To define ‘contemporary’ or ‘new music’ exactly would be like trying to sum up the history of music in general. But at the York Spring Festival of New Music, we are trying to capture this essence. We hope to offer a festival that covers the many aspects of contemporary music in an accessible way that allows audiences to discover something new; perhaps a genre of music you’ve never heard before, or your favourite piece of music presented in an entirely different context.
The York Spring Festival has been in existence for over two decades and became a student-run event in 2009. The student committee breathed new life into the festival and broadened the variety of music involved, chose new venues outside of the University and created a platform for young composers to premiere their music. For the past three years, we have also reached out to the local schools, involving them in musical workshops and performances, demonstrating the importance of creativity and innovation needed for modern-day music making.
The Department of Music at York holds a strong connection with contemporary music as it was founded with an emphasis on practical music-making and creation. This has continued over the years, and today the department boasts numerous composers in its staff and students. The Festival will premiere some of the work of these up-andcoming composers.
With the theme ‘Music, Technology and Imagination’, the festival will be running this year from May 8 to 12, the majority of which will be based in the Department of Music, in Vanbrugh College. Our launch concert on Wednesday 8 sees the return of Joseph Houston, professional pianist and alumnus, playing with the department’s highly acclaimed Chamber Orchestra. There will also be a newly commissioned musical theatre piece written and performed by two post-graduate music students and the 24 choir.
Thursday sees the return of the Education Day, an afternoon that we students dedicate to young musicians from local schools. The day’s events will start with a solo performance by Joseph Houston and conclude with a performance by the students about what they have learned throughout the day. Thursday evening sees another change of scene to a night of musical comedy, known for the likes of Bill Bailey and Tim Minchin. Can music be funny? Comedians Boothby Graffoe, Helen Arney, Nick Doody and Kirsty Newton with student and MC Tom Taylor will help you to find out.
Friday night sees a double slot at the NCEM on Walmgate. Firstly, feast your eyes on Pierrot in the Moonlight, a modern day presentation of Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. The work will be presented by new ensemble Dark Inventions as a theatrical production, in a relaxed cabaret setting with a new English translation and newly composed musical interludes. This will be followed by some late night Jazz with the Jonathon Brigg Jazz Quintet. Expect manic grooves, bizarre juxtapositions, tender melodies, and soaring improvisations.
Electronic fans should expect a spectacular assortment of talent featured at the weekend, featuring the festival headliner, Jane Chapman, harpsichordist. Peter Gregson, from the famed Nonclassical label will be holding a talk about his new software followed by a performance with Cello and Electronics. FC Judd fans should also check out the showing of Practical Electronica. For those budding composers amongst you, we’re also hosting a paper session and call for works, with this idea of music, technology and imagination theme in mind. The festival will close with a DJ set by one of the music lecturers.
For further information, venues and prices please see the Festival website.