Thursday Lunchtimes: RNCM Piano Ensemble

Return to Thursday Lunchtimes: RNCM Piano Ensemble

Programme

John Psathas Voices at the End

Prologue – Mitote
Part 1 – Business as Usual – Predator
Part 2 – The Great Unravelling – Unravelling
Part 3 – The Great Turning – Ichi-Go Ichi-E
Epilogue – Chrysalis

Pianists:
Roderick Barrand *, Dawn Hardwick, Ben Powell *, Lauryna Sableviciute *, Graham Scott *, Adam Swayne *, Jeremy Young * Xavier Taschini, Coco Chen, Aaron Le Maistre, Yuxin PuYiting Zhang, Yong Ong, Ted Lloyd, Nalni Chen, Jiwoo SeoWinnie Su, Liana Storey, Joe Bloom, Gema LuCristoforo Beretti, Gabriela Waclawska, Eason YuanMatthew Johnson, Paula Lopez-Atanet, Susan Sou

* denotes RNCM tutor

The RNCM is committed to reducing its carbon footprint. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved so far but know we need to do more as we work to create a more sustainable world. One way we can make a huge difference is to minimise the number of printed programmes and free sheets we produce each season.

This is why we’ve decided to move away from mass produced, single use print for most of our events, offering an online programme of up-to-date information instead. Additionally, many of our concerts now include a personal introduction by members of staff and students, which gives insight into the repertoire performed as well as an opportunity to get to know our community a little more.   

Where printed programmes are still required, such as RNCM Opera performances and end of term showcases, content is thoughtfully produced using limited resources. An online option is also available for those wishing to support our mission.

We always welcome feedback from our audience members and would like to thank everyone who has supported our mission so far.

Biographies

Roderick Barrand

After graduating from Manchester University and the RNCM following completion of the joint course, Roderick did two years’ PG extension, specialising in accompaniment.

He then spent a year at the Wiener Hochschule fuer Musik und darstellende Kunst on an Austrian government scholarship, to increase his knowledge of German Lieder.

He returned to the UK to join the College as a staff pianist, became official pianist of two Choral Societies, appearing as accompanist and concerto soloist in their concerts.

He has also been official pianist for Summer Courses in Europe and the UK, including the LDSM and ‘London Masterclasses on Tour’ in August 2011.

His role at the RNCM includes accompanying classes in SVOS, SS and SWBP, masterclasses, students in public competitions, end of year recitals and one to one singing lessons/team-teachings on the ‘Access to Work’ scheme.

In  addition to his activities as a performer, he also coaches singers from home.

Roderick is  also  official accompanist  to  Salford  and  Sale  Choral  Societies.

Dawn Hardwick

Dawn is an experienced concerto soloist with a varied repertoire – from more traditional piano concertos to contemporary collaborations and experimental music. Most recently, she performed John Psathas’ double concerto ‘View From Olympus’ with percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie and the British Sinfonietta to great acclaim, also appearing with Dame Evelyn at the Southbank Sky Arts Awards, broadcast on the Sky Arts channel, and on BBC One’s ‘The One Show.

Well-established as an orchestral and chamber musician, she regularly works with the UK’s most respected orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia, Ulster Orchestra and Britten Sinfonia and London Sinfonietta, both at home and abroad.

Dawn has been involved in many radio and television broadcasts, such as James May’s ‘Man Lab’, the BBC Proms, and countless appearances on BBC Radio 3. She was the pianist for English Touring Opera’s Olivier Award-winning production of Tippett’s ‘King Priam’ and has recently been working with animator Gregoire Pont on ‘Cinesthetics’, a concert of the solo piano music of Ravel set to live animation, in association with Maestro Arts.

Ben Powell

Since winning the British Contemporary Piano Competition in 2010 Benjamin Powell has gained a reputation for intelligent and expressive performances with a strong commitment to contemporary music. He has performed across the UK and Europe as a soloist, chamber musician, and song accompanist in venues including Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, Snape Maltings, Bridgewater Hall, IRCAM (Paris), and Harpa (Reykjavik). In 2014 he was appointed pianist for Manchester’s leading contemporary music group, Psappha.

He has taken part in a performance of the complete solo piano music of Helmut Lachenmann at the Aldeburgh Festival and a performance of Marco Stroppa’s Traiettoria in IRCAM, Paris. Benjamin’s recording of selections from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier was used in the recent National Theatre production of ‘the Hard Problem’, Sir Tom Stoppard’s latest play.

 

Benjamin is much in demand as a chamber musician and has collaborated with many distinguished musicians including Stefano Canuti, Leland Chen, Levon Chilingirian, Craig Ogden, Miklós Perényi, Thomas Riebl, Sophie Rosa and Eva Thorarinsdottir.

He studied at the Royal Northern College of Music with Carole Presland and later (thanks to scholarships from the MBF, DAAD, and Lynn Foundation) with Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Alexander Melnikov at the Hochschule für Musik Cologne and RNCM respectively. Benjamin has also attended the International Musicians Seminar in Prussia Cove studying in the class of Thomas Adès.

Since 2007 Benjamin has been a staff pianist at the RNCM where he now also teaches piano. His students have gone on to win prizes in major competitions, including BBC Young Musician of the Year, James Mottram International Competiton, Manchester International Piano Concerto Competition and the British Contemporary Piano Competition.

Benjamin was born and raised in West Sussex and currently lives in Glossop with his wife and three children.

Lauryna Sableviciute

Lauryna Sableviciute began to give public recitals at a very early age and by the time she was 15 had already accumulated many prizes and honours in various competitions including prestigious national awards from the Czech Republic and Lithuania.

At the age of 15 she performed Vainiunas’ Piano Concerto together with the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Lithuania, and also performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 in B minor together with the National Philharmonic Orchestra of Lithuania in the Philharmonic Hall in Vilnius, which was broadcast on national radio.

Since graduating from the Vilnius Conservatoire in 1998 she has given many recitals internationally as a piano soloist, as a chamber musician and as an accompanist.

In addition to her interest in works from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods, she is also actively involved in introducing audiences to new works by composers from around the world including world and/or UK premieres from the following: Ennio Morricone (Italy), Yuri Kasparov Russia), Eduardo Miranda (Brazil), Graciela Paraskevaidís (Uruguay), Senderovas (Lithuania).

Graham Scott

Graham is Head of the School of Keyboard Studies. Hailed by the Gramophone magazine as ‘an exceptional talent’ he has performed extensively throughout the world most notably in New York (92nd St. Y), Washington DC (Kennedy Center), Los Angeles (Ambassador Auditorium), Tokyo (Suntory Hall), Beijing (Beijing Concert Hall and Forbidden City Concert Hall), Paris (Bagatelle) as well as all the major London venues (Wigmore Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Barbican Centre.)

He has performed with leading orchestras, notably the London Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National, Monte Carlo Philharmonic, Belgium National Symphony, Staatsphilharmonie Rheinlandpfalz (standing in for Martha Argerich), Cape Town Symphony, Singapore Symphony, St Louis Symphony and the New York Chamber Symphony under such conductors as Sir Charles Groves, Bernhard Klee, Marin Alsop, Paul Daniel, Barry Wordsworth and Alexander Lazarev.

Graham’s discography includes CDs of works by Scriabin, Gershwin, Macmillan and a live recital CD from Los Angeles. He has broadcast extensively on BBC Radio and National Public Radio in the USA.

Graham studied with Professor Ryszard Bakst at both Chetham’s School of Music and the RNCM.  He became the first artist to win both the YCA Inc. auditions in New York and the YCAT auditions in London. He also won the Dudley National Piano Competition and the Jaen International Piano Competition in Spain.

Since 2007 he has held the position of Head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music and the Artistic Director of the RNCM James Mottram International Piano Competition.  He has previously been a member of the jury of the Horowitz Competition in Kiev, the Gilels Competition in Odessa, the Alessandro Casagrande Competition in Terni Italy, the Rina Salo Gallo Competition in Monza Italy, the Jaen International Piano Competition in Spain and the YCAT auditions in London.

Graham has taught at many summer schools most notably Musicfest Perugia in Italy, the Colburn Festival Academy in Los Angeles, Chethams International Piano Summer School in Manchester and the Beijing International Music Festival and Academy.

Adam Swayne

Adam Swayne works with a vast range of musical media and styles that go beyond conventional labelling. He is just as at home giving a solo piano recital or conducting an orchestra as he is organising musical installations in art galleries or composing for amateur ensembles. He takes an inclusive, informative and innovative approach to music-making and has gained a large audience for his work.

Adam is a graduate of the joint course between Manchester University and the RNCM. He gained first class degrees from both institutions, and an MMus from the RNCM. Manchester University gave Adam their highest award (Sir Thomas Beecham Medal) along with other prizes including the Recital Prize. Prizes from the RNCM included the John Ireland Prize and an award for performances of contemporary music.

In 2003 Adam was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to begin doctoral studies at Northwestern University, U.S.A. He graduated in 2006 with distinction, having presented several U.S. premières of works by U.K. composers (and has since given several more in the opposite direction).

Having previously been Head of Chamber Music at the University of Chichester and a piano tutor at the Junior Royal Academy of Music, Adam joined the lecturing team at the RNCM in 2017 and was appointed Deputy Head of Keyboard Studies in 2020. He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Jeremy Young

Equally at home as a performer, composer and educator Jeremy has a unique artistic voice that has adapted to the changing musical landscape and gained him a reputation as one of Europe’s most versatile musicians.

As a collaborative pianist Jeremy has partnered many of the worlds most distinguished musicians including Sasha Sitkovetsky, Olivier Charlier, Mark Padmore, Julian Bliss, Liwei Qin, Peter Cropper, Roderick Williams, and Karine Georgian. He has performed with ensembles including Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Manchester Camerata, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Psappha and Piano Circus, and alongside world leading string quartets such as the Elias, Talich, Heath, Benyounes and Quatour Voce.

He has performed globally appearing in venues such as the Lincoln Center (New York), Herbst Theater (San Fransisco), Esplanade Hall (Singapore), Almaty Concert Hall (Kazakhstan), Shenzhen Concert Hall (China) Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, The Arts House (Singapore), Hsingchu Concert Hall (Taiwan), Bridgewater Hall (Manchester) and London’s Wigmore Hall.

He has performed concerti under the baton of Sir Richard Hickox and Marcus Stenz.

Jeremy has broadcast for BBC Radio 3, Classic FM, RTÉ Lyric FM, BBCTV, Channel 4 and radio in USA, China, Russia and much of Europe. His critically acclaimed recordings are available on EMI Asia, Decca, Sony, Hyperion, Meridian, Signum, Champs Hill, Somm and Naxos. His playing can also be heard on TV and films including recent releases such as ‘Supernova’ and ‘Munich-The Edge of War’.

An internationally recognised teacher, Jeremy has given performance classes at universities in Texas, Connecticut, Chicago and Lancaster in the USA, Yong-Siew Toh Conservatory, Shanghai Conservatory, Hsingchu University in Asia, and in Europe at the Sibelius Academy (Finland), Conservatorio di Verona, Yehudi Menuhin School, Purcell School, Royal Academy of Music, Tunnell Trust and the European Chamber Music Academy.

Jeremy has also had a long-standing relationship with theatre. As a young actor he was represented by the Sylvia Young Agency and appeared on stage in the West End in Alan Bennet’s ’40 Years On’ and the BBC drama ‘Bluebells’. He was the Musical Director for the West End production of Howard Blakes ‘The Snowman’ for 10 years and has worked as solo pianist for ‘American in Paris’ at the Dominion Theatre and has played keyboard on a number of West End shows.

Jeremy is a published composer for EMI/KPM with his music being used on TV shows across the globe. Recent sync’s include BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Fox US, HBO and Channel 5 amongst many others. His music is inspired and informed by his eclectic musical tastes and his diverse and varied career.

In 2006 Jeremy co-founded the South Downs Summer Music Festival in Sussex which he directed for 10 years and of which he remains the Chairman.

Jeremy Young was able to study at the Purcell School of Music through the UK government Specialist Music and Dance Scheme that supports young talented musicians, he went on to gain scholarships to study at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music.

He is currently Head of Chamber Music and Senior Tutor in Keyboard Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester UK.

John Psathas

Ioannis (John) Psathas was born in Wellington New Zealand July 3rd, 1966. His father (Emmanuel Psathas, from Nea Michaniona) and mother (Anastasia Psathas, from Thessaloniki) emigrated to New Zealand in 1960 (both sides of John’s ancestors descend from Anatoliki Thrace). His music emerges from a dazzling 21st century backdrop, where dynamic collaboration with creative masters from all corners of the physical and artistic globe result in outcomes that are visionary, moving, and inspired.

The Psathas family entered the restaurant business and John grew up in a small New Zealand town, Taumaranui. He then went to college in the city of Napier – where he developed a strong interest in music. He left college early to study piano and composition at Victoria University of Wellington. In 1988 John’s parents and sister (Tania) returned to Greece permanently. His parents live in Nea Michaniona. After completing his Master’s degree, John studied and worked for 2 years in the USA and in Belgium. Before returning to New Zealand in 1994 where he has lectured at Victoria University’s School of Music (now the New Zealand School of Music) ever since. He is now Professor of Composition.

Early career collaborations included working with such luminaries as Sir Mark Elder, Kristjan Jarvi, the Takacs Quartet, Lara St. John, the Netherlands Blazers Ensemble, Dame Evelyn Glennie, Edo de Wart, Joanna MacGregor, Pedro Carneiro, the Halle Orchestra, The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra of Emilia Romagna “Arturo Toscanini”, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and many more. Then followed a period of intense creative exploration in the worlds of electronica and jazz, and a series of mega-projects (such as scoring much of the opening ceremony of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games). All of which has led to an explosion of first-hand collaborations with artists from dozens of musical traditions spanning Asia, Europe, North and South America, Africa, and Australasia.

John is now developing projects that integrate the many strands of this creative journey. Much of his recent work has social and historical commentary at its core. The film White Lies (original film score) depicts a head-on clash of beliefs and the nature of identity in early NZ European settler society. Between Zero and One is inspired by ancient and modern rhythms, and brings musicians from around the world into the concert space via interactive projection, transforming and challenging the traditional experience of fixed-location, temporally-contained performance. _00 Years (in collaboration with the world’s most famous living Armenian, Serj Tankian) is an unflinching exploration and remembrance of the Armenian Genocide begun in 1915. Most recently, the epic and experimental No Man’s Land project overtly challenges the accepted handling of WWI commemoration. No Man’s Land involved filming and integrating 150 musicians from more than 25 different countries, including Oum El Ghait (Morocco), Meeta Pandit (India), Bijan Chemirani (Iran/France), Marta Sebestyen (Hungary), Vagelis Karipis (Greece), Refugees of Rap (Syria), and Derya Turkan and Saddredin Ozcimi (Turkey).

From genre-crossing projects with jazz legends Michael Brecker and Joshua Redman, to an innovative e-book scoring collaboration with Salman Rushdie, from an unforgettable recording session with the Grand Mufti in Paris’s Grand Mosque, to a Billboard classical-chart-topping album with System of a Down front man Serj Tankian, Psathas’s musical journey weaves through myriad of genres, and has moved concert audiences in more than 50 countries on all 7 continents (even Antarctica).

Programme Note (Short)

Voices at the End was originally inspired by the film Planetary.  In this film, author and environmental activist Joanna Macy suggested there are three stories that we have to choose from, to make sense of our lives now, to make sense of our world. The first story that we could see and accept as reality is Business as Usual. All we need to do is keep growing our economy. We could call that the industrial growth society.

But there’s a second story which is seen and accepted as the reality by the scientists and the activists. These are the people who lift back the carpet and look under the rug of Business as Usual and see what it’s costing us. And it’s costing us the world. We call that story The Great Unravelling. Unravelling is what biological and ecological and organic systems do as diversity is lost.  They shred.

That’s not the end of the story though, because there’s a third narrative, another lens through which we can choose to see. And that is that a revolution is taking place. A transition. From the industrial growth society to a life sustaining society. And it’s taking many forms, this third story, The Great Turning. It’s our story of survival and it’s got huge evolutionary pressures behind it. After all, the story of evolution is everybody’s autobiography.

These three stories – Business as Usual, The Great Unravelling, and The Great Turning, form the three parts of Voices at the End.

Programme Note (Long)

Born in New Zealand in 1966 the son of Greek immigrant parents, John Psathas is a genre-crossing composer whose formidable quantity of music draws on a broad spectrum of classical, jazz, rock and electronica. Film scores and music with digital audio also form part of an eclectic work list that reference an impressively wide cultural framework. Acclaim came early on with Matre’s Dance (1991), a high-octane duet for percussion and piano that later secured his international reputation through championship by Evelyn Glennie. Indeed, percussion has been a central stimulus for the composer who has subsequently found expressive outlet in a Double Concerto for percussion, piano and orchestra and Djinn, a concerto for marimba.

Voices at the End is described as a digital concerto for solo piano, pre-recorded pianos and backing track. Originally composed for six pianos and commissioned by Piano Circus, this version was especially reworked and recomposed in 2021 for Dawn Hardwick as both the live soloist and the recorded  pianist by the composer.

Its digital audio landscape comprises a pre-recorded soundscape of recitations, singing and instrumental performances created by Psathas in collaboration with the multi-media artist and composer David Downes. Of Voices at the End, Psathas observes it ‘tackles the uncomfortable condition of perpetual growth and its ruinous effect on our shared environment but offers hope in the form of the work being done to ensure the survival of our species’.

The work was originally inspired by the 2015 film Planetary, a provocative documentary by author and environmental activist Joanna Macy who investigates our cosmic origins and poses questions about potential ways forward for us, and our planet’s future. She suggests our prospects can be shaped in three ways: the first, which she calls ‘Business as Usual’, is to ignore the reality of our planet and maintain economic and industrial development. Secondly, she considers the cost of our inertia in ‘The Great Unravelling’. A third narrative, ‘The Great Turning’, is to encourage an environmental shift from an industrialised society to one that promotes sustainability. Macy proposes a kind of revolution to secure our survival.

These narratives form the three central panels of this five-movement work. Implicit in the work’s title Voices at the End, each movement ends with a single voice or multiple voices. In the prologue, we hear the Mahābhārata (one of two great Sanskrit epics of India); in ‘Business as Usual’, massed crowds chant in unison. In ‘The Great Unravelling’, the voice of the natural world reasserts itself after our demise, and in ‘The Great Turning’ we hear humanity’s interstellar message taken deep into outer space. Children’s voices conclude the ‘Epilogue’.

The work opens with a ‘Prologue – Mitote’ of abbreviated rhythmic patterns and sparse textures that draws inspiration from Don Miguel Ruiz’s spiritualist text ‘The Four Agreements’ comparing the human mind to a fog where people communicate but cannot understand one another. This yields to a spoken passage from the Mahābhārata expressing a desire to live regardless of danger.

‘Business as Usual’ is a movement of accumulating tension marked by aggressive, pulsing rhythms. On to these Psathas maps a digital accompaniment of explosions, a roaring bear and massed unison chanting capturing the notion of a world driven by insatiable, predatory forces bent on wilful destruction. Respite from this frenetic intensity arrives in the gradual reawakening that is ‘The Great Unravelling, its dramatic force derived from the juxtaposition of an Armenian love Song (sung by Briar Prastiti) and accumulating piano sonorities that culminate in explosive sound effects and atmospheric bird song. ‘Ichi-Go Ichi-E’  “One time, one meeting” – a Japanese four-character idiom that describes the concept of  treasuring meetings with people. Often translated as “for this time only,” “never again,” or “one chance in a lifetime.” The term reminds people to cherish any gathering that they may take part in, emphasising the idea that many meetings in life are not repeated. Ruminative piano textures convey a sense of peace for the brief movement ‘The Great Turning’ and form an appropriately calm background for a speech from the 1977 Voyager 1 space mission to communicate our world story to extra-terrestrials.

Bringing the work to a rhythmically propulsive close is ‘Epilogue – Chrysalis’ a pianistic joyride described by Psathas as ‘celebrating the acceptance of diversity and cultures of compassion, while conjuring powerful and positive forms of socialised energy’.  Overlayed on to its calm final bars are the sounds of children playing, hope cherished in their distant, if innocent voices.