With further restrictions looming in the London air like a thick Dickensian fog, I spent last week dashing around town trying to tick as many cultural boxes as possible. On Friday, I managed to catch up with some music – and not just any ordinary music. This was the Music & Renewal concert, the third in a series of concerts by NW Live and one of the last concerts in the Bloomsbury Festival 2020.
The concert was an instrumental and cultural collaboration between Kuljit Bhamra MBE (tabla), Andres Ticino (percussion) and the uber-talented Alkyona String Quartet. It was also a melting pot of an evening during which classical music collided with world music and flirted with Indian, Middle Eastern and South American notes. For an hour and twenty, we were transported from the little church of Holy Cross in St Pancras to far-flung Covid-free lands. It was such a treat.
The NW Live Arts Director, Caroline Heslop, also took to the stage with the world premiere of her Sun Salutation, a musical quartet piece which reflects the idea of the sun rising and setting within the context of the festival’s theme of renewal. Video artists created some interesting visual expressions of mental health, particularly significant in this current Covid climate.
Kuljit Bhamra opened the evening with his piece, Road to Freedom. He works to demystify Indian music and the tabla instrument, a type of bongo. Tabla players normally work with few instruments, but Bhamra likes to complicate things, often adding more instruments to the heady mix. We were transfixed by the dexterity of his hands as he pummelled his musical playthings.
Uruguayan percussionist, Andres Ticino uses a whole assortment of oddities to create his sounds: Brazilian shells encased within a basket, a Brazilian samba drum, a wooden box from Colombia originally used to carry water, and shells from an Amazonian forest that look somewhat like our indigenous conker. His Middle Eastern drum, on the other hand, came straight out of a shop in Hackney. Listening to Ticino is to walk down a street that starts somewhere in South America, passes through Africa, and terminates in New York with the earthy jazzy tones.
And there were many reasons to love the the Alkyona String Quartet. The awesome foursome were exhilarating to watch, at once plucking like finespun gold and then hitting with thrilling athleticism. Our pews were filled with the classical sounds of Mozart, Ravel and Bartok together with some fabulous contemporary collaborations with Bhamra and Ticino.
I think my husband best summed up the delightful evening: it was ducking brilliant! Need I say more?
About NW Live Arts
Founded as a concert organisation in 2018, NW Live Arts works with musicians and communities to explore social themes creatively. They aim to connect high calibre professional musicians working in classical and world music genres with local communities, bringing artists and audiences closer together. NW Live Arts also runs community workshops led by skilled artistic facilitators focusing on the theme of the concert in creative writing, video art, theatre and dance. More information here.