INTERVIEW: Jonathan Burrows (Burrows & Fargion)

Interview

Choreographer Jonathon Burrows speaks to The Prickle about a new Burrows & Fargion double bill at Sadler’s Wells: Rewriting (2019), and Science Fiction (2021).

– Who are your inspirations?

I think the interesting thing is how many different, overlapping and constantly changing inspirations people have, which reflects the ways in which culture is always about the work of the many, rather than a few select individuals. And I love how the things you love don’t have to make sense together. I love dub reggae sound system culture, but I also play English folk music.

– You and composer Matteo Fargion been collaborators for thirty years; how have you managed to work together all this time?

I think Matteo is a very patient person, but also we don’t have many meetings and that seems to help.

– Burrows & Fargion pieces straddle the line between dance, music, performance art and comedy. How would you describe a typical audience member?

We have three philosophies about audience, which have kept us going over the years. The first is, “Whoever comes is the right person”. The second is, “How the audience sit is how we should sit”. And the third is, “Equal together under the same roof”. When these ideas work, people spontaneously seem to walk onstage at the end, to look at our scores and talk. And then you find out there’s no typical audience member at all.

– What’s next for Burrows & Fargion?

We don’t really make plans for the future, but rather just try to keep going with our practice, and all the parts of the practice are important, including performing, teaching, talking, writing and so on. For twenty years we’ve had no office and no regular funding, and we share all aspects of the work and pay equally. We like it that way, as it means we don’t have to make any promises about what we might or might not manage to do.

Burrows & Fargion Rewriting and Science Fiction plays at Sadler’s Wells 5 – 6 May 2022.

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REFLECTIONS | Berlin, Bar Jeder Vernunft

Recommended

Jack Woodhead’s new show Reflections is bruising, wounding cabaret in all its rabid, raucous splendour. After committing a murder – matricide – reflecting is Jack’s coping mechanism, a spectacular and intimate form of PTSD. Jack’s shimmering and darting reflections move with streamline precision towards redemption through loss of memory. In his own words, Jack searches “far and wide” for his forgotten inner child. He must remember what is forgotten, in order to forget what he remembers.

But did Jack murder his mother? Perhaps he’s just a little drunk, just a little lonely, sipping a tipple while sitting in a moth-eaten armchair in a cold flat in a dark windswept city no one has heard of. Perhaps he lives a life of quiet desperation that reaches sublime heights that no one will ever know.

Reflections is life seen through a peephole, magnified and whispered through art and alcohol. It shows how life can slap you around and you may just slap it back. It shows imagination as a corrective and rampart to reality. But though reality bites back, the siren call of the forgotten inner child, lured to the surface by alcohol, trauma, or simply by childlike wonder, can provide solace.

Somewhere between Beethoven and burlesque, with his band of four, Jack Woodhead manages to negotiate a musical metamorphosis from concert pianist to cabaret star. His dramatic make-up is only surpassed by his eccentric stage outfits. Flashy and provocative in nail varnish, leather, fur and sequins, he moves elegantly and sleekly across the stage. His performance is lightning fast, sharp as a razor and completely wacky.

Next playing 25 April and 13 June 2022 at Bar Jeder Vernunft, Berlin.

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INTERVIEW | Anna Ferrer, Magalí Sare & Manel Fortià

Interview

The Prickle spoke to Balearic singer and multi-instrumentalist Anna Ferrer, alongside Catalan jazz duo Magalí Sare & Manel Fortià. They will be performing at The Pheasantry in London on 5-6 April, as part of Spotlight on Catalan Culture – the UK’s largest festival of Catalan arts, music and culture taking place across the UK March – June 2022.

– What does the Spotlight on Catalan Culture festival mean to you?

FORTIÀ: It is a great opportunity that allows us to show what kind of music we do outside Catalonia and how the audience reacts to it.

SARE: I love the fact that a festival like this exists. It’s a very cool way for locals to discover new music and to create new bonds between these cultures.

– How about audience members who can’t speak Catalan, and are totally new to Catalan music and culture; do you think they will still have a good time?

SARE: Of course they will! And we will also explain the songs during the concert.

FERRER: The reality of what one wants to say, if it’s authentic and comes from the heart, can come through via other, much more intangible ways.

– Many people say music is universal: do you think that’s true?

FERRER: Humanity is universal, the feeling of belonging to a cultural net is universal… and music is one of the first forms of expression of a community. Without a doubt, yes: music is universal.

FORTIÀ: Sometimes I have played with musicians that didn’t speak the same language as me and it worked well. It is the magic part of the music.

– Fish and chips or roast dinner?

FERRER: Fish and chips.

SARE: Roast dinner.

FORTIÀ: Mediterranean food.

Book online for 5-6 April 2022 at Pizza Express Live.

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INTERVIEW | Jacob Mann

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Multi-talented musician Jacob Mann is the driving force behind the Jacob Mann Big Band and Shrek Is Love.

– Where is home for you?

I was born and raised in Las Vegas, and then, aged eighteen, I moved to Los Angeles for college, and I’ve lived there ever since. The two cities are pretty close together, so I consider them both to be my home — Vegas is my hometown, and LA is my city of residence.

– You wear many hats: you’re a composer, arranger and bandleader, but you’re also a talented pianist and keyboard player both for studio recordings and live performances, and you also seem to love the production side of things. Is there one hat you wear more than others? Is there one hat you’re most comfortable wearing? Is there a hat you long to wear?

I really enjoy the variety that comes with being a musician. Some people ask what a normal month looks like for me, and I laugh and say I have no idea. If I can wake up and spend some part of the day thinking about music, regardless of the context, it feels like a victory. So I guess I’d say I enjoy all hats equally. Some hats I’d love to wear in the future would be writing for a full orchestra; scoring a TV show or film; playing in the house band of a talk show; and touring under my own name.

– Tell us about your latest album with the Jacob Mann Big Band, Greatest Hits Vol. 3 (2022).

I had the goal of releasing a full-length big band album before my thirtieth birthday, and I wanted to record two completely different big bands, in order to get more musicians involved. I tend to write music with specific people in mind, so having two separate bands was a nice opportunity to write different types of tunes. Each band recorded four charts, and we tracked the whole album in one day, which was exhausting, but a lot of fun – the bands brought this music to life in an incredible way; I’m really happy with how it turned out.

– What’s next for Jacob Mann?

Right now I’m working on some collaboration albums that I’m very excited about. I’m excited to keep writing, arranging, and playing whenever I can!

Visit Jacob Mann on Bandcamp to hear Jacob Mann Big Band’s new release, Greatest Hits Vol. 3.

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INTERVIEW | Septime Webre

Interview

Septime Webre is the artistic director of Hong Kong Ballet. He was kind enough to talk to us about Hong Kong Ballet’s new, upcoming production of The Nutcracker.

What made you decide it’s time for a new production of The Nutcracker?

The Nutcracker is a holiday tradition – the Christmas season just wouldn’t be the same without it! Our current production is almost ten years old, and it seemed like the right time for a make-over. The new production is set in early twentieth century Hong Kong, and is a celebration of Hong Kong’s culture, history and natural beauty – I think it will resonate with Hong Kong people.

What about all those audiences who still love the old production of The Nutcracker?

The essence of the previous production is to be found in the majestic Tchaikovsky score, and that remains intact. In fact, the music is the heart of The Nutcracker, and this new production provides the roadmap: it’s very much a return to the original ballet’s concepts, a charming story of a young girl’s marvellous journey to magical new lands.

What have been your major aims for Hong Kong Ballet, since taking on the role of artistic director in 2017?

We have long been one of Asia’s premier ballet companies—our goal is also to be its most forward-looking, with a focus on being cherished locally and respected globally.  We’ve endeavoured to reflect Hong Kong more thoroughly, while simultaneously raising the classical standards of the company. And we’re achieving our goals!

What’s next for Hong Kong Ballet?

So much exciting new work!  A major residency at M+, Hong Kong’s new signature contemporary art museum; the return of Yuri Ng’s lively Ballet Classics for Children: Swan Lake; a mixed bill which celebrates the rule-breakers of ballet; a new full-length ballet about the life of Coco Chanel, and more!

Playing 11 – 26 December 2021 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Grand Theatre.

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DISNEY IN CONCERT: MAGICAL MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES | Hong Kong, KITEC Star Hall

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This summer, the renowned Hong Kong Symphonic Winds Symphony Orchestra are inviting us to experience some of the most beloved Disney scores of all time, with Disney in Concert: Magical Music from the Movies. Joined by four powerhouse vocalists, and conducted by Fung Ka Hing, the orchestra play alongside perfectly synchronized projected video clips from iconic Disney films, so the whole family can enjoy.

Audiences will be treated to Disney’s most iconic scores and songs, including for the Oscar-winning animated features The Little Mermaid (1989), Beauty and the Beast (1991), Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994). Live action features like Mary Poppins (1964) and the swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean film series are also set to be particular crowdpleasers.

This is without doubt the perfect pick for a youngster’s first concert. Founded in 1987, The Hong Kong Symphonic Winds (HKSW) is the first amateur band in Hong Kong with considerable size and structure, devoted to promoting music education in the community. The standard is extremely high, with a number of top professional players among the ranks.

These family-friendly concerts are always extremely popular, so book early to avoid disappointment. There is no better way to fall in love with the magic of a live orchestra than through the magic of Disney.

Presentation licensed by Disney Concerts © All rights reserved

Book online now for 31 July and 1 August 2021.

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HK BALLET SEASON 2020/2021 | Hong Kong

Recommended


Don Quixote | Li Lin and Hong Kong Ballet Dancers | Photographer: Conrad Dy-Liacco | Courtesy of Hong Kong Ballet

We could not be more thrilled that Hong Kong Ballet, Asia’s premier ballet company, is pirouetting, glissading and jetéing back into live performance starting 30 October 2020.

This new season is bursting with classics, including: Don Quixote (30 October 2020); The Nutcracker (18 December 2020); Artistic Director Septime Webre’s Ballet Classics for Children: Cinderella, featuring a stripped-down and narrated version of Prokofiev’s score (30 January 2021); Balanchine’s Jewels (21 May 2021); and Septime Webre’s new Romeo + Juliet, with the Hong Kong Sinfonietta on Prokofiev’s iconic score (18 June 2021).

In addition, Hong Kong Ballet will be running turn(it)out festival for two weeks at West Kowloon Cultural District’s Freespace, kicking off with an opening gala on 29 January 2021. The Vivaldi / Handel Project follows on 5 February 2021, along with a ton of interactive, family-friendly activities and events throughout the two weeks.

Artistic Director Septime Webre says that the central theme for the new season is, quite simply, love: “The word “love” infuses absolutely everything at Hong Kong Ballet: love of being a dance artist, and love for our amazing city, which has seen and experienced so much this past year. Love fuels the dedicated work we do, and drives the innovative ways we engage with the community. Love is not about getting – it’s about giving.” Well, we certainly cannot wait to celebrate this love for ballet in Hong Kong again.

Read Hong Kong Ballet’s new brochure and get booking.

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THE RIVER RUNNER | London, Streatham Space

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Glimmer Theatre’s exciting new family show comes back to London’s Streatham Space this February half term, for eight performances only, promising ice skating, magic and adventure – brought to life with stirring live music, and Glimmer Theatre’s trademark beautiful imagery, inspired by “A Rich Theatre by Little Means”.

Co-artistic director Sophie Crawford, who has also composed the show’s live music, most recently appeared in Warhorse and Amélie in the West End. She chalks the show’s success down to the passion of the whole company: “We are passionate about creating family theatre with an inspiring message,” she says. “I think it introduces children to characters and places they might never have encountered before.”

Co-artistic director and designer Andy Brock agrees: “The show is very entertaining, and rehearsals have been extremely playful, which I think comes through in performance, too. But at its core, The River Runner is a story about a strong young woman, who uses her talent and skill to change the world around her.”

It’s 1901 in Isleham village, Cambridgeshire, and Annabelle Howgego is the best ice skater for miles around. With metal skates strapped to her boots, Annabelle casts off her dull life as a scullery maid, and becomes a champion skater. But this year, something rises up from the frozen river, and sends the village into chaos. It’s down to Annabelle to save her village and solve the mystery of what lurks beneath the ice.

You can read our review of the show here.

The River Runner will be skating back into Streatham Space 20 – 23 February 2020.

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SWIM COLLECTIVE: INSTANT HAPPINESS IMPROV JAZZ NIGHT | Hong Kong, Eaton HK, Terrible Baby

Recommended

How do you like your improv jazz? Completely mental? Then SWIM Collective is for you. It’s unusual for contemporary free jazz to feature a vocalist; three vocalists even moreso. But this is the ensemble’s strength and USP: a highly theatrical, human sound. An accompanying band of harp, keyboard, cello, percussion and electronics allows for a diverse range of expression.

Some of the vocal improvisation is straight out of the Toronto Blessings of the 1990s, a flurry of impassioned tongues, over dissonant spreads of expressionist harp and piano cluster-chords. Sometimes the singers merely coo gently; sometimes they are silent.

One of the most fascinating things about these through-composed, non-repeating, freely improvised pieces, is how the style slowly (sometimes imperceptibly) weaves in and out of free-rhythm effects and anchored, rhythmic, tonal grooves. The whole ensemble are really listening to each other and giving each other space, never trying to dominate the sound. Sometimes this leads to moments of complete silence.

Audience participation is highly encouraged. Everyone is given some tissue paper, and a lucky few are given some spoons. Being conducted in and out, at different volume levels, the sound of paper rustling and spoons clinking en masse is quite mesmerising, and the chance to be involved feels pretty special.

Follow SWIM Collective on Facebook.

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TJOE & NTBM | Hong Kong, Peel Fresco

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It’s hard to put into words how impressive and special this weekly jazz night is at this tiny live music venue near the party district around Central. Tjoe Man Cheung is a young jazz guitarist of exceptional skill, who, despite his unassuming demeanour, is clearly an excellent bandleader too. Moreover, he seems to know every dynamite musician in Hong Kong, so his “jam session” ends up being of a ridiculously high standard.

NTBM stands for “Not To Be Missed”, and this is apt. The actual “house band” line-up might be slightly different each Sunday evening, but whoever you get, you can be sure of a few pre-rehearsed tunes of outstanding quality, hovering around contemporary jazz-funk, to suit Tjoe’s guitar.

But the star attraction is the jam. Musician after musician, every audience member who joins the action is unique and phenomenal. There doesn’t appear to be any sheet music, even for the niche and complex numbers: just a quick murmur amongst themselves of the title and the key, and away they go, sounding tighter than a lot of pro bands. How is this possible? You may find a Japanese tap-dancer joins in with an improvised solo worthy of its own Broadway show, or an avant-garde vocalist improvises disquietingly around a classic, or a drummer changes tack and rocks out on a melodica (à la Jacob Collier).

Audience participation is very much encouraged. A couple of singers get up who are not first-rate, but relish the opportunity to perform. Little percussion instruments get passed around. It’s a steal at $100 HKD entry; although this entry fee is waived for latecomers who miss the main show. The bar is outrageously expensive (think $75 HKD for a Diet Coke) but still NTBM.

Check out all the live music at Peel Fresco online.

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