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Celebrating New Music

Bristol Reggae Orchestra
with KS2 pupils from:
Bannerman Road Community Academy
Cabot Primary School
St Barnabas CEVC Primary School

Kim Moore  Edgelands
Bob Marley  Get Up Stand Up; Three Little Birds

This Sunday afternoon concert showcases original music created especially for the Bristol Reggae Orchestra by its members and friends. Since it was founded three years ago, the orchestra has developed its own unique sound, drawing on rich connections with diverse local and global communities. With reggae at the core, these sonic explorations have created new fusions, such as Persian reggae and Sudanese reggae, developed with local refugee composers such as Bahman Salahshour and arranged by music director Norma Daykin.

This concert includes the premier of ‘Edgelands’, a new work composed for the orchestra by Scottish composer Kim Moore, supported by Making Music’s prestigious ‘Adopt a Composer’ scheme. BRO was one of six ensembles, selected from over a hundred applicants, chosen to ‘adopt’ a young composer to work with the group over the course of a year to produce a tailor-made new work. The project is a partnership with Sound and Music, in association with BBC Radio 3 and funded by PRS for Music Foundation.

The Bristol Reggae Orchestra is a community orchestra, open to all, and includes up to 30 musicians from diverse backgrounds. Part of its mission is to extend opportunities for high quality live music and education to diverse localities and communities. This concert will feature a choir formed from Year 6 pupils from three local primary schools, which has been working with the orchestra as part of a scheme supported by Bristol Sings Music and The People’s Health Trust.

This afternoon’s performance will be recorded and extracts will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

Reggae-03 Radio-3-TX

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I’m often asked  to tell the story of how I fell in love with Norway. It began by falling for the music, the  sound of Jan Garbarek, Terje Rypdal and the world that ECM was opening up. But it was when I began to get to know the people that my life changed.

I could say that my first true Norwegian friends were in a band I met at Kansas City Airport (and that really is a story for another time). As a result of that encounter I began to visit Norway and realised that the country’s small population (around 5 million) and a tightly knit music scene, meant it was possible to get to know a lot of music and musicians very quickly.

I’d been playing Norwegian music on BBC Radio 3 whenever I could, being pretty much the only UK radio exposure this music was getting.  As my experience grew and I became involved with festivals and venues, working with different musicians, it was a privilege to ‘spread the word’.  My discovery was that it didn’t matter what the musical genre – jazz, folk music, classical, experimental or contemporary, there was such a high quality in performance and production, and a real desire amongst musicians to create something new, something which expressed themselves. There was also a lot of support for the arts in general both in terms of education and professional development.

There’s so much interaction between music and the other arts – film, literature, the visual arts, theatre and I found myself drawn into these worlds too.  Amongst the events I’ve curated have been two major celebrations of the Norwegian arts scene at Kings Place in London called Scene Norway.   I’m thrilled now to bring Scene Norway Plus to a venue I love, to the rich cultural scene in Bristol. A day, of course, isn’t long enough  to give a true picture, but I hope there’ll be something to give you an appetite for more!

Award winning children’s writer Maria Parr was a big hit at last year’s Scene Norway with her delightful stories from her book Waffle Hearts, then newly translated to English for Walker Books. To celebrate the paperback edition this autumn Maria comes to St George’s to tell more stories in her own engaging way, with music and – of course – Norwegian waffles!

The band JøKleBa is a legend in Norway and this is their only performance in the UK, an opportunity to see the three musicians whose improvising work in the 1980s caused a sea-change in the Norwegian music world, and, as individuals, they have gone on to play an important role in the development of Norwegian music. Jon Balke is an adventurous keyboard player and composer whose work has ranged from working with Sidsel Endresen, to African musicians, to classical. He has a rare sensibility and sense of adventure. Per Jørgensen’s music comes from the heart, from Norwegian folk music, to experimental music and an ability to open up deep seated emotions in his playing. Audun Kleive is one of the most remarkable drummers Norway has ever known, and is responsible for inspiring younger generations for whom he is a true role model.  JøKleBa have been on an eco-tour this year, trying to keep the Co2 emissions of their travelling to a minimum. They’ll be telling us a little more about that as well as pinning us to the walls of St George’s with their music.

I’m delighted to welcome Italian writer and Norwegian jazz expert Luca Vitali to Bristol. Luca’s acclaimed book Il Suono del Nord will be published in English next year and he’ll be talking to me about the journey of discovery he made while researching his book, and opening an exhibition of his photographs of Norwegian jazz musicians.

The day ends in the company of someone much loved by audiences for his warm and engaging communication and his playing of depth and beauty which comes from his years as a classical musician as well as one of the key figures in the early days of Norwegian jazz. Ketil Bjørnstad  is also a best-selling novelist and an expert on the art of Edvard Munch, so expected a compelling evening of conversation and stunning music.

Norway in a nutshell then at St George’s on 22nd November. Welcome to Scene Norway Plus!

 Fiona Talkington

Fiona Talkington is best known as presenter on BBC Radio 3, most notably the award-winning Late Junction. She celebrates 25 years with Radio 3 this month.

Book here

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This November, Aurora Orchestra presents ‘House’ – a collaborative performance featuring Manu Delago, known worldwide for his work with Icelandic superstar Björk. A percussionist and composer, Delago has pioneered the mesmerising sound of the hang – an instrument that looks like an upturned wok and produces a resonance somewhere between a harp and a tabla.

St George’s would like to offer Music students the opportunity to attend an open rehearsal and see Aurora in action, preparing ‘House’ for their show on Thursday the 13th of November. If you know anyone who might be interested in attending, please encourage them to get in touch with St George’s Education Department. You can email me at or our Head of Education Catherine Freda at

There are £5 student tickets available for this promotion and the performance will include some unusual new works (One featuring two acoustic toothbrushes and another for Hang, Electronics and String Quartet) alongside pieces by Toru Takemitsu and Mendelssohn.

For more information about this amazing ensemble, check out their website here


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St George’s is delighted to be part of the 2014 Family Arts Festival.

From the 17th of October to the 2nd of November, venues nationally will be working together to showcase ‘eye boggling arts for all the family!’ And this year, that includes three events at St George’s!

Sunday 19th October – Westerly Showband Movie Music Spectacular

Friday 31 October – Wild Words It’s Grimm! Show 1 Show 2 


Last year marked the first Family Arts Festival with over 2,000 events hosted across the UK. For 2014 the festival welcomes St George’s favourite, Michael Morpurgo as its new Patron.

‘I am delighted to be Patron of the 2014 Family Arts Festival. The enormous range of events presented across the UK means there will be something to share with all members of the family.

I encourage families to make a day – or a week – of exploring the fun, interesting and entertaining events in their area this autumn half term.’

Michael Morpurgo Patron of the 2014 Family Arts Festival




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Come and join us at St George’s Bristol on Saturday 22nd November for a celebration of all things Norwegian!

“The vast riches of Norway’s cultural scene can hardly be summed up in a day – but we’re going to have a try!” Fiona Talkington

Presented by Late Junction’s Fiona Talkington and generously supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, Scene Norway Plus is a day-long celebration of Norwegian music and culture, taking place at St George’s Bristol on Saturday 22 November, including a special event for children and families.



Norwegian children’s author Maria Parr makes a special visit to Bristol to join Fiona Talkington in reading and presenting stories from her acclaimed book ‘Waffle Hearts’: the adventures of nine year-olds Trille and Lena in their magical village of Mathildewick Cove. A runaway success both in Norway – where it has been adapted into a television series – and the UK, where Walker Books’ new paperback edition will appear just in time for this event, ‘Waffle Hearts’ conjures up a truly delightful world that has called “Perfect for fans of Pippi Longstocking….a heartbreaking, heartmaking, hilariously funny tale…bold and brilliant.” Accompanied by music from members of JoKleBa.

2pm Saturday 22nd November 2014

Tickets £5; Family Ticket available

Suitable for ages 6 and over / Running time 60 mins (approx).

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The end-of-term concert from Bristol Grammar School is much anticipated by performers and audience alike. Featuring the best of the school’s musical talent in an array of ensembles, it promises as always to be a superb evening.

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This blog normally does previews rather than after-the-fact reviews but last Friday’s appearance by the Bill Laurance Project was so amazing, and so wildly successful – one of those a-show-you’ll-remember-forever-type events – that it demands at least a few words of gobsmacked praise. It was also, gulp, genuinely inspiring.

For those not in the know – and it seemed that almost every one of the 315 people in the hall was – Laurance is the pianist with Snarky Puppy, a variably sized collective of musicians that first formed on the jazz course at the University of North Texas and whose current members are now mostly resident in Brooklyn when they’re not out on tour, which they almost always are. Bill, an Englishman who studied music at Leeds University – whose BMus degree has links with North Texas – met Snarky’s bassist/main-man Michael League when he visited the UK. They played some gigs together, hooked up, and the band are now making waves all over the world, mixing jazz, fusion, funk and various global styles into adventurous instrumental music whose jam-band appeal crosses over to notably younger audiences than jazz is usually privy to. They’ve played Bristol twice, first at the Thekla, then at Colston Hall’s Lantern, and on Friday the word was definitely out, with the three band-members greeted like conquering heroes.

For this opening date supporting the release of Bill’s debut album, ‘Flint’, the Snarky trio of Bill (piano plus prog-style keyboard-console, including Fender Rhodes), Michael League (double bass, bass guitar, guitar), and the stupendous drummer, Robert ‘Sput’ Searight, were joined by the superb Katie Pryce (no, not her, check the “y”) on french horn and a very young string quartet – Kit Massey and Jenny May Logan on violins, Amy May on viola and Ben Trigg on cello – to play most of the album. With very limited rehearsal time, the two sets contained basically everything they knew, with little room for extended improvisation, but it was more than enough, especially for a tough first gig in an often unforgiving hall. But the sound-balance worked, Laurance’s introductions charmed, and each instrument gradually meshed together until the music really soared. In the second set, there was a kind of miraculous progression whereby each successive number seemed to improve on the one before until, by the end, both band and audience were flying. There was a 100% standing ovation, and then another after the encore, which was probably the last tune they knew.

Laurance’s music is very accomplished, matching a groove-based address to the body with a more cerebral and cinematic approach that reflects his interests in composing for film and dance. It’s an aesthetic that’s shared with a number of contemporary ‘projects’, many of whose creators fight shy of a ‘jazz’ tag because they see it as limiting. But what I found inspiring about this performance was its freshness and vitality, its “can-do” delight in taking on a serious challenge and winning, and the evident regard the musicians held for the experience of the audience. There was real sharing going on, and you could see it in the faces of both players and listeners as the music seemed to float on a cloud of mutual appreciation and goodwill. In a word, it was great.

Phil Johnson – Senior Programme Producer

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If you’ve ever seen the film A Late Quartet, you’ll appreciate that a String Quartet is a fascinating thing. Four people working together, each person in tune (figuratively and musically) with the other, performing, breathing and thinking as one; it’s like a beautiful, intricate, highly charged feat of human engineering.

St George’s Bristol has had the pleasure of working with one of the best for some three decades. Emerging from the North East of England in the mid 1970s, the Brodsky Quartet today represents the very best, and over the years they have engaged audiences with ambitious programmes and creative collaborations, proving itself to be so much more than a Classical ensemble. On our very stage they have not only performed the great quartet cycles, but also memorable concerts with artists such as Björk and Elvis Costello, the likes of which are still talked about to this day.

This season they make a triumphant return to Bristol as they take on the complete Shostakovich Quartet Cycle across a series of concerts, together forming the heart of our music and conflict series The World Changed. The first concert took place on Monday 1 September at the Royal West of England Academy with a performance of the first three quartets. The reaction from the near-capacity audience was one of some awe, the backdrop itself enough to make us catch our breath; Ian Shaw’s imposing sculpture (titled ‘Casting a Dark Democracy’) loomed large behind the quartet like a harbinger of death (see the image below).

The rest of the cycle is to be performed in four further concerts on consecutive days in October. Once again we take the music outside of St George’s, firstly to The Lord Mayor’s Chapel (at 1pm on Friday 17 October) and then to the Anglican Chapel at Arnos Vale Cemetery (at 1pm on Saturday 18 October). Following both lunchtime concerts the Brodsky’s take to the stage at St George’s (at 7pm on Friday 17 & Saturday 18 October), with the last concert featuring the deeply emotional and darkly intense final three quartets.

We sat down with Paul Cassidy (viola) and founding member Ian Belton (violin) to have a quick chat about the Shostakovich Cycle and some of the surprising places they’ve been asked to perform…

You have quite a long history with this cycle. Can you remember the first time you played it?

(Paul) An arts centre in Bracknell… Stockton? Queen Elizabeth Hall, maybe that’s the best answer. The three were within a very short space of time.

When was that?

(Ian) 1989… Soon after the series at the Southbank; we recorded it all for Teldarc.

And you’re not playing it in order for this set of concerts… Why is that?

(Paul) Well we’re not; it’s slightly different with this because here we are doing the first concert a month before the next four, so it’s slightly unusual. We tempered it to try and suit the venues a little bit more as well, but normally we do pretty much play them straight through. It’s a fantastic journey… Of all the cycles, Beethoven or Schubert, or any of these big cycles – Bartok – there’s none quite like this in terms of the kind of humanitarian ‘journey of the man’.

Why is this cycle so important when talking about music and conflict?

(Paul) Well Shostakovich famously lived through Stalin’s regime, so you can’t really ignore that, and in many ways that’s what the public knows. You know, you mention Shostakovich and as far as the public are concerned it’s that kind of story.

What are the joys and the challenges of performing the cycle?

(Ian) Well I suppose we want to sort of lead the audience through, but then everyone seemed to find the last quartets a little bit more deep, possibly challenging for some people. And yet if they do the journey they probably get into it; it’s informative to play the perhaps slightly easier on the ear ones, which perhaps go to number nine or ten, then the later ones which are very different, for obvious reasons.

(Paul) I think when you realise that he intended to write twenty four quartets in all the keys, the way he did with the preludes, and then you stand back and see where he got to – number fifteen – and you look at the cycle, it’s such a kind of perfect thing. I mean you can’t help but imagine that maybe there is a power somewhere that kind of pre-destines these things, because the way it’s lined up – the middle, number eight, is himself, it’s his own epitaph and he said that himself. There you are, C Minor, him in the middle with not only his epitaph, but his comment on fascism, War and the futility of War, and the destruction. He’s flanked by two of his three wives, I mean it just seems kind of perfect, you know, it starts with the birth of his son in the first quartet and the last one was one of the greatest commentaries on life itself that has ever been written by anyone.

It’s quite a setting in that room where you’re performing tonight… Can a venue influence or have an effect on the way you play?

(Paul) It makes me think we should have played number eight (laughs)… We have played in various places and, I mean, you do get inspired in ways like that but I think really what’s important for us is the sound, because if you turned up to Dresden Town Hall, or somewhere that is evocative and so on and so forth, but it sounds like a dull theatre, then you’re really up against it. So yes it is inspiring, but it’s crucially important that the sound is good.

Of course that’s not a problem at St George’s…

(Ian) No it’s not…

Is it a venue you particularly enjoy playing?

(Ian) Over the years we’ve played there more times than I can remember.

(Paul) It’s like a second home, if not in fact our home in many ways; I mean we’ve been coming for thirty years!

And what is it about the acoustic in there do you think?

(Ian) It’s quite possible to play in a beautiful hall, where everyone says the sound’s lovely, but you don’t feel comfortable. Then you get the others where there’s a lot of wood, for example, on the stage and very plush nice seating and you feel marvellous and the audience has to sit near the front to get the effect. It (St George’s) seems to fit all sorts of scenarios… but when there’s a reasonable sized audience there it’s incredible. The rehearsals never sound so good, but when the audience comes in…

When you’re back in October you’ll be playing at smaller chapels, as well as at St George’s… What’s the most unusual place you’ve performed?

(Paul) The ninth green of a golf club; that was pretty bizarre wasn’t it? We did a late night concert in Majorca, there was a festival there, and when we turned up to play we were actually on the green, the ninth hole! We’ve played in caves, where was that? Gibraltar! We played on a boat here, that ship that you’ve hot down there, a tall ship; we’ve also played in a ski lodge in front of a ski slope, that was in America, that was weird.

(Ian) Recently, last year, we played a series of concerts in Holland where there were nine hundred people, and the next night we were playing in what used to be a really small Jewish synagogue and there were just thirty people there. It felt like perfect chamber music, but it was quite an experience.

And what’s next for you?

(Paul) Well we’ve got some concerts in the UK, and also in Poland because we’re commemorating the Panufnik centenary. We’ve recorded all his quartets, his sextets; so there’s a lot of stuff going on to do with Panufnik. So Poland, London, Sweden for a week, then onto Mexico for two weeks; a lot of stuff like that…

And then back to Bristol in October.

Yes! Looking forward to it.

You can find out more about the Brodsky Quartet at For further information about the rest of our series The World Changed, visit



Friday 17 October, 1pm
Brodsky Quartet, Shostakovich Quartet Cycle II at The Lord Mayor’s Chapel
Friday 17 October, 7pm
Brodsky Quartet, Shostakovich Quartet Cycle III at St George’s Bristol
Saturday 18 October, 1pm
Brodsky Quartet, Shostakovich Quartet Cycle IV at Arnos Vale Cemetery Chapel
Saturday 18 October, 7pm
Brodsky Quartet, Shostakovich Quartet Cycle V at St George’s Bristol

Thanks to Ian Belton and Paul Cassidy, The Royal West of England Academy and Imogen Morris at Hazard Chase. Interview by Michael Beek.

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Legendary front man, Ian McCulloch from Echo & the Bunnymen will perform songs from his solo albums along with classic Bunnymen tracks.

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An extraordinary thing happened a year ago. People checking the best sellers on would have found that an English folk album by an artist previously unknown to most of the general public, that had been continually available on LP or later CD for over thirty years, had suddenly jumped from nowhere into the top five. Not the top five folk albums, where it was comfortably No.1, but the actual mainstream album charts, up there with all the hip-hop and X-factor artists. And what had caused this? The broadcast of a BBC4 documentary the night before called The Enigma Of Nic Jones.

In truth, that was an odd title for a film about a very down-to-earth man. But it went a long way to explaining why he had achieved underground cult status over the preceding three decades as legions of current day artists lined up to explain his musical influence and, simply, why they loved him so much. I was very honoured to have briefly been a talking head in that programme…

Nic, who started his musical career in Essex, had emerged among the second generation of 1960s folk revivalists at the end of the decade. His debut album Ballads & Songs was released in 1970 and I clearly remember it arriving in Bristol’s then folk mecca, the Troubadour Club in Clifton, where we nearly wore it out on the club’s elderly Dansette. Suddenly, here was a new performer to rank with other current icons of English folk music like the great Martin Carthy. (As an aside, I only discovered in recent years that Nic and his wife Julia had come very close to buying the Troubadour in 1969 when the original owners sold up and emigrated: what a difference that would have made to many stories, internationally and locally!)

Throughout the 1970s, Nic’s music grew in originality, confidence and stature. While others were falling into impenetrable folkie vocal mannerisms, over-complicated arrangements where the song was secondary to the playing, and disappearing up the cul-de-sac of ‘folk rock’, Nic sang in his own speaking voice and evolved a masterful acoustic guitar style with a rhythmic pulse that suited the shape of the melodies and allowed the voice to roam free. That was surprising and different then: now it’s often the default model, with Nic and the great Shirley Collins the two most quoted influences among the current generation of performers.

This culminated in his final, iconic 1980 album Penguin Eggs where everything came together. This was the album that finally catapulted to mass sales last year, but in the intervening time it not only had a profound effect on that new generation of younger folk musicians like Kate Rusby and Jim Moray who started to make waves from the late1990s onwards, it even worked its influence on his peers like Martin Carthy and Martin Simpson. Even people from Bob Dylan to Marianne Faithful recorded their versions of tracks from it. Nothing would be the same again.

So why was Penguin Eggs his final album, and how come he’s about to appear at St. George’s on what’s rumoured to be among his last few live dates? Well, in February 1982, Nic suffered a terrible car crash that left him in a coma for weeks, broke pretty much every bone in his body and kept him in intensive care for 8 months. The entire folk world was in shock. It was thought that he’d never sing or play again as, nursed by Julia who was also bringing up their two young children, the family moved first to Yorkshire and then to Devon where they now live. And that was thought to be that.

But an extraordinary thing happened. Away from the spotlight, Nic’s son Joe learned to play guitar remarkably like his father and eventually Nic’s original Fylde guitar, smashed in the crash, was restored for Joe to play. And although Nic never regained the digital mobility to play guitar in a way that satisfied his high standards, he could still sing and wanted to. So in 2012, Nic & Joe Jones stepped onto the stages of a number of major folk festivals – as witnessed in the BBC4 film – and there were hardly any dry eyes in all the houses.

This autumn, they’ve announced that their current series of dates are likely to be their last in order to protect Nic’s health. You’d be very foolish to miss this opportunity to see such a genuine legend of 20th century English folk music in action.

Ian Anderson, fRoots magazine