Birmingham Contemporary Music Group announce online events

Premieres and an interactive online performance feature in BCMG’s latest digital concert.

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group is continuing its commitment to support and showcase the best of new music with a filmed concert of works by British and Chinese composers performed by BCMG musicians Mark O’Brien (clarinet/bass clarinet), John Reid (piano), Colette Overdijk (violin) and Ulrich Heinen (cello). Recorded at BCMG’s home venue, CBSO Centre in Birmingham, the film will be released at 4pm on Sunday 28 February with tickets costing £10.

The programme will feature the world premiere of BCMG commission Back to the Beginning by Ma Xiao-Qing and the UK premiere of Jia Guoping’s Ripples in Spacetime II alongside works by British composers including Julian Anderson, Charlotte Bray, Oliver Knussen and John Woolrich. The public will also be invited to take part, via Zoom, in a special interactive performance of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Roddy’s Reel.

A BCMG Sound Investment commission, 24-year-old Ma Xiao-Qing’s Back to the Beginning for solo violin is based on melodies drawn from the local folk songs of Inner Mongolia and forms part of BCMG’s Soliloquies & Dialogues series launched during the pandemic. Ma Xiao-Qing’s relationship with BCMG has developed in recent years since winning 2nd prize at the 10th China ConTempo Composition Competition in 2019 which was held by BCMG in collaboration with the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Her work will be performed alongside the music of fellow compatriot, Jia Guoping, whose work Ripples in Spacetime II for clarinet, piano, violin and cello will be given its UK premiere.

Written as a tribute to his neighbour, Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Roddy’s Reel was composed and premiered on the north-westerly Scottish Isle of Raasay where Birtwistle lived for many years. Scored for bass clarinet with audience participation, the work calls for the audience to create wild Scottish waves and weather by clapping and ‘shh’ing. Since BCMG can’t organise this in person at the moment, they’re calling for audience members of all ages from across the world to join a recording session over Zoom with BCMG musician Mark O’Brien in what might be the first online performance of the work. Members of the public can sign up to take part here.

The programme also features music by British composers who have enjoyed long-standing relationships with BCMG including Julian Anderson’s Capriccio for solo piano, written in memory of American composer Steve Stucky; Charlotte Bray’s Midnight Interludes for clarinet and cello taking inspiration from the Thomas Hardy poems set in Bray’s song cycle Midnight Closes; BCMG’s late Artist-in-Association Oliver Knussen’s solo cello work, Eccentric Melody, composed as a double tribute for cellist Fred Sherry in his 50th birthday year to play to Elliott Carter on his 90th birthday; and John Woolrich’s Watermark written for the unusual combination of violin and bass clarinet.

Stephan Meier, Artistic Director, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, said “We’re very grateful to be able to continue bringing new music to our audiences during this incredibly challenging time. Some pieces in this programme we performed on our tour in 2019 to Beijing and Shanghai before the shattering impact of COVID.

“Although we sadly can’t share the wonderful experience of live music-making together in the concert hall quite yet, we’re pleased to be able to bring new music to audiences at home and, on top of that, set out to challenge what’s technically possible in connecting audiences and performers through our interactive performance of Roddy’s Reel with audience participation. We’re also very much looking forward to sharing Ma Xiao-Qing’s new work with the world – a student composer we learned to know through our cooperations with Ensemble conTempo Beijing in 2019.”

One of the world’s foremost new music ensembles, BCMG has continued to celebrate the best of new music during the pandemic through its BCMG at Home series of digital commissions, online videos, blogs and resources including its Soliloquies & Dialogues series which invited composers to respond to lockdown from their perspectives across the world.

Back to the Beginning will be released digitally at 4pm on Sunday 28th February. Further information and tickets can be found here.

To sign up to be a part of the performance of Roddy’s Reel, which will be pre-recorded ahead of the film release on Sunday 28th February visit BCMG.

The concert will be recorded at the CBSO Centre with all performers and technical crew carefully adhering to current regulations for COVID-19.

Pic – Hannah Blake-Fathers.