this very hard. I tried to describe it in words - pretty useless too. In the end a diagram had to suffice, the only way that I could hold this image, albeit inadequate anyway. It was literally breath-taking especially when the sun came out and illuminated The Arch.
Approaching the last piece I saw down another long pathway, lined by hedges, a Classical Greek piece, or so it seemed, appeared at the end. Until closer, a truncated figure, a mother and child caught in a tensile gaze with each other, a moment lasting forever. The marks on the bronze resemble the marks on drawings and etchings which no doubt initiated the piece, tender, smooth and strong.
Rounding the corners at Houghton is occasionally literally breathtaking, made remarkable by the fact that the setting cannot just be conjured up at a moments notice as in many galleries - a day or two allocated to mount and dismount and paint to completely change the context. No, this is the result of centuries of care and cultivation, full of wildlife (a hare scampers by as I write) and the work has to fit in - it is a two-way relationship where the art cannot dominate, it has to live alongside the context. The skill of the curator has been to find the perfect spots and match them to works in the Foundation’s collection, a challenge that he has met extraordinarily well.
The exhibition is open 1 May to 29 September so there is time to see it over the coming weeks. It will change as the summer progresses and of course there is a permanent sculpture collection in the grounds which includes work by Richard Long, Rachael Whiteread, James Turrell, Stephen Cox and others. There is space for the energetic to stretch their legs so visit prepared to take your time and enjoys the gardens and permanent collection as well as the Moore. In the stables is Norfolk By Design : Festival, a curated collection of high quality art and crafts for sale by eminent locally-based artists, running alongside the Moore exhibition.
I am told that if you are inspired by this exhibition, the next visit should be to the Henry Moore Foundation at Perry Green, where Moore lived and worked for many years and now a dedicated centre for his life and work - I will be making the trip soon!
For more information about the Moore exhibition and Norfolk by Design : Festival
Photos Marion de Mello Catlin
Author Marion Catlin
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