Tuesday 21 June 2011

Calls for cultural employment, internships, bursaries and grants in Europe

I follow the regular bulletins from regularly from the Spain based organization Fabrica Cultural at www.fabricacultural.com
Through this web Rubicón Servicios Culturales y Educativos provides constant updates of information from sources in many countries in Europe. I think this site is worthwhile for readers in the USA and other English speakers because it serves as a link between Spanish based organizations and opportunities in the rest of Europe.
There is an interesting combination of links to institutional and government openings including the European Union and European Commission, national governments and universities, and private institutions.
Another fascinating feature is the range of paid jobs and openings in the volunteer sector.
Certainly worth following.

Monday 20 June 2011

Eclectic Voices concert (Part Three), Union Chapel, London

Thank you to all the singers of Eclectic Voices, and the Highbury Young Singers, for an inspiring musical evening. These two choirs, directed by Scott Stroman, were joined by a starry band on June 18: on saxes Bobby Wellins, Pete Hurt and Cennet Jönssson; Henry Lowther on trumpet; Jeremy Price on trombone; Phil Lee on guitar; Pete Saberton on piano; Ronan Guilfoyle on bass and Brian Abrahams on drums.

The concert celebrated the choir’s 20th anniversary, a major achievement by any standards, but even more admirable given the choir’s high standard in performing this idiosyncratic and sometimes difficult music.
Two works were performed, both composed by the choir’s founder and conductor Scott Stroman. In the first half we heard the suite Songs of the Spirit, a piece that has long been in repertoire, and this showed in the confidence and expertise of execution. There were moments of improvisation by the choir, a beautiful, mellifluous sound. In the second half, Jazz Psalms, a piece which was commissioned by the Three Choirs Festival and premiered in Gloucester Cathedral. Amid the informal presentation comments, we learned that the festival is one of the longest established music festivals of all times, and that Scott Stroman was actually thinking of this ensemble, Eclectic Voices while he was composing, even though the first performance was given by other choirs.
I loved this music: the wealth of sonorities available was vast, mainly because of the amazingly high technical quality of the performers, and also because of the forces available: the experienced, mature adult choir, the small group of children’s voices, moments for female and male solo singers, and the instrumental ensemble. The musical language is jazz in its broadest and most original sense, including soul, gospel and spiritual.
There was something really tantalizing about this concert: it was such a special treat to hear this combination of voices and band. Then there were a few moments of a capella singing and we hear that lovely, balanced and perfectly even sound of the choir, making me wish for more. I suppose I just have to make another trip to the UK to track down Eclectic Voices  http://www.eclecticvoices.org.uk/
I loved the whole evening because the spiritual content of the verse/lyrics was true to the soul and mind of its composer: joyous and sincere, completely free of any hint of cynicism or pretention: a celebration of spiritual joy through musical inspiration.        

Eclectic Voices concert (Part Two), Union Chapel, London

In 2003 I met John Barlow, a retired music professor at Wesleyan University in the small town of Middletown in Connecticut, USA. This unassuming man told of his experiences working with John Cage in the 60’s and ‘70’s on music which made such a mark all around the world, even reaching to the music department at York University, England, where I studied in the late ‘70’s. I asked how such earth-shattering work had developed in what seemed to be a sleepy bywater, rather than in the white heat of one of the USA’s big cities. The professor was perfectly clear: always look for the most interesting and innovative work away from the spotlight was his advice. So, given the rare chance to attend a concert in London, away from my home in Madrid, I searched Time Out online and searched for alternative venues to the Barbican and the South Bank concert halls, and was richly rewarded in finding out about a 20th anniversary celebration concert by Eclectic Voices, directed by Scott Stroman, in a venue I had never heard of: Union Chapel in Islington, N1.  
Union Chapel is a Congregational church building, with regular services on Wednesdays and Sundays. According to the leaflet I picked up at the concert, the building was threatened with demolition in the 1980’s (difficult times in the UK, but let’s talk music not politics), and the decision was made to open the building for use as a commercial venue. This unusual decision has made funds available for a large scale restoration project, which you can follow at www.unionchapelrestoration.wordpress.com

The building is truly amazing, there are beautiful decorative windows, including a rose window, and the magnificent arch rises to almost 170 feet. The programme of artists and events for this summer is impressive, and you can find it all at www.unionchapel.org.uk
So, my search for an interesting concert was rewarded threefold: first, by visiting an architectural jewel which I had never even heard of; second, by hearing Scott Stroman’s wonderful music composed for Eclectic Voices, and third, by seeing live and up close the great English trumpet jazzman Henry Lowther.
I have heard Henry Lowther on disc many times and have admired his lovely sound and his melodic concept of jazz improvisation, equally at home on trumpet as on flugel horn. (I write this as an erstwhile trumpeter). For a real cross-over item, hunt down his solo on Elton John’s Mona Lisa & Mad Hatters Part II. Seeing him live for the first time, white haired and relaxed among a group of like minded souls, was really moving. Funnily enough, it reminded me of hearing Mr Alan Stringer, Principal Trumpet of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, performing Haydn’s trumpet concerto year after year in the Philharmonic Hall when he was a senior member of the orchestra in the 70’s, sorry but even after all these years I can’t drop the Mr).
The connection? Both are examples to following generations: utterly professional, expert in their field, and performing in their chosen style, jazz or classical, to the highest possible standard but with a sense of modesty and self-effacement which is so often sadly missing in others. What a gratifying experience: Henry Lowther the man is as great as HL the jazz musician.
I suppose I should actually get around to writing about the concert… see Part Three.

Eclectic Voices concert (Part One), Union Chapel, London

In an earlier post, I speculated on the reasons why adults take part in amateur music making, which was sparked off by a visit to Madrid by the Liverpool Phoenix Concert Orchestra led by their Musical Director Jill Hyde http://www.interculturaldialogueandeducation.org/2010/12/amateur-music-making-why-do-we-do-it.html
The moving and obviously sincere words by a representative of Eclectic Voices at the end of their 20th anniversary celebratory concert on June 18 made me realize I need to add one more reason: the drawing power of an inspirational leader. Eclectic Voices is a prime example of a collection of individuals who devote a large part of their time and energy to learn sometimes complex and difficult music, and support the group by turning up to perform when and where they are required. Furthermore, they do not do this for individual attention, as one of the outstanding features of this choir is the excellent balance in ensemble singing, only possible because each of the singers lends their voice to blend in with the whole sound.
I met Scott Stroman when I signed up to the Jazz & Rock Summer School at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London in July 2007  

I really enjoyed playing in his large format big band improvisation sessions: he has a very creative methodology and a hugely fertile mind full of original musical ideas. 
I remember on the summer course there was a group of teenage Spanish students from a music school in Galicia. In the first big band session, Scott set the main melody, a long phrase, by singing it, using scat sounds such as do dah do dn do be do dn da, which we all picked up and played. The next session was 2 days later, and Scott sang the theme he had created to remind us all. One of the Spanish students very politely said, “I think the fifth note from the end was different the other day, I think it should be like this”… and she sang the entire long phrase in perfect intonation using tonic sol fa note names. Everyone from the anglosaxon tradition where, sadly we have lost the custom of singing to tonic sol fa, was impressed by her accuracy and Scott accepted her suggestion and we all played the tune as she remembered it. I think this is an example of Scott Stroman’s graciousness which I am sure has contributed to the closeness of his relationship with Eclectic Voices, and has been crucial in their joint success.
Starting a choir of these characteristics is an act of faith worthy of note. Maintaining a choir like this over 20 years and reaching the standards of excellence which we heard at the Union Chapel is an admirable achievement. Scott Stroman was right to acknowledge the contribution of the organizing committee and of certain key workers, but there is no doubt of the importance of his musical contribution as composer and arranger, and of his drawing power as an inspirational leader.        
Read more in Part Two … 

International music festival Villa de Medinaceli, Spain

Ruben Yessayan will open the International Music Festival “Villa de Medinaceli” on 2 July, when his piano recital will include works by Liszt and Chopin.

I heard Ruben Yessayan play in New York in 2004 when he was finishing his postgraduate studies at the Manhattan School of Music. On that occasion he played a programme of chamber music centred on works by Bela Bartok which the composer wrote while he lived in New York. It was a fascinating concert that combined high quality music following an intelligent theme and an unbeatable standard of performance. He very generously arranged for my students who were visiting from Europe to attend the concert.
Since then, Ruben Yessayan has returned to Europe to continue his successful career as a soloist. He has also been busy in the recording studio, with a new addition to his catalogue about to be available. http://www.amazon.com/Aram-Khachaturian-Toccata/dp/B0039E5K3Q

Medinaceli is a historic town about 160 km from Madrid, not to be confused with the church of Medinaceli in the capital, which is the focus of mass expressions of devotion, especially at Easter time.

The international music festival “Villa de Medinaceli” is now in its fifth year. To put that in context, it started in Spain’s boom times when sponsors were quick to support quality arts events as one more element in their marketing strategy. I think the organizers are to be congratulated on continuing to offer the same high quality in the current adverse economic conditions.
The festival programmme is truly international, while still retaining that essential Spanish flavor which is part of its attraction. The historic town of Medinaceli offers a fairytale setting which is not to be missed. http://www.revistaiberica.com/rutas_y_destinos/cl/medinaceli_turismo_soria.htm
Follow Ruben Yessayan in his journey from Manhattan to Medinaceli: it’s a trip worth making.

Friday 10 June 2011

Bursaries for School for Changemakers in Liverpool

Here is some information about a very special opportunity for students with an international outlook interested in social enterprise:

“School for Changemakers SfCM is built on the remarkable success of the conference of the same name that was held last year. Held on the beautiful campus of Liverpool Hope University, the programme will attract people who are aged 18 years or older from a range of backgrounds in order to examine change as a personal, professional and spiritual phenomenon.

By attending, partcipants will benefit from an interplay of keynote speeches and workshops delivered by significant experts, times for reflection and quiet contemplation and a programme of entertainment and games in the evenings.  Among the speakers coming will be Tommy Hutchinshon, the founder of iGenius; Dr Omnia Marzouk a Consultant Paediatrician of Egyptian descent and professionals from the worlds of education, communication, enterprise, politics, social change and business.

Above all, the SfCM will give participants an introduction and entry to the work of Initiatives of Change www.iofc.net, an international non-governmental organisation with special consultative status at the United Nations which holds annual global conferences in Caux, Switzerland and attracts Heads of State as well as leaders from the public, private and voluntary sectors from around the world

The SfCM Conference is a must for people of university age and beyond who are thinking about their careers, wish to network with some movers and shakers within society and people of their own age and are interested in learning more about how to optimally handle a world that is in constant change.

Because of generous grants, we are offering the first few people who apply, bursaries of £250 each for places on this years SfCM which will be held between 24 and 27 June. Without a bursary, the full price of a place on the programme, including accommodation in an en-suite bedroom, tuition and meals would be in excess of £300. We are therefore offering the first few people to apply, entry to the SfCM for a nominal fee of £50 only.  To apply online and learn more about the SfCM, please visit www.schoolforchangemakers.org.”

You can see great photos of Liverpool on the official city web site: www.visitliverpool.com
Here are a couple of my own photos taken in May 2011: Liverpool reborn as you have never seen it before:

Easyjet flies direct to Liverpool’s John Lennon airport: www.easyjet.com

I’m proud to say that my niece Charlotte Sawyer is working on the organization of School for Changemakers: success is guaranteed.