BBC Open Ear @ LSO St Luke’s

Tony Andrews (Jazz and contemporary music editor) writes ....

I am not sure if I have mentioned it before but apart from attending as many Jazz Concerts as possible I am regularly found at BBC Radio Recordings.

One BBC Recording I never miss is Open Ear - the Flagship for Contemporary Music on Radio 3. The regular venue for this is LSO St Luke's in Old Street, London. As the name implies, this is the home of The London Symphony Orchestra but many other musical ensembles perform in this beautiful performance space.

The one aspect of Open Ear which always excites me is the fact that the range of contemporary music performed is difficult to define and, to be blunt, you never know what to expect. Most concerts are predictable because, of course, you ‘know’ basically the type of music being performed ….. but not at Open Ear.

Although Open Ear covers all forms of experimental music, I’m very rarely disappointed and/or frustrated with the content. My recent visit was a perfect example of a wide range of performers and musical styles. I usually find there is one stand-out performer and on this visit was no exception.

Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian can only be described as Electro Folk. There might be a better description out there but I can't think of one at this time of writing. Cevanne has a voice to savour and she reminds me of a young version of June Tabor -the Grand Dame of English Folk Music. However, this is where the comparison ends because Cevanne combines Folk Songs with electronic affects generated from her head gear.

This was designed by Milliner Jodie Cartman but with the addition of sensors which, when touched, control a Midi Processor. When Cevanne tilts her head this also controls other electronics by the use of an Accelerometer which I am led to believe is technology found in mobile phones.

Now before you start to think that this all sounds a bit gimmicky, please put this out of your head completely. It’s all part of the performance experience and I was entranced by the whole experience and so my two friends who attended with me. Cevanne seeks out traditional Folk material and reworks this but without dismissing the original content. She also plays the Harp like a master of the instrument.

Cevanne usually collaborates with her musical partner Crewdson as Crewdson & Cevanne but on this occasion the performance was a solo effort.

The four songs performed were “Two Sisters”, “Two Machines, “They Forgot” and "Sisa's Well" which is about the Sizewell Nuclear Power Plant and featured the humming of the Reactor. I am perfectly aware that Open Ear is a Radio Show but Cevanne is not only a musical experience to savour but a visual treat to enhance the music content. If you want to experience the visuals then there is a website with video.

As I ventured home on a cold a dreary evening I was kept feeling warm by repeatedly reliving the experience. A CD is on the horizon and I will review this as soon as I can get me hands on this.

The whole evening was a delight with two performance by an amazing pianist Eliza McCarthy who also joined the ensemble Decibel for three performances.

Decibel had the affect of creating what I can only describe as Avante Garde Jazz but with a rhythmic structure and I found them to be very creative and a joy to behold. The last performer was Guitarist Christophe Guirad who did two performances which were very distinctive and creative. The first piece “Hiera picra Hellebores” would make a good soundtrack for a dark spy thriller film.

Listen out for Open Ear on Radio 3 and have your mind expanded.


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