Meeting Stephen Upshaw

Stephen is a brilliant viola player and a fantastic new addition to our artistic board. Come and hear him play alongside Sarah Mason (percussion) and Claudia Maria Racovicean (piano) at The Forge, Camden on Monday November 21st at 8pm. The programme includes Morton Feldman’s ‘The Viola In My Life’ alongside new works for viola by Mark Simpson, Tigran Mansurian and Jack Sheen, and works for percussion by Anna Meredith and Mark Bowden. Find out more about Stephen in our quick question/ answer below, and visit his website for more…

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So far I have Rioted in the following ways …

Moving thousands of miles away from home to start a career in a place where I knew no one, I suppose?

Teenage tearaway, or nerdy note-learner?

Both note-learner and tearaway depending on the day and when the exams were. :)

Favourite musician?

Joseph Szigeti.

Favourite performance venue?

Two way tie between 40 Watt Club, Athens, GA USA and The Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

People have said this about me …

‘Supercharged viola players used to be an oxymoron but they aren’t now!’ – I’m very happy to hopefully debunk boring viola jokes!

Strictly or X Factor?

X Factor for sure! Having played on it once (shh), I suppose my allegiances would have to lie there?

Salad cream or mayonnaise?

As an American it took me quite some time to even figure out what salad cream is (I still don’t fully understand what it is, if anyone would like to help clarify …), so I will say mayonnaise!

The best 007 is …

Sean Connery of course.

I would most like to Riot about …

Brexit and how it was allowed to happen.

Many thanks Stephen. You may be interested to know that salad cream is a creamy, pale yellow condiment based on an emulsion of about 25–50% oil in water, emulsified by egg yolk and acidulated by spirit vinegar, and it is delicious in sandwiches or with chips.

The Viola in my Life

Date: Monday 21st November, 8.00pm
Venue: The Forge, Camden (NW1 7NL)

The Riot Ensemble connects people to great contemporary music with this performance entitled “The Viola in my Life.” The performance features Riot’s new Artistic Board Member Stephen Upshaw, who programmed this concert alongside fellow rioters Sarah Mason & Claudia Maria Racovicean.
The concert features Feldman’s classic The Viola in My Life, alongside the world premiere of new solo viola works by Mark Simpson, and small chamber music by Jack Sheen, Tigran Mansurian and others.  Here’s the full programme:

Mark Simpson: New Work for Solo Viola (World Premiere)

Morton Feldman: “The Viola in My Life 3” for viola and piano

Mark Bowden: “Hoist” for solo percussion

Jack Sheen: “Each One Cancels Out the Last” for viola, piano and tape (World Premiere)

Anna Meredith: “Flex” for solo percussion

Tigran Mansurian: “Duet” for viola and percussion (UK Premiere)

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BBC Radio 3: In Tune

Suzy Klein presents a special edition of ‘In Tune’ live from Tate Modern gallery in London, as part of Radio 3’s New Year New Music week. Our performances include Edgard Varèse’s seminal Density 21.5 (alongside Calder’s wire sculpture of his friend), Augusta Read Thomas’ Capricci, Benjamin Graves’ NocturNe, and Patrick Harrex’s …dreams, shadows, and smoke  Also performing on the programme are the Guildhall School percussionists and vocal trio Juice!

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A Clockwork Operetta

I’m keen to write a few lines about our ‘Wednesdays at the Forge’ concert next week as we’re looking forward to it hugely and hope there’ll be a fine crowd to enjoy it with us.

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We’ve decided to have programmes for this concert and, although the short notes will tell you everything you need to know once you’re there, the music really speaks for itself.

So maybe it’s sufficient just to impart that we are presenting the works of two American pioneers – computer music guru Charles Dodge and instrument bender-in-chief George Crumb – framed by London premières of works by Manchester’s American representative Kevin Malone, including a dramatic new setting of Anthony Burgess’ pop lyrics for the screenplay of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (discarded by Kubrick).

We also have two incredible American performers: Emily Howard Cobley (mezzo soprano) and Stephen Upshaw (viola). In fact, the only thing that isn’t American is yours truly (my years studying in Chicago didn’t change my obviously home counties gibber).

Just to make this little offering slightly longer, I’ll sign off with a handful of performance directions lifted from the various scores. I suppose it’s a window into what happens on the other side of the stage and, bearing in mind the example of Erik Satie, they ought not be taken too literally. If they whet your appetite then make sure you’re in Camden on July 1st……

‘lowest notes can be lasciviously grunted…’

‘throw it away in parody…’

‘eerily, with “white tone”…’

‘raucously…’

‘ever so bombastically confident…’

‘return to safety of keyboard when the mosquito swarm thickens…’

‘scramble hands onto keyboard…’

‘re-enter the safety-in-numbers of urbania…’

‘ad lib. (in the style of a Lisztian transcription)…’

‘release finger(s) from node(s) immediately after key is struck or string is plucked (for a more beautiful resonance)…’

‘cold, steely, distant…’

‘beseechingly, with intent, and a childish voice…’

‘malevolently…’

‘with sinister pointing at audience…’

‘like a rock ballad power guitarist with effects pedals (wah-wah, flange etc.)…’

‘Amy Lee becoming Janis Joplin…’