Inspiration and Enlightenment
the series reminds us all of the universality of music as a compelling expression of the human experience.
The dictionary definition of the word ‘perspectives’ offers several meanings, but the two we like the best are these: “a particular attitude towards, or way of, regarding something” and “a true understanding of the relative importance of things.”
Taking those meanings and placing them in parallel with the constituent parts of Perspectives 2018-2019, you can see that what NCH Chief Executive, Simon Taylor, says about this particular schedule of programming (“the series reminds us all of the universality of music as a compelling expression of the human experience”) and what NCH Head of Programme Planning, Gary Sheehan, remarks of the true nature of music (“always in flux, both stirred by its connections and the world around it”) neatly dovetail. In other words, what to some might look as a disparate collection of inspiring and enlightening artists actually share space in a Venn diagram of their own.
Perspectives 2018-2019 starts on Tuesday, September 25 (The Studio) when Norwegian songwriter and performer Susanna (aka Susanna Wallumrød) presents selections from her latest work, Go Dig My Grave. The album sees her deliver sparse versions of songs from Elizabethan England and ‘70s New York to post-punk Manchester (and even an inspiring reading of the Charles Baudelaire poem, Invitation To The Voyage). Following a singer who treats cover versions with such delicate touches would be a difficult enough task for anyone, but Irish singer and songwriter Lisa Hannigan is clearly up to it – especially when it comes to recalibrating her own songs. On Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7 (Main Stage), Lisa joins forces with s t a r g a z e, the innovative, classically trained European collective, to gracefully re-work songs from her three albums (2009’s See Sew, 2011’s Passenger, 2016’s At Swim).
Hannigan’s cohesive re-envisioning precedes the veritable “sheets of sound” that iconic US jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and his Quartet will surely bring to the NCH on Wednesday, November 7 (Main Stage). A musician emblematic of the free-jazz era of the ‘60s, Sanders – a one-time comrade of John Coltrane, whose later work he heavily influenced – has continued to be a major signifier in the jazz world, an independent thinker whose inclusiveness of expression connects the years and music from then to now.
Punch Brothers (Monday, November 19, Main Stage) are similar travellers, except they take bluegrass into areas not usually approached. One description of their remarkable output (“American country-classical chamber music”) is apt when you consider how fluently the quintet, fronted by Chris Thile, view music in evolutionary terms. Punch Brothers share such empathetic understanding with US jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, who graces NCH’s Main Stage on Thursday, February 21, 2019. Deftly improvisational, and broadly flexible with whatever alters his mood on a day-to-day basis, Frisell and his cohorts, Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen, bring new meaning to the word adaptability.
The same could be said for Tunisia’s Anouar Brahem, an oud player who performs Middle-Eastern marvels with a persuasive contemporary twist in the company of jazz musicians Dave Holland (bass), Nasheet Waits (drums), and Django Bates (piano). Brahem’s show at the NCH (Saturday, March 16, 2019, Main Stage) is configured around his 2017 album, Blue Maqams, which, noted allaboutjazz.com, is “a conceptual breakthrough that will, no doubt, be even more thrilling in performance.” You have been duly advised.
Advice isn’t necessarily required when it comes to alerting anyone to Anoushka Shankar (Saturday, April 6, 2019, Main Stage). Renowned globally as a sitar virtuoso, Anoushka returns to the NCH to perform a live score to the film, Shiraz: A Romance Of India, an expertly restored 1928 silent film that outlines the love story of 17th century princess Mumtaz Mahal, and the consequent creation of the famed Taj Mahal in her honour.
That such love is celebrated is right, but what of its obverse? On her 2018 album, Ventriloquism, Meshell Ndegeocello (Wednesday, May 29, 2019, Main Stage) covers eleven R&B songs that, while acting as an infectious soundtrack to her youth, are forged out of emotional heartache. Typically for Meshell, across songs such as Private Dancer (Tina Turner), Waterfalls (TLC), Smooth Operator (Sade), and Sometimes It Snows In April (Prince), she blends seditious with inspirational, exploratory with exhilaration. At the dark heart of Ventriloquism is plain emotional truth, and the same can be said (in a different way, perhaps) about the music of Philip Glass.
a masterpiece – in the traditional sense of the word as a work in which the artist displays all the distinctiveness and diversity of his craft
On the weekend of October 26/October 27, 2019, Philip Glass and his Ensemble take up residency at the NCH. As well as curating to-be-announced unique events, Philip Glass and his Ensemble (which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019) will perform two milestone works of modern music: Music In Twelve Parts (“a masterpiece – in the traditional sense of the word as a work in which the artist displays all the distinctiveness and diversity of his craft” – The Guardian) and the soundtrack to the 1982 film, Koyaanisqatsi (“expressive minimalism… breathtaking” – allmusic.com).
Perspectives 2018-2019? Come along and join the dots. See what takes place when instinctive creativity gels with the chemistry of collaboration. Hear what happens when 1+2+3 = xtc.
By Tony Clayton-Lea
Listen to the exclusive NCH Perspectives Spotify playlist