Brand new compositions by a leading Welsh composer will be given their world premieres at a top music festival.
Richard Barrett will present the new works, entitled Pektis and Outsider, at the Bangor Music Festival, where he will also give one of the festival’s key note speeches.
While focusing mainly on contemporary music, the festival has been a highlight on Wales’s cultural calendar for more than 20 years and will be staged at Pontio and other sites at Bangor University on February 17 and 18.
Festival organiser Guto Pryderi Puw, who has been involved with the festival since it was launched in 2000, said the theme of the 2023 festival is ‘improvisation’ and features a range of workshops, educational projects and concerts.
He said: “As a festival, we have always believed in offering sonic artists, performers and composers the opportunity to express themselves, to immerse themselves in their creativity, and that will happen again this year.
“It’s an exciting line up and I’m particularly looking forward to hearing the new works by Richard Barrett. He is a composer that writes quite complex music, but it’s also direct and very expressive and is highly regarded as one of the most inventive composers of his generation.
“The concert featuring Richard’s wife, talented harpist and improviser Milana Zarić, takes place in Pontio’s Bryn Terfel Theatre with the innovative Electroacoustic Wales.
“As well as the two new pieces by Richard Barrett, new commissions by Robin Haigh and Poumpak Charuprakorn will be performed for the first time as part of the William Mathias Composition Prize in addition to a recent piece by Bangor University PhD student Sara Pinheiro.
“The other key note performer, David Toop, is another leading exponent of improvised music making and I’m thrilled he’s also agreed to be at the festival.”
Speaking about the new compositions, Richard Barrett said the first piece, Pektis is for solo harp and voice.
“It’s part of an ongoing collaboration which has resulted in various pieces for solo harp and for harp and electronics. The particular attraction to this piece is that it also makes use of her voice.
“The piece is based on a text in Ancient Greek by Sappho. Most of her poetry was written 600 years BC and is in an extremely fragmentary state and very few of the poems have survived complete.
“What attracted me to the poem that I have used was that it’s so fragmentary. No single line out of its 28 lines is complete. Sometimes there’s only a fragment of a word left so it’s a little bit of a reconstruction of something where very little is left.
“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle which has some of the pieces missing but you know where they should be in the frame,” he said.
The second piece, Outsider, is an electronic piece to be played back through a system of eight speakers.
“It is part of a much bigger cycle of compositions and this is just one element of it but like all of the others can stand on its own.”
During the festival there will also be an Improvisation Day, in collaboration with Bangor University’s Department of Music, Drama and Performance within the School of Arts, Culture and Language.
This will be staged in person and online and features key note speakers that specialises in jazz with percussionist Pax Demir and David Toop, a leading exponent of improvised music.
Guto, who is a Reader in Music Composition at Bangor University’s Department of Music, Drama and Performance, added: “David Toop, who plays guitar and flute and makes extensive use of electronics, will also give a lunch-time concert in Powis Hall on the opening day of the festival and will later lead an improvisation workshop. If you are interested in participating then please join us!”
The Pax Demir Jazz Trio close the festival’s opening day with a live performance in the Studio at Pontio. Guto said the audience can expect a charming fusion of Asian music and jazz.
Bangor Music Festival’s second day starts with live performances at Pontio with Marie-Claire Howorth introducing music to children aged from six months to seven year olds. These sessions are staged in collaboration with Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (CGWM).
Guto said at lunchtime there will be group improvisation by the Tern ensemble in the Studio at Pontio followed by a series of free ensemble improvisations with Phil Morton, founding member of the Improvisers Network.
“At Bar Ffynnon from 2pm young talented performers from CGWM will be performing an eclectic mix of music for soloists and ensembles.
“The Bangor New Music Ensemble will present a selection of works from the Codex series by Richard Barrett and pieces composed by composition students, including Toghill’s Map by Joel Pike.
“There will be an improvisation workshop open to the public with Phil Morton and friends in the Pontio Siop before a pre-concert talk with Richard Barrett and Milana Zarić, in the company of festival chairperson Rhiannon Mathias,” he added.
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