Voices Now Gathering – a career highlight

Gathering massed choir

As someone who sings in choirs for fun – the fact that I get to work with choirs professionally is a real treat. But this weekend I had a highlight of my career so far. This year we have decided to build the programme for Voices Now with a collection of choirs of all kinds. So instead of myself and Matthew Swann our Artistic Director coming up with a programme and asking choirs to take part – we have started with the choirs and asked them what they want to do!

So on Saturday we all gathered at the Roundhouse in Camden for a day of singing and working out what everyone wants in the festival. We were looked after by some of the best choir leaders in the business – Chris Samuel and Osnat Schmool who led the choirs through warm ups and singing some new songs.

I have to admit to being quite apprehensive on Saturday morning as to how it would all work – but the day was extraordinary. The energy and excitement from the choirs was palpable and the singing from everyone blew me away. Everyone worked really hard and the first shape of the festival is starting to emerge and I can’t wait for May now! Oh and we were joined by the very talented Kathryn Tickell and Sam Lee who will perform with some of the choirs at the festival as well – look out for the festival programme coming soon! https://twitter.com/voicesnow

Touring with Young Voices

After three weeks of practically living in arenas – normal life feels really strange today. This year was my first year doing the full tour with Young Voices (and we are not finished yet there is still a week in Manchester in March). 15 days of working with thousands of children sounds hellish and tiring doesn’t it? But actually the whole thing is so well organised it is tiring but it is also a joy. There is nothing like seeing the children arrive excited and then hearing them sing their hearts out before heading home on coaches – often tired – but still smiling!

I also had a lot of fun working with the Young Voices Teacher Choir – who all had an amazing time despite often being quite nervous at the beginning of the day at the prospect of singing in such huge arenas.

Here are a couple of my pics:

Young Voices 2015 1 Young Voices 2015 3

Crowd Out videos

Being the Producer of BCMG’s world premiere performance of David Lang‘s Crowd Out in June was one of my career highlights. The videos made by the wonderful Rebel Uncut are now out and I have to share the edited highlights here as it is a wonderful memory. The full version is also worth watching and can be found via a link on the BCMG website…..

The Build up to Simmer Down 2014

Steel Pulse

Planning has started in earnest for Simmer Down 2014 and it promises to be a very special year. The headline act this year are Steel Pulse for who this will be a very special homecoming performance. Other acts include Apache Indian and Musical Youth.

My job now is to get all the permissions and infrastructure in place and make sure the event runs smoothly so everyone can enjoy this amazing line up on the day.

Come along and have enjoy the party….

Cultivating Culture Symposium

Cultivating Culture logo

Next week I will be running a symposium for Birmingham City Council’s Culture Commissioning team in the beautiful Library of Birmingham.

The Cultivating Culture Symposium event is being held at the Library of Birmingham on March 18th from 12pm – 7pm.

The Symposium will be the opportunity to share Case Studies and discuss issues and challenges that have emerged from the past 3 years of work by Local Arts Fora & Arts Champions and to reflect on how arts development can overcome barriers to participation and engagement.

The Cultivating Culture Symposium is an afternoon of debates and discussions for local people, arts organisations, policy makers and anyone who is interested in developing amazing arts activities at a grass roots level where they live.

The days starts at 12noon with a networking lunch and is kicked off with a Keynote Speech from

Claire McDermott Cultural Programmer for Derry Londonderry 2013 will be the key note speaker. There will also be small group discussions and the chance to see performances and presentations of the work done by Birmingham’s local Arts Fora and Arts Champions. 

There are a handful of FREE tickets left so if you want a day of debates and discussions you can book here – https://cultivatingcultures.eventbrite.co.uk

Young Voices

Hallelujah Concerts 2013

I’ve recently started work with Young Voices and in December 2013 had the pleasure of tour and stage managing the YV Hallelujah Choir Festival in Dublin.

It was an amazing way to learn how Young Voices works! There were approximately 3000 children per night for four nights so I soon got used to dealing with thousands of children arriving and departing in short spaces of time.

Since then I worked on the UK tour at the O2 in London, LG Arena in Birmingham, Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield and the Phones4U Arena in Manchester. It’s great to be part of the team and the excitement and atmosphere of each night can’t be described – you have to be there:

Voices Now on tour!

The Holst Singers and Together One Voice in Omagh

Well the Voices Now Festival is only a couple of years old and so it is all new for us to take the idea on tour. However, following our first ever festival at the Roundhouse in London in 2011 Valerie Whitworth, who had travelled over from Northern Ireland to take part, went home determined that Voices Now should come to her home.

Lots of things happened after that but the result was that we were able to take our new commission by Ēriks Ešenvalds over to be part of the City of Derry International Choral Festival as well as doing concerts and workshops in Omagh and Enniskillen.

For this adventure I also worked with the Holst Singers and The Roundhouse Choir – and although I have no direct association with them – I felt a huge sense of pride taking with me such amazing choirs. We also had the amazing Imogen Heap working with us improvising between Eriks’ songs. Here was the result in Derry:

We then went off to have a day in Enniskillen and a day in Omagh with the Holst Singers:

Holst Singers in Enniskillen

Crowd Out with BCMG

Davd Lang

I’m very excited to be working with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group again. I last worked with BCMG in the late nineties running their urban and rural touring which is still one of my favourite jobs of all time. It used to involve me driving round deepest rural Shropshire and finding unusual and out of the way places for BCMG to play. We had a lot of fun.

And I expect that this new project will be even more fun. We are working with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang from New York – who has written a brand new piece for 1000 voices.

My job is to work with BCMG to look for 1000 people of all ages to build an all-singing, all-shouting super group.

Then on 8 June 2014 – those involved will give the world premiere performances of Crowd Out at Birmingham’s Millennium Point, in one of the largest vocal events the city has ever seen!

Whether you prefer to stand out or become lost in a crowd, this is a fantastic opportunity to have your voice heard in the first ever performances of a brand new piece of music by one of the world’s leading composers, which will be led by Simon Halsey, one of the world’s top choral conductors.

Crowd Out has been written for people of all abilities – so anyone can take up the challenge and enjoy the thrill and satisfaction of giving voice to this distinctive new piece. This is your, your choir’s, your community group’s or your sports team’s chance to become part of the Crowd Out community and be at the centre of a major arts event in Birmingham and enjoy a truly unique experience!

David Lang has produced the first draft of his score and we will be trying it out with him at the CBSO Centre on Sunday 3rd November at 13:30 and you are invited to come and try it out with us!

So let me know if you fancy it… I guarantee a musical adventure… my email is clareedwards@mac.com

 

Simmer Down 2013

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I’m still recovering from Simmer Down in July. The busiest, craziest most exciting day for me as producer.

I’ve been working with The Drum and the partners of the Perry Barr Arts Forum for 5 years now on an event in Handsworth Park and 4 years ago we called it Simmer Down and it just gets bigger every year!

As well as an amazing line up of acts on the main stage including Birmingham’s own XOVA and the legendary Half Pint we had workshops, craft stalls, jerk chicken and children’s activities.

My theory that the sun always comes out for reggae events was again proved true and we estimate that at least 10,000 people from Birmingham and far beyond came to the day.

We are now working on Simmer Down 2014 and want your views and opinions and feedback from this year so we can make it even better – so please take the time to let us know what you think here.

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What a weekend of singing

BBC Singers and Harrow Schools  Photo Credit: Stuart Leech

BBC Singers and Harrow Schools
Photo Credit: Stuart Leech

I’ve just completed one of the most exhausting and most exhilarating weekends of my life so far. Voices Now at the Roundhouse was such an inspiration. So many people coming from around the country from York, Derry, East Anglia and Bristol and beyond to sing together under one roof.

Hilliard Ensemble, Excorde, The Renaissance Consort and Eo Nomine Photo Credit: Stuart Leech

Hilliard Ensemble, Excorde, The Renaissance Consort and Eo Nomine
Photo Credit: Stuart Leech

I have many highlights – but as ever the making music stage was inspirational with an even higher standard of singing this year and groups that had travelled from far and wide to be there; the daytime workshops over the weekend including a Dads and Lads workshop led by Tim Rhys Evans and the Sing Like a Bloke workshop led by Chris Samuel and of course the culmination of our project with the Hilliard Ensemble and our new commission from Eriks Esenvalds all have to get a mention.

Thank you to everyone who came to the Roundhouse. It really was unforgettable.

City Songs Performance Photo Credit: Stuart Leech

City Songs Performance
Photo Credit: Stuart Leech