Monday, 5 October 2009

The Brighton Early Music Festival

It's time for us to hand over to another guest blogger in order to give you an insight into planning an event during the Brighton Early Music Festival:

Hi I'm Katie De La Matter I direct Ensemble Tempus Fugit a young London-based early music group with a difference. I'm on the top right of this picture:

We’ve been invited to devise a brand new project bringing together baroque and Indian classical music, as well as involving puppetry and dance. You can catch the premiere performance at this year's Brighton Early Music Festival, and during White Night on Saturday 24th October at 11pm at St. Bartholomew's Church.

As part of BREMF's 'East meets West' theme, we are very excited to be able to present this unique performance which aims to recreate music that could have been heard in and around Calcutta centuries ago.

We bring to life the music of colonists and traditional Indian classical musicians that would mix in the streets and in fashionable soirées. This means we'll be combining the sounds of our historical instruments (like the harpsichord, Baroque violin, recorder and lute) with the sitar and Indian classical singing. We don't know of anyone who has tried this combination before in recent times, so we'll be hard at work over the next month, finding ways to make these two completely separate traditions meet!

Really, though, our music hasn't always been so separate. Trade missions to Calcutta going back to the time of Queen Elizabeth I had musicians onboard to impress trade contacts and foreign leaders, and by the end of the 18th century, the city was full of harpsichords and fortepianos, with more arriving by ship almost every day.

These instruments weren't always used for European music though: we'll be playing Indian classical tunes from a manuscript belonging to a woman named Sophie Plowden in 1780. Sophie was married to an East India Company merchant. She would travel up the Ganges to Lucknow to ask Indian classical musicians into her sitting room, so that she could play along with them on her harpsichord. Luckily for us, she also asked a colleague to write down the songs they would sing together, complete with the music -- this is what we'll be using as our base.

Indian classical music doesn't really fit into the European way of writing music down, but it does give us a skeleton to work from, to make our own arrangements. The knowledge that we aren't the first to try fusion with older instruments, that someone was doing the same thing over two hundred years ago -- that definitely helps us along!

To link the music together, we've made a storyline for the concert -- which will involve drama, song, and shadow puppets (!), to portray a journey from the London of centuries past to the shocking new world that Calcutta presented to newcomers at that time, as they described in their memoirs and letters. At the end, the two worlds will blend together in our fusion music. We will hopefully convey the spirit of exploration that floods this music, and that we feel in our work with Sanjay Guha (an amazing sitarist) and Debipriya Das, a brilliant Indian classical singer who plays the sitar too!

Over the next month, then, we'll be setting up rehearsal/workshop sessions to make our musical arrangements, organizing staging rehearsals, building puppets, devising lighting, doing runs.... all thanks to the generosity of the Arts Council, which has made this project possible. The Brighton Early Music Festival has also supported us in developing this work, and members of the project and volunteers are donating their extra time to make this event the best it can be.

We hope you can join us in our theatrical & early fusion experiment! It'll be in the beautiful space of St. Bartholomew's Church on Saturday 24th October at 11pm. For more information or to book tickets (only £6) please visit:


Anonymous said...

This is sounds like one of the more exciting events during White Night - really great to read about the ideas behind the collaboration.

Hilary Billet said...

I saw a the preview show on Tuesday evening in London. Inspired staging and great performances by all the cast musicians. Baroque & Indian Classical music DO mix, to my surprise! Would definitely recommend it, and will see it again in Brighton on Sat.