Live Music Now celebrates 30 years! - Luminate
Published by: Kirsten Hunter
About: Live Music Now
CD of new works by Eddie McGuire, William Sweeney, Alasdair Nicolson, John Maxwell Geddes and Wildings – released on Delphian label, 6th April 2015.
‘It has been my dream to bring live music back into the everyday lives of people of all ages….in those places where most of us spend our time, where we work, study, suffer or celebrate, be it in office or factory, school or prison, parish hall or church.’ These words of Live Music Now’s founder, Yehudi Menuhin, ring as true today in how the scheme operates as in 1977 when his vision began to be fulfilled through the founding of Live Music Now, now a UK-wide and internationally established movement. Through Live Music Now Scotland, for instance, over 600 events are presented each year in places as diverse as those above as well as care homes, day centres, art galleries and museums. Places where audiences have little or no access to high quality live music remain at the core of Live Music Now’s activity. In putting his dream into practice, Menuhin also realised that what highly talented musicians embarking on careers in the music profession really need is performing experience in front of an audience. Live Music Now, from the outset, has always worked to support the early careers of exceptional emerging artists, not only by offering a wide range of paid performing experience, but also training and pastoral support, which all combine to help prepare for a sustainable career in the music profession. Musicians are selected through a rigorous recruitment and audition procedure. Although musical excellence is the bottom line, Live Music Now musicians also have to be able to communicate well with people of all ages and levels of ability, and readily strike up a good rapport with their audiences. Groups who are part of the scheme usually number no more than five and, in Scotland, include classical, Scottish traditional, jazz and rock/pop ensembles. Selection of repertoire is key to successful experiences for musicians and audiences alike, particularly in Live Music Now events when participation or some form of interaction can be vital in engaging with hard to reach groups. Although contemporary classical repertoire is frequently part of Live Music Now Scotland performances – James
MacMillan, Peter Maxwell Davies, Thea Musgrave are just three Scottish composers who feature regularly – it is generally repertoire which has been written with more mainstream performances in mind. In focussing on the creative continuum that is musicians – audience – composer, each as essential to the other, we realised that there was potential for Live Music Now Scotland to commission music with our typical audiences in mind, but which would also transfer successfully to mainstream concert programmes. With musicians staying on the scheme for around four years and new talent coming through on a regular basis, building a library of specially commissioned music also provides a new resource for up-and-coming artists auditioning to be part of our work, and gives opportunity for multiple performances of new scores. The growing international network of branches of Live Music Now gives a platform for exchange of scores across Live Music Now ensembles in Europe. It is win for musicians in having high quality new music to play, win for composers in having repeat performances and win for audiences who cannot access contemporary music in the concert hall. Already, Eddie McGuire’s ‘Dance Suite for Two’, the first of our commissions with the above in mind, has been performed by the Spencer-Strachan Duo, for whom it was written, for a prison audience in Denmark, for over 100 children and young people with special educational needs in Abu Dhabi, as well as countless rural primary schools in Dumfries and Galloway and members of the general public. The score has gone to a violin and cello duo in Live Music Now Munich, who have sent back one of theirs by a contemporary German composer in return. In commissioning Eddie, the first composer we approached as part of this developing commissioning policy, we gave him carte blanche as to what he’d like to write for from the list of musicians who were part of Live Music Now Scotland at that time. Our next commission was quite different, as it followed a new model, bringing together the creative circle of musicians – audience – composer even closer together. Composing With Care, an initiative developed by Live Music Now Scotland, involves musicians going into care homes and day centres for older people, including those with dementia-related illness, and, through live music, stimulating their memories, emotions and shared social experiences around a particular
theme. This material is recorded in situ and passed to a composer as the source material to inspire and guide a new piece of music. For Bill Sweeney’s Luminate: From the Islands, two Scottish traditional musicians visited five different Hebridean Islands between them and gathered songs, stories, poems and a myriad of recollections of island life and culture, some of it in Gaelic. Bill used this material to compose his suite of songs for voice – flexibly high or low – and piano. The same method was implemented for John Maxwell Geddes’ A Castle Mills Suite, but this time the focus was on WW1 and the North British Rubber Company in Edinburgh, which made millions of wellington boots and hosing for the British troops. Generations of hundreds of families in west Edinburgh had associations with the North British Rubber Company, which was a major employer even after the war. In commissioning Alasdair Nicolson, we were thinking about Live Music Now’s 30th anniversary and, although the choice was ultimately Alasdair’s, were keen for a string quartet. His The Keeper of Sheep was premiered by the Astrid Quartet at the St Magnus Festival in Live Music Now Scotland’s 30th anniversary year, both publicly and in our outreach programme in care homes and day care centres. This was quickly followed by a second public performance in Music at Paxton festival in the Scottish Borders, demonstrating Live Music Now Scotland’s geographic reach from one end of the country to the other, and again accompanied by associated outreach performances. Different again is Wildings’ Bellany Suite. This was commissioned in association with one of Live Music Now Scotland’s long-established partners, the National Galleries of Scotland, in celebration of the life and work of East Lothian artist John Bellany and written by the three traditional musicians of Wildings collectively in response to his work. It has been performed publicly as well as in education work for East Lothian children in collaboration with NGS.
As the 30th birthday of Live Music Now Scotland approached, it was timely to gather these recent commissions together onto a cd and Luminate is the result. It is both a snapshot of what Live Music Now Scotland has achieved in commissioning and performing new music since the premiere of Eddie McGuire’s Dance Suite in April 2013 and a springboard for commissioning in the future. Jennifer Martin is currently working on a duo for clarinet and piano, while we are strengthening our relationship with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland so that it is not only performance graduates whose future lives and careers are inspired by the ideals of Live Music Now, but emerging composers too. For the performers who are heard on the cd, being part of Live Music Now Scotland offered a new dimension to their professional development through the exceptional experience of working closely with composers and an award-winning recording label.
The CD could not have happened without the support of those who have funded it and co-commissioned the music. I would like to pay particular tribute to the trustees of Kimie Trust and Bacher Trust, all of whom are much valued, long-standing supporters of our work. They have funded commissions, outreach performances, as well as the recording itself and their confidence in what we do is deeply appreciated. We also acknowledge co-commissioners 14-18 NOW, Luminate Festival of Creative Ageing and the National Galleries of Scotland. Formal acknowledgement of these partners is on the cd booklet, but this blog is a chance to recognise the place of the individuals who have worked with Live Music Now Scotland to build the relationships and fruitful partnerships which make the commissions possible. And, of course, thanks to the team at Delphian who took on what seemed like a bit of an unusual project at the outset, but has resulted in a stunning and impressive recording.
Thank you to all.
Carol Main MBE
Live Music Now Scotland/International Development (UK)
4 April 2015