Performances in Brussels and Southampton

Monday, 11 May, 2015

Over the past five months myself and two fellow PhD Composition candidates have been engaged in an exciting and incredibly rewarding collaboration with Brussels-based contemporary music group Ensemble Fractales. The group are all studying as part of the MANAMA advanced Masters in contemporary music performance run by the Belgian ensembles Ictus and Spectra alongside the Ghent Conservatory and offer an international spread of players originating from Australia, Brazil, France and Japan.

Back in January the University of Southampton welcomed Ensemble Fractales to the department where they took part in a two-day workshop event. They gave first readings of new works we’d composed especially for the project and the results were fantastic. We were fortunate to have the time to work with the ensemble to try out ideas and experiment with new possibilities we hadn’t considered in our original scores. In most workshops this is where the project would end, but instead we have been able to see the project continue and evolve. The ensemble continued aiding in the creation of our new pieces through email discussion, answering questions and offering insights, before the final drafts of the pieces were emailed over.

The second stage of the project saw the three composers (myself, Ben Jameson and Ollie Sellwood, travel to Brussels to hear our finished compositions. After an extremely windy exploration of the city and a sampling of some local food we met the ensemble at the performance venue: Cellule 133a. We watched the final rehearsals and made some last minute adjustments before sitting back and enjoying the premiere performances of our new works. It was a thrilling experience aided not least by the inclusion of the Enno Poppe’s Gelöschte Lieder in the programme. Later that evening we celebrated with the ensemble by sampling a selection of European beers before returning to the UK the following day.

The final stage of this collaboration happened back in Southampton with Ensemble Fractales returning to the city and giving a repeat of the concert during the music department’s lunchtime concert series at Turner Sims Concert Hall. It was another brilliant performance and a rare educational opportunity to hear the same pieces, played by the same ensemble, in a totally different acoustic.

The entire project was a great pleasure, largely due to the openness and enthusiasm of the ensemble. All three of us engaged in the collaboration learnt a great deal and feel privileged to have heard our music performed by them. We are all grateful to the composition department at Southampton and the MANAMA programme for supporting the project and especially to Ensemble Fractales for their efforts over the past five months.