At Lammermuir Festival on 15th September, I will get to perform a piece I’ve wanted to hear since 2018: Jonathan Harvey’s Stabat Mater.
Remember 2018? No, me neither. But my notes tell me that Tom Herring and I were planning a big programme of choir and electronic music for the Barbican’s Sound Unbound festival. There isn’t, it transpires, a huge amount of music for choir with live electronics.
We settled early on the idea of giving the UK premiere of Jonathan Harvey’s Stabat Mater. There was little information available on this eerie Palestrina arrangement, but Faber kindly provided us with a recording and a score, which had us determined to give it a go.
It was with Harvey’s piece in mind that I wrote my own work for choir and electronics, Ceasing. I find the Stabat Mater a curiously moving text and wanted to write something that reflected on how one experiences the deaths of those we love. I’ve written more about my thought process here.
In putting together the concert we hit a major snag: digital obsolescence. Electronic works are precarious things that require constant upkeep to remain playable, and it turns out that the Stabat Mater needed some real TLC. We had to pull the work from Sound Unbound but promised Lammermuir we’d have it ready for September 2020.
Covid happened, but now, thanks to huge amounts of creative restoration work from Gilbert Nuono, we have a working patch. It’s been fascinating seeing the inside of Gilbert’s work: in particularly, how essential to the piece the spatial aspect of performance is. In other words: you have to see it live, so come see us do it!
We’ll be performing it in Musselburgh on September 15th, and in England several times next year. Tickets are available here.
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