Call for Scores 2015

Our 2015 Call for Scores received 151 applications from composers all over the world.  It has been a pleasure to get to know so much new music, being made by such inspiring and exciting artists.  We are extremely proud to announce the composers we’ll be collaborating with for our 20th November concert, this year.

Thanasis Deligiannis will write a new piece for soprano, flute, 2 percussionists and harpsichord.  Thanasis is a Greek composer living and working in Amsterdam.

Jessica Rudman will also write us a new piece for soprano, flute, 2 percussionists and harpischord.  She is an American composer, finishing her doctorate at the The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY).

Finally, we have selected a third composer, Patricia Alessandrini, to write a new solo harpsichord piece with Goska Ishpording.

Introducing: Kate Walter

5 - KateFlautist Kate Walter was one of the founding artists of The Riot Ensemble, and has been on our Artistic Board since our first concerts at Guildhall.  Kate performs regularly in London’s top orchestras – such as the Philharmonia – and in West End Shows such as Les Miserables.

Kate has a busy year of Rioting in 2015, starting with our very first concert, The Riot, at MeWe360 in January.  Get to know Kate a bit better, in her answers to our questions below.

What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you while playing the flute?
Well, there has been nothing too embarrassing when playing the flute, there’s plenty of time for it to happen though!! I have conducted a flute ensemble dressed as a Christmas pudding, that was pretty embarrassing.  I did once have to play triangle in a Wind Quintet performance, and when I reached the solo triangle moment, I swung and completely missed!  (oops!)



What are you looking forward to in 2015?
I am really looking forward to the Riot Ensemble season, it includes some awesome repertoire and I always really enjoy the challenge of learning new music: the crazier the better! We always have a lot of fun in these concerts, and there never seems to be a dull moment. I’m very lucky to have opportunities this year to play in many amazing concerts around the globe and make a living playing music, it does’t get much better than that.

What is your favourite Riot Ensemble story, so far?
It’s got to be our Workers Union performance on MayDay 2014…outside in Dalston Square…in the rain…the police were called….enough said?? It was brilliant, we were making a LOT of noise and the crowd were dancing along in the pouring rain, it reminded me of being a Glastonbury, minus the mud! I also just love meeting so many fabulous musicians and composers.  Collaborating with different Artists such as ECCE Ensemble and New Music Brighton is something that is really exciting.

Introducing: Sarah Mason

6-2 - SarahPercussionist Sarah Mason is the newest member of the Artistic Board of The Riot Ensemble.  Sarah has consistently performed with us since our earliest days at Guildhall.  She is also the principal percussionist of the Ossian Ensemble, has toured China, Russia and America with the LPO, and played on the recording for Howard Shore’s score for ‘The Hobbit’.  Sarah will be performing in a trio of Riot Ensemble concerts in 2015, including our day of multiple performances of David Bird’s Fields in unannounced parks and venues throughout London. Get to know Sarah a bit better, in her answers to our questions below.

What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you as a percussionist?
There have been so many…it’s hard to know where to start!  I once had to chase a 6″4 fellow off the stage whilst wearing a black executers mask and beating a drum with whips…oh, and Aaron once made me run into a pile of chairs! It hurt but it was worth it – way more fun than embarrassing.

What is the loudest instrument you know of?
Weirdly the loudest sound I’ve ever heard was sitting next to a suspended cymbal while someone did the loudest roll on earth. It was epic, but I thought my head was going to explode. Again, totally worth it.

What are you looking forward to in 2015?
I can’t wait for the new commissions that come out of our Call for Scores. It’s brilliant working on a premiere with the composer. I feel like a piece is still a little bit mailable before it’s been performed/set, and it’s exciting for you to discover together what it will be like in 3D.

What is your favourite Riot Ensemble story, so far?
Again, there are just so many!  Recent great Riot moments include giant breakfast butties during percussion rehearsals, watching everyone getting their rage faces on for the Riot photo shoot (perhaps I got particularly carried away…). Oh and Aaron keeps asking me how the really hard solo piece is going for the concert tomorrow… When there is no solo piece. Terrifies me every time.

Introducing: Goska Isphording

4 - GoskaHarpsichordist Goska Isphording joined the Artistic Board of The Riot Ensemble after our Les Citations projects in 2014.  Goska is one of Europe’s top contemporary specialists on the harpsichord, previously winning first prize as a soloist at the Krzysztof Penderecki International Competition of Contemporary Music 2002. Goska will be performing in two Riot Ensemble concerts in 2015, including our end of year concert, where we will premiere a new work by Jose Manuel Serrano, along with the two pieces chosen in our 2015 Call for Scores.  Get to know Goska a bit better, in her answers to our questions below.

What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you at a harpsichord?
During a recent chamber music concert in Tallin, I was performing a piece an approached a very busy – and specifically notated passage.  Unfortunately, just before I began this, I accidentally switched off the needed registers on the harpsichord – so I ended up playing on a silent keyboard, moving my fingers all over the place with no sound.  It was some time until a suitable moment came to get my sound back!

What are you looking forward to in 2015?
So many things, new things, that’s what makes playing contemporary music so exciting! Firstly, as an Artistic Director myself, I’m looking forward to the competition and festival Prix Annelie de Man, in Amsterdam.  It’s a wonderful full week event, completely devoted to contemporary harpsichord music with special focus on presenting and promoting newly written repertoire performed by some of the world’s most talented young players.

Of course there are also all this season’s premieres: premiering new works is always like taking a journey to unknown landscapes.  And of course this is what I’m always doing in the great projects of The Riot Ensemble: seeking to bring this exciting new repertoire to the audiences with the surprising twist (see the picture above, for example…)

What is your favourite Riot Ensemble story, so far?
Definitely the Les Citations rehearsals where we had a harpsichord, double bass, soprano, oboe and an entire array of percussion (including marimba and vibraphone) in the front room of your (Aaron’s) flat!  Thankfully we had great weather those days so we could have lunch in the garden! I’m very much looking forward to the new stories of 2015!


Introducing: Adam Swayne

3 - AdamPianist Adam Swayne has been on the Artistic Board of The Riot Ensemble since our very first concerts at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2009.  In addition to his busy performing schedule, Adam teaches piano at the Junior Royal Academy of Music and is Senior Lecturer and Head of Chamber Music at the University of Chichester. Adam will be performing in a number of Riot Ensemble concerts in 2015, including our June Portfolio Concert, presented in conjunction with Sound and Music. Get to know Adam a bit better, in his answers to our questions below.

What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you at a piano?

Probably playing a wrong note at your (Aaron’s) wedding. It was only one note out of several hundred, but it seemed somehow to resonate louder than a thermonuclear explosion. And it found its way onto the official wedding video too. Other than that, probably having to impersonate two female goddesses in Amy Beth Kirsten’s ‘Speak to Me’.

What are you looking forward to in 2015?

Playing/ vocalising Amy Beth Kirsten’s ‘Speak to Me’ again on January 30th. I suppose it’s pretty kinky to be humiliated. After all, if I didn’t enjoy it then I wouldn’t have agreed to let Aaron release that ridiculous picture.

What is your favourite Riot Ensemble story, so far?

I enjoyed hearing the sharply divisive audience reaction when we performed Michael Daugherty’s Le Tombeau de Liberace in one of our first concerts at Guildhall. I also enjoyed playing Workers’ Union in the rain in Dalston and having the police turn up halfway through.

Introducing: Claudia Maria Racovicean

2 - DiaPianist Claudia Maria Racovicean has been on the Artistic Board of The Riot Ensemble since our very first concerts at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2009. Claudia is currently preparing to record her first album, which will include Aaron Copland’s Piano Variations, which she started learning this summer while living at Copland House.  Claudia will be performing in half-a-dozen Riot Ensemble concerts in 2015, none less than our series of concerts with Breathe AHR, which brings contemporary music into hospitals with live visual artists. Get to know Claudia a bit better, in her answers to our questions below.

What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you at a piano?

I was in my final year of my Masters at the Royal Academy of Music – and before the concerto exams every student gets about 20 minutes on their fantastic Steinway in the Duke’s Hall (where the exams eventually take place).  I was the very first pianist to practice on the day, and I ran through my concerto (Saint-Saëns Second Piano Concerto) and on as I played the final fortissimo chord, a string on the piano snapped!  It was this incredible, thunderous sound and my accompanist and I had no idea what had happened.  When we saw a string had broken we quickly gathered our things a slipped out to let the piano technician know.  I wondered if the rest of the pianists that day thought someone was trying to sabotage them…!

What are you looking forward to in 2015?

I’m really looking forward to recording my first full-length album.  It’s going to include some works I’ve been playing for many years, such as the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, but I’m placing those pieces alongside much lesser known (but no less beautiful) works such as Matthias Pintscher’s On A Clear Day.  With Riot Ensemble, I just look forward to every concert because there’s always some sort of crazy excitement happening on the day, and it’s just great to be making music with such close friends in concert after concert.

What is your favourite Riot Ensemble story, so far?

You know, I really love the concerts we do with Breathe Arts Health Research.  It’s great to perform this – often very serious and high-minded – music in a venue where it has a very real affect and impact on people’s lives.  The music always speaks really well in these concerts because of the informality of the event – and I also really like the experience of sitting down to play something, and then finding this artist has created this wonderful painting that you can look at and enjoy long after the music has finished.

Introducing: Celeste Cronje

1 - CelesteSoprano Celeste Cronje has been on the Artistic Board of The Riot Ensemble since our official launch in 2012. In addition to being a soprano up for absolutely anything voice-related, she founded and runs the foreSOUND School of Music in North London, where we will be hosting the 2015 ‘Riot Young Composer of the Year’ project in 2015.  She’s going to be singing a huge array of repertoire with us in 2015, not least, Jose Manuel Serrano’s Velado in our October Concert: My Life on the Plains. Get to know Celeste a bit better, in her answers to our questions below.

What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you while you were singing?

Burping mid-note…okay, it was when I was 17 but it was hilarious and I’ll never forget it! I was ‘test running’ my diploma repertoire at a local charity concert and felt a little ‘rumble’ in my tummy as I approached the ‘F#’ in O del mio dolce ardor….I managed to hold on to about a quaver worth of the pitch before the naughty little belch made its way north! The audience were stunned and I had to make a split second choice. Do I carry on or do I stop and apologise? I carried right on. Apparently I only missed about an extra quaver worth of time! *sing-burp super loudly-sing* A lady came to me afterwards and asked if I was feeling okay. Very funny.


What are you looking forward to in 2015?

No longer having to teach on Saturday mornings, learning how to make muffins that aren’t as arid and dry as the Sahara, getting my amazing students excited about writing music for our Young Composer Award, and last but not least SINGING all the epic music I get to sing with Riot Ensemble!

What is your favourite Riot Ensemble story, so far?

I can’t give just one!  Here are my top three (so far…)
1) Realising that my lips are too fat to make flutelike whistle harmonics and/or having to bellow at a snare drum because my microphone broke! (Jenna Lyle!)

2) Hitting any sweatshop we could find in Brighton to ask for anything ‘grim looking’ so that we could decorate the piano at our NMB Halloween event in 2013 (Watch out, Brighton, we’re coming back for Halloween this year!).
3) Burning a thousand candles in one of our earlier concerts, which took place in London’s craziest venue, run by London’s craziest woman.  It took a while to get the place into concert shape, but it ended up being a hilarious and really fun night!

A few moments with Scott Lygate

3_1615Well, tonight is the night!  Tonight at The Forge we unleash The Flatulence of the Gods: pieces for 5 bassoons, 4 trombones and tenor, and 5 Bass Clarinets.  The lineup is – so far as we know – a totally unique one, created by drawing upon various existing pieces for groups of low instruments.  The final grouping of 5 Bass Clarinets comes from Scott Lygate’s piece Earth Tremors.  This piece was recorded previously but has never been performed live in concert.

One of the fascinating things about Scott is that alongside his work as a composer, he’s an active performer, working regularly with ensembles like the London Sinfonietta and LPO.  With this in mind, I was particularly interested to ask him about how his experience as a composer influences his work as a composer.

AHN: Scott, thanks so much for joining us. In addition to your work as a composer you are the founder and artistic director of the Azalea Ensemble and, I think it would be fair to say, your primary activity up until now has been as a clarinet performer. Can you tell us a little bit about your work, and tell us how your work as a performer and promoter of music has affected you as a composer?

SL: It’s sometimes easy to lose sight of what lies behind yourself as a performer, because you are so focused on the instrument; the technique, the sound, and also the interpretation of the music.  I get a huge kick out of performing, which I love very much and have dedicated much of my musical life to so far, however my personal voice can be heard most clearly through my writing, and I get enormous satisfaction from having complete ownership over the creation of something.

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have worked with and trained by some of the great interpreters of modern repertoire, both as a clarinettist and composer, and I’ve also gained a huge amount from running Azalea: programming music, creating a sense of identity and family within an ensemble, and the business side of running a large group.

All of this this does contribute to one’s approach as a composer. You are more aware of what is possible technically on each instrument, and the practicalities of rehearsing to a time schedule. So I always make sure my parts are as tidy as possible, and as I write each part I try to feel the physical sensation of what it would be like to play it; the breath, the attack, the intensity of line, the direction, and the character.

Rehearsing Earth Tremors at LSO St. Luke's. From left to right the players are: Lorenzo Iosco, Duncan Gould, Mark Van de Wiel, Oliver Janes and Max Welford.  Riot Ensemble Artistic Director Aaron Holloway-Nahum is conducting.

Rehearsing Earth Tremors at LSO St. Luke’s. From left to right the players are: Lorenzo Iosco, Duncan Gould, Mark Van de Wiel, Oliver Janes and Max Welford. Riot Ensemble Artistic Director Aaron Holloway-Nahum is conducting.

AHN: This piece is for 5 bass clarinets – one of your primary instruments. Is it difficult to write for your own instrument? Does it change how you approach the composition?

SL: I actually wrote Earth Tremors 5 years ago when I was 19. Earth Tremors was a gateway for me to stretch my boundaries, improve my technique and extend my palate. Since then my writing has inevitably changed, hopefully matured, and expanded on some of the ideas in Earth Tremors which I began to explore.

As for the instrument itself, I naturally have certain things that I like to do on the bass clarinet. I love exploiting its incredible range (obvious in Earth Tremors), writing soaring melodic phrases in the extreme high register, beautiful warm cantabile lines around the middle range, punchy, earthy and razor sharp stabs at the extreme bottom end of the instrument, and creating haunting, breathy, ghostlike sonorities. One of the huge advantages of writing for your own instrument is that, of course, you know what is possible, how things will sound, and how to create more specific colours and effects. In ‘Earth Tremors’ I was able to write all the things I love about playing the bass clarinet.

AHN: As someone who is now composing more and more, what do you wish some performers of contemporary music new about composing that they often don’t?

SL: When it comes to performing I have a huge interest in the context of a piece of music, and how that effects my individual part. I demand a lot of myself in terms of the accuracy of executing every articulation, dynamic and performance direction printed because I know that a composer has had to spend a great deal of time considering every one of those details.  Colouring it in, as it were.

Beyond the notation, the composer as a person interests me because understanding them helps you understand the context of their work, and gives you the starting point for bringing the music to life. I sometimes feel that performers who aren’t composers underestimate the value of gaining a broader understanding of a piece. Why the composer wrote it, their inspirations behind the piece, and how their individual part contributes to the overall picture.

AHN: When Witold Lutoslawski heard John Cage’s Second Piano Concerto on the radio, the encounter changed his musical thinking and ushered in a new creative period for him (the first result of which was his Jeux Vénitiens). Have you ever had a similar experience with a piece or composer?

SL: Yes, I’d say I have had this experience several times with various composers. Some important works for me have been: Shostakovich’s 5th Symphony, Rachmaninov’s 3rd Symphony, Kenny Wheeler’s ‘Sweet Time Suite’ for Big Band, John Adams ‘Son of a Chamber Symphony’, Steve Reich ‘Double Sextet’, George Benjamin ‘Into the Little Hill’, Colin Matthews ‘Suns Dance’, and particularly important for my ‘Earth Tremors’ was Louis Andriessen’s ‘Zilver’.

AHN: What is ahead for you in 2014?

SL: This year I have some interesting projects lined up. I am a London Sinfonietta Emerging Artist for 2014 – 2016, I have a commission for solo cello from Swiss soloist Gerard Pawlica.  I have 4 feature films to orchestrate!and, and a commission for bass clarinet and piano from Lorenzo Iosco (Principal bass clarinet of the LSO, and 1st clarinet in Wednesdays performance of ‘Earth Tremors’).