Monday, 1 July 2013

Reels to Ragas 2013

Red Note Ensemble and Kuljit Bhamra
We are pleased to present a preview of the forhcoming Reels to Ragas 2013 tour by Red Note, written specially for us by John Harris, the chief executive of Red Note.

Red Note, a contemporary music ensemble founded in Scotland by 'cellist Robert Irvine in 2008 and now artistically directed and managed by Robert and me John Harris, recently found ourselves described as 'the most adventurous and versatile new musical outfit in Scotland' in the Glasgow Herald. It's probably a good description: 2013 sees us performing James Dillon's 40 minute New York Triptych at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, collaborating with the equally adventurous Flemish Music Theatre company LOD on a part-theatre part-film all-musical extravaganza by French composer-artist François Sarhan on a show called Enough Already, commissioning young Irish composer David Fennessy for the same Huddersfield 3-concert residency (his recent sort-of-opera with artist and cartoonist David Shrigley Pass The Spoon premiered in Glasgow and then transferred to the QEH), creating flashmob-style performances in rural Aberdeenshire with Northern Irish composer-improviser-conductor Brian Irvine, running our established Noisy Nights series of cabaret-style contemporary music shows in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen and ... touring the far-flung Western Isles of Scotland with Indian tabla player Kuljit Bhamra.

Somehow, the last one seems almost the most unlikely, amidst a whole gaggle of unlikely things. Until, that is, you consider the title of the tour: Reels to Ragas 2013, with the slightly tongue-in-cheek subtitle of 'Round the World Tour with Red Note and Kuljit Bhamra'. The '2013' is also a bit of a giveaway; Red Note have done this before, to much the same places - in 2012. So it must have been a success, for us to do it twice. But... what is it?

We're actually just about to release a CD of the music on Kuljit's label Keda Records. It all came about because Jackie Shave, our first violinist and the leader of the ensemble, had been working with Kuljit and was raving about what a wonderful musician he was. She had written a piece called From Machair to Myrrh, which explores multiple different musical styles within the span of one piece, and had worked with Kuljit on it. We asked Jackie to adapt it for 3 solo strings and tabla, and Kuljit to write some new pieces for the same ensemble, and it just took off from there.

The ensemble is a settled violin-viola-cello-tabla line-up, the music a truly eclectic mix of pieces by the members of the ensemble (Jackie Shave, Robert Irvine and Kuljit Bhamra, with Tom Hankey joining on viola for this tour (Clare Finnimore plays on the CD), the aforementioned Reels and traditional Scots melodies, music by John Mayer (he of the Indo-Jazz Fusions) and wildcards such as arrangements of the Bach 3-part inventions, Arvo Pärt's Fratres, or Lutoslawksi's Bucolics. So what is this: are we talking about the dreaded word 'Crossover'?

If it's Crossover, then we're not sure what's being crossed over. What's interesting is that the whole thing has evolved organically, embracing things that just seemed to fit, to 'breathe the same air', so to speak. It's never felt like we've had to squash things together unnaturally, or to leap unbridgeable divides. That seems to be the problem with 'Crossover', which is when you try to force two things together that really don't want to be together, like opera and drum 'n' bass. If something wasn't working in rehearsals, we'd just stop doing it. The amazing thing was just how much did seem to work, and how well.

The Reels to Ragas 2013 tour itinerary is as follows:

19 July 7:30pm An Cridhe, Arinagour, Isle of Coll www.ancridhe.co.uk
20 July 9:00pm Breakish Hall, Near Broadford, Skye IV49 9AB Tickets on the door
22 July 7:30pm The Missionhouse Studio, Finsbay, Harris www.missionhousestudio.blogspot.co.uk
23 July 7:30pm The Big Shed, Aberfeldy www.thebigsheds.blogspot.co.uk

For those who don't want to make the trek to the furthest-flung corners of the kingdom, the CD Reels to Raga is being launched at Club Inégales in London on 17th September, before the ensemble races back to Scotland to perform at the Lammermuir Festival in Haddington, East Lothian on 18th September. And thence back in to the rest of their adventuresome, versatile and - dare it be said - slightly exhausting lives.

John Harris Chief Exec of Red Note Ensemble
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