Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Handel House Talent

Caoimhe de Paor, Laurence Cummings, Elspeth Robertson, Cathy Bell, Marie van Rhijn, Edwin Hillier, Katarzyna and George Ross - By Lucy Judson (c) Handel House Trust Ltd
Caoimhe de Paor, Laurence Cummings, Elspeth Robertson, Cathy Bell,
Marie van Rhijn, Edwin Hillier, Katarzyna and George Ross
By Lucy Judson (c) Handel House Trust Ltd
The Handel House Museum has had a composer in residence for some time (the current one is Cevanne Horrocks Hopayian and her final sequence of concerts is in November). I went along to the Handel House on Monday, to meet the new Composer in Residence Apprentice as well as the members of a new scheme Handel House Talent.

Edwin Hillier is the Handel House's new Composer in Residence Apprentice. This year the scheme has been somewhat re-focussed with the intention of supporting a composer at the beginning of the their career (Hillier was born in 1988). Whilst at the Handel House, he will also be studying for his doctorate at the Royal College of Music. Hillier's work at the Handel House will involve outreach and educational work, as well as writing new pieces inspired by the building. Talking to him, it was clear that as with many people, simply being in the rooms where Handel lived and worked was a remarkable experience and would be informing his coming work. He is already interested in the intersection between ancient and modern, with a piece for a recorder quartet coming up.

In a way Handel House Talent scheme is an extension of the composer residency, but this time applying to performers. A group of six young professional baroque music performers have been chosen to join the scheme. They will perform at the house, have masterclasses, work with Laurence Cummings and there will be opportunities to rehearse and work at the house. There will be show-case concert, but to a certain extent the scheme is flexible and Handel House director Sarah Bardwell hopes that the participants will be able to develop their own work and collaborate.

The young performers are a varied group, mezzo-soprano Cathy Bell, harpsichordist Katarzyna Kowalik, recorder player Caoimhe de Paor, harpsichordist Marie van Rhijn, recorder player Elspeth Robinson and cellist George Ross. Talking to them, it is clear that whilst all have a strong interest in the music of the baroque, they venture into far wider territories.

This is highly appropriate for a museum which houses not only Handel's house, but the flat where Jimi Hendrix lived (and Hendrix's flat is part of a new project to open up the museum further). We talked about the intersection between modern and ancient repertoire. Whilst singer Cathy Bell's main interests lie in the early repertoire and contemporary, for the recorder players Caoimhe de Paor and Elspeth Robinson, there is in fact little in between; but modern composers have been exploring the contemporary repertoire.

Harpsichordist Katarzyna Kowalik is originally from Poland and we talked about the pioneer 20th century harpsichordist Wanda Landowska. Kowalik is interested in Landowska's work not just as a harpsichordist, but as a composer. Though, of course, Landowska played on a harpsichord far bigger than used nowadays, and it was still regarded as quiet by contemporaries. But this is something that modern performers still have to deal with when performing in large venues, and Laurence Cummings talked about the strategies that performers need to draw the audience in. Cellist George Ross will be doing research at the RCM whilst on the Handel Talent scheme, and he hopes to be looking at the unaccompanied cello repertoire, and our talked veered from Bach's cello suites through to the outrageous Etudes written by the Italian cellist Carlo Alfredo Piatti (1822 - 1901).

All involved seem to have not just a fine technique, but lively and enquiring attitudes with and interesting flexibility of mind. It will be fascinating to see how the scheme develops and to hear how performers and composer respond to the remarkable spaces at the museum.

Cevanne Horrocks Hopayian's EYEMUSIC - Seeing Sound concerts at the Handel House Museum run in Novemeber (13, 16, 20, 23 November)
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