TDE Promotions – 15 April 2021
Two Live Streams from Wigmore Hall: Trish Clowes and Elaine Mitchener
“This was an outstanding start to the Associate Artists programme with Trish and Elaine, and encouraging evidence of an openness on the part of the Wigmore Hall, and also of the broader issue of the genre fluidity of so much contemporary music.”
Elaine Mitchener also moves between the jazz/improvised music and contemporary classical worlds. In recent years she has developed a number of projects related to the American black avant garde, notably Vocal Classics of the Black Avant Garde and The Jeanne Lee Project. The set began with Charles Mingus’ String Quartet No. 1, a wonderful piece written by Mingus for a string quartet and a vocalist. The piece was premiered at the Whitney Museum in New York in 1972 as part of an evening dedicated to the memory of the poet Frank O’Hara, and seems not to have been performed again until it was discovered by Anton Lukoszevieze, leader of the Apartment House ensemble. The piece is built around the words of O’Hara’s The Clown, the words of which clearly had a resonance for Mingus with lines such as:
‘What have you done?’ he screamed. ‘I was
not like this when you came’ ‘Alas’
they sighed ‘you were not like us’.
The piece is intense, full of exciting gestures, and was brilliantly performed by the string quartet and Elaine, the latter declaiming the words of the poem with great expression and drama. It is a great discovery that I hope might enter the string quartet repertoire.
In similar vein from the avant garde of the 1960s and 1970s were Jeanne Lee’s Mingus Meditations, Archie Shepp’s Blé and Christian Wolff’s later piece I Like To Think Of Harriet Tubman, which sets to music the text about Harriet Tubman by Susan Griffin. Then there were pieces by Benjamin Patterson, Duet for Voice and String Instruments, Louise Bourgeois, Insomnia Drawings, Elaine herself, Thought Word, and Katalin Ladik Genesis. In these pieces Elaine’s brilliant, dramatic and occasionally alarming vocals, either wordless or improvising round individual words, integrated well with either Neil Charles’ solo double bass, or the string quartet.
This was an outstanding start to the Associate Artists programme with Trish and Elaine, and encouraging evidence of an openness on the part of the Wigmore Hall, and also of the broader issue of the genre fluidity of so much contemporary music.