sound Festival & Red Note commission set for first ever UK New Music Biennale

Red Note GCThe partnership between sound, Scotland’s leading New Music festival, Woodend Barn and the acclaimed Red Note Ensemble continues in a new commission from composer Stephen Montague, which is to be part of the UK’s first ever New Music Biennale.

Montague will write a new children’s work for 6 musicians and narrator based on tales sent in by children from different countries across the Commonwealth, which will be rewritten by award-winning playwright Zinnie Harris. The work will be premiered at Woodend Barn in Banchory (Aberdeenshire) in June 2014, followed by further performances at the South Bank Centre in London and in Glasgow as part of the 2014 Commonwealth Games celebrations.

The work will also be broadcast by BBC Radio 3 and recorded by NMC Records. The children’s stories will be sourced through one of Scotland’s major development charities, SCIAF’s, international partners. The commission was one of twenty announced by the PRS for Music Foundation at London’s South Bank Centre.

Red Note Ensemble Spring Programme

13 Feb New Music for Strings side-by-side with RCS MusicLab, 7:30pm Music by Part, Adams, McPherson, Munday and Le Lohé

14-16 Feb Red Note and JAM (1) Music for Choir, Organ and Brass in St Andrews, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, all 7:30pm Music by Britten, Rory Boyle, Philip Cooke, Kenneth Leighton and Julian Philips

19-20 Feb Red Note and JAM (2) Music for Voices, Organ and Strings in Glasgow and Edinburgh, all 8pm Music by Pergolesi and Judith Bingham.

25 Feb Noisy Night No. 21 in the Traverse Theatre, 8pm: music for Trumpet, Flute and ‘Cello

6-8 Mar Pictures at an Exhibition Workshops for Primary Schools in Association with Peacock Visual Arts in the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen

9 Mar Noisy Night No. 22 in the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 8pm: more music for Trumpet, Flute and ‘Cello!

All information on all of these is to be found on; composers should consult for the line-ups and deadlines for the two Noisy Nights (Aberdeen and Aberdeen-area composers are especially encouraged to submit for the Lemon Tree performance).

End of the World (for one night only)

End of the World (for one night only) is one-off, site-specific music-and-theatre piece about the predicted apocalypse on 21 December, for an audience of only 100 people who will travel around the amazing spaces inside Summerhall.  

Featuring music by Gareth Williams, John Harris, Hanna Tuulikki, Colin Broom and Ludwig van Beethoven, writer Oliver Emmanuel has interwoven the stories of four everyday people living their lives in Edinburgh, on the last day of the world. There’s a man who remembers everything and wants to die, a silent PhD student who is in love with a librarian, a musician trying to finish his third symphony and a Golden Eagle who wants to be a human. 

Most productions about the end of the world tend to be grand and epic and set in New York. This is intimate and fluid and set in Edinburgh. Directed by Andy Arnold, four string players (Jackie Shave violin, Tom Hankey violin, Louise Williams viola and Robert Irvine cello) are joined by the eerie sound of the musical saw from Abi Vulliamy and the wonderful young soprano Marie Claire Breen (who sang in Red Note’s Tantallon! These Lands, This Wall spectacular in September).

The music, in all kinds of different styles, will express the things you can’t say about the world ending; lost loves, last words, hope, peace, despair, pride, loss and acceptance…

The Intoxicating Rose Garden

The Intoxicating Rose Garden is a new hybrid work which takes Sally Beamish’s settings of poems by Hafez, the 14th century Persian mystic, as its starting-point. Combining music, song, dance and animated image, it explores the longing and separation, as well as the sense of belonging and completeness that are so present in Hafez’s poems: elements that somehow conflict with and complement one another in the same moment.

The animated images are based on Jila Peacock’s renderings of Hafez poetry in figural calligraphy. Red Note will be joined by the multi-faceted singer and dancer/choreographer, Michael Popper, and the outstanding young Iranian setar player Anoosh Jahanshahi, who will perform his own Songs from Hafez in traditional Persian classical style.

Tolbooth in Stirling 8:00pm, 15 November
Woodend Barn in Banchory 10:30am and 8:00pm, 17 November
Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh 7:30pm, 22 November

Think you know The Magic Flute? Think again…

Red Note Ensemble debut at Bath International Festival. 

Red Note Ensemble, Scotland’s contemporary music ensemble, debut at this year’s Bath International Festival in the highly acclaimed production of Mozart’s joyously extrovert opera The Magic Flute.

Directed by Richard Williams, Mozart’s iconic music is a new adaptation for chamber ensemble and Festival Artistic Director Joanna MacGregor’s farewell performance. In the immediate vibrancy of Bath premiere venue Komedia, The Magic Flute recaptures the excitement and popularity of Mozart’s first performance in Vienna’s small Freihaus Theatre in 1791.

Set in a mythical, modern city and in a super-skyscraper, Red Note Ensemble perform with a cast of young international opera singers. The once famous but now reclusive star, The Queen of the Night, has taken refuge. Tamino, the young reporter is out to get a scoop; has Pamina been kidnapped by her father, the multi-media mogul Sarastro, and why are there trials of fire and water for Tamino and Pamina?

Originally arranged for an orchestra hidden in the pit, this chamber arrangement brings the virtuosity of Red Note’s nine brilliant players, right to the front of the stage. Apart from woodwind and strings, you’ll hear Mozart’s gorgeous music played by a sensational accordionist, capturing Wolfgang’s superb populist spirit, and Joanna MacGregor directs from a magic keyboard too!

John Harris, Director of Red Note, says, “This is going to be a lot of fun for us at Red Note. We love Joanna MacGregor, we love her virtuosity, we love the way she thinks about music and makes new things happen, and we’re incredibly excited to see how she and her team re-make Mozart’s wonderful opera for the 21st Century”

The setting moves from the dark lair of Queen of the Night, to Sarastro’s contemporary penthouse hideaway. The set spills out from the stage to the auditorium, as does the action in places, and a silver tree in the audience provides the clues to Tamino and Pamina’s last trial.

This is Mozart at its very best – sparkling, witty, and faithful to the original. Performed in English, this fast-moving, modern dress production has been acclaimed for its clarity, wit and touching sensibility. Highly recommended for all ages, this is true family entertainment with a faultless pedigree, and a delight for both newcomers and opera fans.

Red Note Ensemble, Hear us first.

4 Star Review in Scotsman for Red Note’s Noisy Nights

Gig review: Red Note Ensemble, Edinburgh Jam House
By David Kettle
Published on Thursday 10 May 2012 04:02

With its array of massed laptops, miles of cabling, hi-tech headsets and glowing touch-sensitive globes, this was never going to be an ordinary evening – not even for the crack players of Scottish contemporary music Red Note.

The group joined forces with the Edinburgh-based Inventor Composer Coaction for seven new pieces combining instrumental sounds and live electronic manipulations of those sounds in some startlingly original ways.

The ever-changing textures of Jessica Aslan’s likeable Cache, for example, triggered sampled noises from Diemo Schwarz’s CataRT software to conjure a ghostly mirror ensemble, heard but never seen. The Red Note players donned sensors that looked worryingly like offenders’ tags for Shiori Usui’s aptly titled Into the Flesh, which they performed as much with their muscle movements as with their instruments.

Admittedly, the technology outshone the musical content in some pieces, and the raucous improvisations of Christos Michalakos’s concluding Death Ground (Approximately) seemed a little out of place.

But Stuart MacRae’s masterful Shadow Study showed that less can be so much more, its quiet unisons gradually gathering a halo of subtle electronic effects as the piece developed.

The high point of the evening, though, was Harry Whalley’s Clasp Together (beta), which required Red Note clarinettist Peter Furniss to don a headband in order to control the piece’s electronics with his brainwaves. The score includes thought commands for the performer, the programme notes informed us, and watching Furniss close his eyes and relax his mind to take the piece to its quiet conclusion was unforgettable.

Rating: ****