Ignite at Wigmore Hall

The answer is Woodwose, a pioneering new community chamber opera by
composer Kerry Andrew, inspired by Britten’s folk songs and using tales
collected from the diverse local community of the London borough of
Westminster. Directed by Hazel Gould, designed by Ruth Paton, with musical
direction by Isabelle Adams, the opera will be performed at the Wigmore Hall on
19th July, featuring tenor Andrew Kennedy alongside a community cast
of over 150 drawn from across Westminster.

The work was created with the participants. Taking the idea of a folk-song
collection, Kerry Andrew has worked with the children involved to collect
lullabies, play songs and explore characters — particularly those who might
create fear or consternation. The folk material has been woven into the opera
in the way that Britten himself quoted and integrated folk song, nursery rhyme
and children’s song in his works — for example, in the opera The Turn
of the Screw
or the children’s opera The Little Sweep.

Leading the musical performance of the opera will be the musicians of
Ignite, Wigmore Learning’s resident ensemble, who will also be
creating some of the accompanying music. The ensemble will have to work with
flexibility and be able to respond quickly to different musical situations; the
accompaniments will be devised in just one workshop with the children!

Ignite were formed by Wigmore Learning, when leader and vibraphone
player, Jackie Walduck, approached them with the idea creating a Learning
Ensemble to work with a broader range of community groups, including children
in Westminster hospitals, young people who may be in vulnerably housing or have
refugee status, or who suffer from austistic spectrum disorders. Clearly
Ignite rise to considerable challenges and are prepared to take risks
in their workshops; the projects culminate in a performance by the participants
alongside musicians from Ignite. In the summer of 2012 all of these
groups, many of whom may be excluded from regular arts provision, came together
to perform a new piece commissioned from composer Param Vir, World-Filling
, as part of a large-scale community project calledBeautiful

Two movements from World-Filling Light were included in a short
concert entitled, ‘Aperitif’, given by Ignite on Tuesday 4
th June at the Wigmore Hall. ‘Jewels in the Sky’ was notable for
its Stravinskian rhythmic structures and overall form, while ‘World Filling
Light’ drew attention to the striking range of colours and timbres the
ensemble explore; here double bass player, Lucy Shaw, creating a wonderfully
sonorous line. In the opening work, ‘Kalavati’ — which was created after
Amjad Ali Khan met with Ignite in 2011 and sang them a raga which the ensemble
developed through improvisation — James Barralet’s haunting cello
glissandi were followed by a sequence of technically assured soloistic
sections which confirmed the group’s combination of artistry, imagination and

Clarinettist Vicky Wright, took the lead in Martin Butler’s How
, here receiving its world premiere in the presence of the composer.
Completing the ensemble was flautist Daniel Parkin, whose timbre was by turns
pure and gleaming, then shaded and dark. ‘Forest Overture’ and ‘Winter to
Spring — the opening and closing movements of Woodrose — were also
heard, the buoyant conclusion of the latter suggesting that the opera reaches a
joyful, uplifting conclusion.

Ignite musicians combine high calibre performance with strong
communication skills. Walduck described their ambitions: “Our aim has always
been to explore the boundaries of musical interaction and interpretation that
are inherent in chamber music performance practice. As an improviser, I was
keen to make improvisation central to our work. Doing so allows musical
interaction to encompass real-time creation of material, and extends
‘interpretation’ to choices of pitch, rhythm, ornamentation, musical role.
Interaction is at the heart of the performance, but also shape, the musical
structure. Working from one-page scores, in which some material is given, and
musical development is suggested, enables us to work with musical frameworks
beyond pure improvisation, so that we can create sudden shifts in material,
plan detailed textures, and work with interpretation at the ‘architectural’
level (in the way in which a string quartet might approach a Beethoven
movement, for example). It also ensures that we work with a range of materials,
harmonic disciplines, and importantly, dovetail artistically with Wigmore

Woodrose is performed at the Wigmore Hall on Friday 19th
July at 6.30pm. Find out more at: http://www.wigmore-hall.org.uk/woodwose-a-community-chamber-opera

Claire Seymour

image_description=Ignite [Photo courtesy of Wigmore Hall]
product_title=Ignite at Wigmore Hall
product_by=Commentary by Claire Seymour
product_id=Above: Ignite [Photo courtesy of Wigmore Hall]