London Sinfonietta is proud to announce its return to live, in-person music making with a series of events throughout June and July. Highlights include an evening of music and poetry: a collaboration with Poet in the City which reflects on what unites and connects us in the time of Covid; whilst a groundbreaking commission for pioneering composer Laura Bowler brings awareness to the ongoing climate crisis. Music and movement will meet as never before with a production conceived and directed by award-winning theatre director Katie Mitchell and powered entirely by bicycles in an industry first.
Addressing one of the most pressing issues of our time, Houses Slide, commissioned by the London Sinfonietta for soprano and ensemble, with libretto by playwright Cordelia Lynn, describes one woman's intimate psychological journey to investigate her response to the climate emergency. The world premiere will take place at the Royal Festival Hall on Friday 9 July.
Katie Mitchell’s minimalist approach will feature up to 16 bicycles powering the production alongside the musicians of the London Sinfonietta, conductor Sian Edwards and soloist Jessica Aszodi, who herself will perform from one of the bikes.
The bicycle-powered system is provided by Colin Tonks at Vivid Design Works, a company which specializes in sustainable installations, bespoke set design and construction for film, TV, events, and venues.
Bowler and Lynn collaborated on Houses Slide with Ro Randall, psychotherapist and founder of Carbon Conversations, an organization which works with individuals to reduce their climate impact and cope with the personal effects of climate anxiety. The brand-new libretto combines text written by Lynn with an audio playback for the score using spoken and textual submissions from the public as part of a national call-out by the London Sinfonietta for creative responses to the climate crisis.
Project participants were asked to respond to questions: Have you noticed any changes in the natural world over your lifetime? If so, what?; What are your feelings and emotions around climate change, if any?; Does climate change make you feel you should do or change something? If so, what?. In writing the libretto, the artistic team were keen to represent a range of viewpoints on both sides of this complex issue, and to hear from climate change deniers as well as avid eco-warriors.
As the production comes together, the artistic team will attempt to measure the carbon footprint of the project in its entirety from initial conception to the world premiere itself, including the impact of virtual meetings and the travel of audience members to the event, to spark an important conversation about the impact of live performance events.
The ensemble also announces a further series of in-person events this summer - further information below.
Laura Bowler, composer of Houses Slide, said:
“The climate crisis is the most urgent matter for the artistic community to address right now. The more ways we find to communicate the problem, the more likely people will become active in demanding governmental action and in turn global action. We can all positively change our lifestyles to decrease our carbon footprint, to reduce our waste, to reduce our negative impact on the planet, but we also need to demand those in power to act with more urgency. Houses Slide delves into the complexities at the heart of the climate crisis; climate psychology and climate grief. How can we change our minds and the minds of others? How can we effect change? We’re also super excited to be challenging ourselves practically to reduce the carbon footprint of the performance through cycle power. Our incredible soprano, Jessica Aszodi, has agreed to the challenge of cycling whilst singing throughout the performance, as her character journeys through the different stages of climate awareness.”
Katie Mitchell, director of Houses Slide, said:
‘Finding new performance models that respond to climate change is essential for the long-term development of the cultural sector - together with a commitment to improving the sustainability of our means of production. This ambitious project aims to inspire the audience and the industry alike, led by the radical voices of Laura Bowler and Cordelia Lynn and made possible by the inspiring management of the London Sinfonietta.’
Andrew Burke, Chief Executive of London Sinfonietta, said:
“Commissioning and producing work that engages the issues in society today is an important role for any contemporary arts organisation. I’m proud the London Sinfonietta is making this work with and for Laura Bowler and Katie Mitchell – extraordinary artists who care so much about the future of our environment. Staging Houses Slide will be a journey into the unknown – and yet the London Sinfonietta is best placed to make that journey having made pioneering new work and public engagement programmes for the past 53 years.”
Caro Russell, from Vivid Design Works, said:
“Colin Tonks from Electric Pedals collaborates with Vivid Design Works on many cycle-powered installations, and we are extremely excited to be putting the pedal power into this innovative new project.”
Gillian Moore CBE, Director of Music & Performing Arts, Southbank Centre, said:
“It’s a complete joy to be presenting live music to audiences again as the Royal Festival Hall comes back to life. Over four months, the venue will be brimming with an extraordinary array of artists who epitomise the very best of music-making today. Whether it’s Colin Currie Group with a three-performance marathon of Reich, Aurora Orchestra and Nicola Benedetti with Beethoven by heart or the London Sinfonietta’s unmissable world premiere of Houses Slide, this summer is all about music which bends genre, plays with format and stretches the boundaries of our imagination. Since its post-war inception in 1951, the Southbank Centre has been a nexus of contemporary art and culture and that spirit lives on in the artists that help usher in our much-anticipated reopening.”
Environmental charity, ClientEarth, said:
“We’ve been watching the Southbank Centre’s growing commitment to environmental sustainability over the past few years with interest and are delighted to throw our support behind this outstanding initiative from the London Sinfonietta. While the world faces many grave challenges, we must not lose sight of the ongoing climate emergency and the need to build a future where people and nature can thrive, together. We welcome all efforts by the UK arts and culture sector to use compelling storytelling to promote climate action.”
The commission and performance of Laura Bowler's Houses Slide has been generously supported by Cockayne - Grants for the Arts and the London Community Foundation, presented with the friendly support of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation. The London Sinfonietta is continually grateful to the Arts Council of England for its support. The ensemble and the Southbank Centre are grateful for support across this period from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. #HereForCulture
New events in Summer 2021 also announced
The London Sinfonietta places the best contemporary classical music at the heart of today’s culture, engaging and challenging the public through inspiring performances of the highest standard and taking risks to develop new work and talent. From pedal powered drama to vaccination inspired poetry, London Sinfonietta is always at the heart of visceral relevant new music. This summer’s events include this ground-breaking commission from Laura Bowler, whilst a collaboration with Poet in the City reflects on what unites and connects us in our time of Covid.
Lessons from the Past (Saturday 5 June 2021, 7.30pm, Kings Place)
A world premiere by Luke Bedford, performed by acclaimed tenor Mark Padmore.
The London Sinfonietta once again joins forces with acclaimed tenor Mark Padmore and British composer Luke Bedford for the world premiere of In the Voices of the Living. Taking Greenblatt’s words as his inspiration, the work brings voices from the literary past into the present, drawing on settings of Petrarch, Joyce, Leopoldi and Shakespeare whose words written many years ago still have relevance for the issues of today.
Following the success of Padmore’s collaboration with London Sinfonietta in the 2017 commission of Tansy Davies’ opera, Cave, the tenor returns to the ensemble to bring to life Bedford’s songs in this extended programme. Alongside, he performs Peter Warlock’s bleakly desolate song cycle The Curlew which sets the words of WB Yeats interspersed with birds on while Charlotte Bray’s short instrumental duo Midnight Interludes is inspired by Thomas Hardy’s words.
Notes About Now (Wednesday 23 June 2021, 8pm, Kings Place)
The world has changed immeasurably in the last year, with much collective soul searching to find a sense of identity amid lockdown and tragedy, and hope through humanity, kindness and the vaccination programme. Notes about Now features new songs commissioned by London Sinfonietta from composers setting texts created by poets in special projects curated by Poet in the City in collaboration with different communities, just before and in the recent months of the pandemic. In a performance that mixes the new songs with live readings of new poetry, the evening is a chance to reflect on what unites and connects us, from the joys of local dialects and notions of kin, to the grief of solitary mourning and anticipating motherhood in a pandemic. New songs from composer including: Kerry Andrew; Gavin Higgins; Robert Mitchell; Larry Goves. Poetry from writers including: Nazneen Ahmed; Kayo Chingonyi; Hanna Ali; Joe Kriss
For further information on London Sinfonietta’s summer events, please go to our event listings.
Published: 27 May 2021