I (Emma McNally)  am currently showing drawings ‘Choral Fields 1-6′ as part of MIRRORCITY at Hayward Gallery.
These drawings were made in a small space at West India Dock jetty right beside the Thames (kindly facilitated by the Canal and River Trust).
I’ll be regularly posting things made, seen and found in the vicinity of the jetty on the Southbank Centre blog for the duration of the show.

So, to start, here is a great video, ‘The London Evolution Animation’ (via Adam Greenfield):

The LEA was developed by The Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (UCL), as a partnership project between Dr Kiril Stanilov -The Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction (University of Cambridge), Museum of London Archaeology (with the Mapping London and Locating London’s Past projects) and using data from the National Heritage List for England, courtesy of English Heritage. It was initiated and directed by Polly Hudson (PHD).
The London Evolution Animation (LEA) shows the historical development of London from Roman times to today, using georeferenced road network data brought together for the first time. The animation also visualizes (as enlarging yellow points) the position and number of statutorily protected buildings and structures built during each period.

Further information on its production can be found below.








Kyung Wha Chung: The Legend Returns

This December, celebrated Korean violinist Kyung Wha Chung returns to Royal Festival Hall for her first UK appearance in over a decade.
Watch this video to see Korean violinist Kyung Wha Chung talk honestly about her career, injury, and comeback.
Kyung Wha Chung performs a recital of Mozart, Prokofiev, Bach and Franck.
Tuesday 2 December
Kyung Wha Chung
Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm

An interview with Eugene Drucker of the Emerson Quartet

The multiple award-winning Emerson Quartet makes a welcome return to Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall  Sunday 16 November 2014. Book tickets here.

Emerson Quartet. credit Lisa Mazzucco

Emerson Quartet. credit Lisa Mazzucco

The best way to ruin a joke is to explain it. So without going too far in deconstructing one of Haydn’s best-loved quartets, Op.33 No.2 ‘Joke’, suffice it to say that if you don’t know it you’re in for a surprise. In this work the great composer demonstrates his good humour, as well as the ceaseless invention that earned him his title as father of the string quartet. Gene Drucker explains: ‘Beyond the sense of him being witty, he’s playing with listeners’ expectations. He’s not only trying to be funny, but to achieve the unexpected.’

Haydn didn’t in fact call this quartet the ‘Joke’: like all his quartets’ nicknames, it was applied later by others. However, Drucker says, ‘I can’t imagine he meant anything other than a humorous effect. The whole finale is a lighthearted romp. This idea of disrupting expectations is part of an open-ended approach to any form of music or even other arts: maintaining suspense, not letting the audience become complacent.’

Beethoven, too, was not ready to allow his audience to become complacent, and this is nowhere more apparent than in his Grosse Fuge, which Drucker describes as, ‘one of the most startling and trailblazing pieces of work ever written in any genre’. Indeed, Stravinsky described it as ‘an absolutely contemporary piece of music that will be contemporary forever’. The audience was so baffled when they heard the piece played as the last movement of the Quartet Op.130 in 1826 that Beethoven’s publisher demanded he write a more palatable ending, which became the standard sixth movement for many years, with the Grosse Fuge published separately as Op.133 for those less faint of heart.

Although Drucker notes that it was unusual for Beethoven to compromise his artistic vision accepting this, he suggests both a pragmatic reason – Beethoven would make more money with the extra movement – and also a psychological one: ‘Beethoven knew these quartets were not going to be understood by his contemporaries. He was thinking about the future, about posterity, so I think he just wanted to get the music out there.’ The Emersons always play the movement in its rightful position, in accord with Beethoven’s original intention.

There are multiple demands of playing – and listening to – such a challenging work. Drucker explains: ‘One is stamina and that’s true for listeners as well as for us. For the audience it’s mental, auditory stamina; for the musicians it’s a physical thing, too. We try not to overwhelm the audience, because so much of the music is loud and forceful. Clarity is important because the voices vault over large distances and there’s a constant overlapping, but it’s important to hear the lines.’ He admits, ‘It’s hard for audiences to listen to the piece, but it repays the effort.’ It repays the players’ effort too: ‘It’s as if Beethoven discovered a process for extracting the most extreme form of energy from his material. As a performer, if I’m tired and I come to this movement, I feel galvanised by this energy. Sometimes I can feel chills up and down my spine when I’m playing it. It demands the utmost from the performers, but it gives back, too.’

Between the Haydn and the Beethoven on the programme, the Emersons perform Ravel’s Quartet, premiered in 1904 in Paris, nearly 100 years after Beethoven’s Op.130, a sound world away from that of the great German composers. How does the quartet achieve the required difference in character? Drucker says, ‘Part of it is in the way we bow. We use a different contact point when playing Ravel or Debussy, not as close to the bridge. The closer you play to the bridge the more resistance there is from the strings and that creates a different palette. The harmonies inspire us to look for these colours.’ He draws an analogy with the Impressionist art of the time: ‘Lines are important in those paintings, but colour and the physical sense of paint on the canvas are also important. The need constantly to shift colour is stronger in Ravel than in the other great music we play.’ If any programme offers a chance to sample great music, it’s this one.

© Ariane Todes

Farewell to London Literature Festival

On Monday evening, 13 October 2014, James Runcie (Head of Literature and the Spoken Word at Southbank Centre) introduced the Man Booker Prize Readings with these words. We thought it was such a good way to see out the festival and celebrate all that we achieved this year that we wanted to share it with you too.

Happy reading, and don’t forget: words can change the world.

Welcome to this, the final event at the London Literature Festival.  We started, two weeks ago, with the Forward Prize for Fiction and end with this, the Man Booker Prize Readings.

In those two weeks, over 20,000 people have come to literature events here at Southbank Centre – many of which were free.

We’ve commissioned a new poem from Alice Oswald, a new play by Craig Taylor, a Gavin Bryars cantata celebrating the work of William S Burroughs, and staged a new adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

We’ve paid tribute to Maya Angelou, set up a debating chamber, brought 100 plays from all over the country into one room, and staged our first Young Adult Literature Weekender – at the end of which one person wrote on the wall:

“Reading is Dreaming with Your Eyes Open.”

Our work celebrates the power of art and the imagination to change lives – and tonight we are very grateful to the organisers of the Man Booker Prize for bringing us the best in contemporary fiction.

It’s wonderful to celebrate the power of fiction at these high profile events, although I’d like to add that here at Southbank Centre we are equally keen to support, encourage and collaborate with writers at every stage of their career; at the beginning,  at the peak, and even when others think they might be on the way down because – this being literature – hope is our currency.

Writing, publishing, and reading are all acts of faith and trust.

And all the exceptional writers you are about to hear tonight can have cause to be hopeful – not least because Hilary Mantel has only published a volume of short stories this year.

We are proud, for example to have already staged events this year with three authors on the shortlist: Karen Joy Fowler, Neel Mukherjee and Ali Smith – and last year we arranged the first London event for Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries before she was even long listed for this prize.

I think it’s important to take a punt on people, on writers – to believe in them, to encourage the unacknowledged legislators of the universe, and to nurture and celebrate all that we believe to be good about literature.

In an age of shouty solipsism and pointless celebification, where the literati somehow feel pressured to become the twitterati, reading offers something quieter, more focused and more long-lasting. It’s not just about  impact, but resonance.

Literature should offer the pleasure of discovery, transcend expectation and leave us – after we have stepped into the lives of others – thinking differently about the way we live an improved life.

The greatest happiness often comes from outside ourselves.

Other worlds.  Other wonders.

So let’s find them.

Thank you to everyone who came to this year’s London Literature Festival and helped make it so great.

Keep up to date with literature and spoken word at Southbank Centre, because we’re certainly not stopping there! Come and join us as we plough ahead with our autumn season. And to make sure you don’t miss anything, sign up for emails, follow us on Twitter or find us on Facebook.

Singer Ian Shaw talks about Madeline Bell

Ahead of his December Xmas Cracker performance, singer Ian Shaw tells us why he’s excited to be performing alongside award-winning singer and friend Madeline Bell. 

From records bought with pocket money to gigs in the Costa Del Sol, Ian looks back on his relationship with Madeline and tells us what he loves about her voice…

My first single, bought with my own money, was from the record stall, run by a traveller called Abe, at the Friday market behind the town hall in Fflint, North Wales. I belted down from school at dinner time (lunch to most these days), stuffing myself with a half portion of chips-on-a-tray, got from the chippy next to the shop where mum worked.

It was 35 pence and it was called Banner Man by a band called Blue Mink. I’d heard it on Radio Luxembourg, under my eiderdown, on Tuesday night. The words were strangely familiar to me ’…as we listened to the baaaand…’ and ‘the tubas oompahed all the way’.

I played in my dad’s brass band and Roger and Madeline seemed to know this. It was that strange pop period in the early 1970s, just ahead of Bolan, Bowie, The Sweet and Slade. For a couple of years, everything suddenly burst into colour and the monochrome sixties gave way to yellow dungarees, Crystal Tipps And Alistair, as well as my very own stereo with separate speakers. Hi fidelity indeed.

The second I heard Madeline Bell’s voice, I so desperately wanted to be her Roger one day. Over the years, with the help of my incredible father, I’d rooted out everything she’d recorded (including Live At The Talk Of The Town, where she sings a chilling version of I Who Have Nothing alongside an audience-a-long One Smart Fellow, He Felt Smart). I saw her, beaded and braided, on the Les Dawson Show, and heard her in Young Messiah. She was in cabaret the night of my 18th birthday at The Talardy in North Wales… then pow…

At 21, I was discovered by Cana Variety, after a ropey audition at Pizza On The Park.

‘You got a passport son?’ asked Jack Fallon, the legendary Canadian bassist, then, at 75, with his wife Jean, running a piano-bar agency from his large house in Southgate…’and some, er…decent stage gear?’

It was 1983, and I was head-to-toe in Post Punk chic. Not very Marbella. Which is where I was drafted in March that year. I played 4 sets a night at Duques Pianobar, an extraordinary joint on the waterside of the famous man-made 80s playground of the Costa Del Sol. It was run by an eccentric Oklahoman, ex-navy, country-singing cowboy called Duke (after John Wayne) and his delightfully potty Canadian, flame-throwing wife, Jocelyn.

I stayed in their poolside cottage on the road to Istan. We slept till midday and one morning, Duke hollered across the pool, ‘Hey Iaaaaan. Get dressed. Madeline Bell is coming for lunch. Get your fat arse…’

I was showered and dressed in minutes.

Madeline and her beautiful late husband, the great drummer, Barry Reeves, appeared through the bougainvillea-covered garden gate. They were the most handsome, un-showy, funny, warm-hearted, hugely musical life-pairing I’d ever met. I loved every subsequent meet-up with them. Over the years I learned practically everything I cherish as an entertainer from Madeline.

I’ve watched her in studios, at Ronnie Scott’s, crawling out of a tiger cage at The Hippodrome. We sang Melting Pottogether at the Hackney Empire together for the Anti-Racist Alliance. We’ve sung together with orchestras, big bands, we’ve saluted Aretha and Billy Strayhorn with Guy Barker for Radio 2. She introduced me to the amazing Tommy Blaize. She brings me toffee vodka from airports and I’ve interviewed her for The Ronnie Scott’s Radio Show. We happen to share a mutual love for the great singer-pianist, Liane Carroll. Each year, we salute her old pal, Dusty Springfield, for Simon Bell’s Dusty Day, which is the most heart-warming gaggle of musicians and friends I have ever experienced, and to play for Madeline to sing A House Is Not A Home remains an utter joy.

I was hugely privileged to share some tremendously precious moments with her beloved husband and soul-mate, in his last year, playing him Stevie Wonder and telling him that Mad was on her way. Her positivity and love for him will remain with me always.

And then there’s that voice. The gospel-informed phrasing, the laser timing, the lushest vibrato since Jaqueline du Pre played Elgar, the honesty, the falsetto. And the sheer bloody connection to her audiences. She has an outward-reaching, spiritually rooted holler, not the empty, eyes-closed riffing of many of today’s clamouring and cloying wannabees.

It shook my bones as a child with a record player, forty years ago in deepest Wales. It still does.

We’re singing together at The Purcell Room in December. Some festive songs, a bit of blues and jazz, some great pop. Some belly laughs and obviously, some Stevie. She makes me sing better, that Madeline Bell.

Ian Shaw’s Early Xmas Cracker With Very Special Guest Madeline Bell
Friday 12 December, 7.45pm
Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ariane Todes interviews renowned French violinist Renaud Capuçon

Ariane Todes interviews renowned French violinist Renaud Capuçon ahead of his three-concert journey through Beethoven’s violin sonatas on 6, 7 and 9 November at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Renaud Capuçon on Beethoven’s violin sonatas

Featured image

Renaud Capuçon dreamed of performing a Beethoven Violin Sonata cycle from the age of seven. He heard his teacher playing them all in two concerts and recalls, ‘I don’t know if he was any good, but I was so proud and I remember thinking that when I was older I would do this.’ He learnt the ‘Spring’ Sonata when he was eight, despite his teacher’s warnings about being too young, and when he and Frank Braley first met in 1998 they decided together to fulfill the dream, working on the entire set over time and finally recording and touring it five years ago.

Hearing the sonatas chronologically as we do here, we have a 15-year window on Beethoven’s life, from the three Op.12 sonatas, written in 1797–8 when he was 27, through to his Op.96 sonata, written in 1812 when he was 42 and substantially deaf. Capuçon explains the process: ‘Each sonata is a journey within a journey. It’s amazing to be able to play ten sonatas that cover Beethoven’s life. It’s like jumping into special Beethoven water. You get absorbed in one particular atmosphere, following a path and enjoying the changes that the composer undergoes.’

Capuçon describes some of these changes and reveals his own favourite sonata: ‘In the first three sonatas, Op.12, Beethoven is full of life. They feel youthful but you already recognise the Beethoven who’s going to bang on the table and to revolutionise colouring. Op.12 No.3 and Op.30 No.6 are less well-known than the ‘Spring’ (Op.24 No.5) and ‘Kreutzer’ (Op.47 No.9), but they have heartbreaking slow movements.’ Op.30 No.8 is the happiest of the cycle – it could be a young opus because it’s very fresh and optimistic. There’s such a contrast between No.9 and No.10. No.9 is like a duel, a violent discussion between violin and piano. No.10 reminds me of the final Beethoven piano sonata in the way it’s written for piano – the sense of time being completely suspended as you wait for the harmony to move – it’s like a dream. You can clearly feel that Beethoven was deaf by then – there is a kind of desolation and renouncement. He’s not angry any more – it’s like he’s accepted everything. It’s my favourite because it’s incredibly intense and introverted. You can feel Beethoven’s suffering, and what emerges is so pure.’

What are the challenges of playing all these works in such a short space of time? ‘There are more than 30 movements so you have to stay absolutely focused and concentrated. The real challenge is to give to each movement and each sonata the correct character. It changes a lot, very quickly: from playing a scherzo you go to an emotional slow movement and then you get a rondo finale that’s full of energy. You also find extreme dynamics, such as a subito piano after a fortissimo, or the opposite. Beethoven often creates a peaceful line and then suddenly breaks it and goes somewhere completely different. You have to be aware of all these changes: to let the violin sing, but also to be at the edge of this change.’

Capuçon and Braley have played the pieces in more than 60 concerts together as well as recording them. So will these performances be the same as they’ve played them before? Absolutely not, says Capuçon: ‘It will be completely different, because we’ve changed, life has changed. I’ve had a son, which changed my way of playing, and I have a new bow, which also makes a difference. This is what is exciting in music. Every concert is an adventure.’ After playing together for nearly 20 years, the duo know how to get the most out of the music and of each other, says Capuçon: ‘We really push each other to our limits. It’s not a diplomatic way of playing because we know each other so well. The more you can trust your partner, the more exciting the performance can be.’ And for any violinist, the pieces represent the ultimate challenge: ‘You can’t cheat in this music. These sonatas demand the full a range of qualities you should have as a violinist.’

BOOK NOW to experience this astonishing creative journey live at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall,  http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/festivals-series/the-beethoven-sonatas

© Ariane Todes, 2014

Cameron Carpenter shares his playlist

The inimitable Cameron Carpenter joins the BBC Concert Orchestra on Saturday 18 October for the UK premiere of Terry Riley’s new Organ Concerto At the Royal Majestic, commissioned by Southbank Centre. The concert also features music by Charles Ives, John Luther Adams and Philip Glass. Cameron sent us his playlist to get you in the mood for the concert.

Cameron Carpenter

Cameron Carpenter












Charles Ives / Henry Brant: A Concord Symphony – San Francisco Symphony / Michael Tilson Thomas

Among the many iconoclastic American composers who expanded the possibilities of music in the 20th century,Charles Ives is probably the most important. The orchestration of his “Concord Sonata”, originally for piano, was itself a project of more than three decades’ work by another American original, the composer Henry Brant.

This excellent recording is a one-stop shop not only for a crash course in the American orchestral sound, but also for the idea of appropriation and mixing of influences that is so important in 20th century music.

It’s exactly this sense of having a right to make the music your own, that also enabled me to make my own version for organ of the same work by Ives, of which the third movement (“The Allcotts”) will be heard on this concert.

Aaron Copland: Symphony No. 3 for Organ & Orchestra – Sony Classical: Bernstein Century. The New York Philharmonic / Leonard Bernstein; E. Power Biggs, organ.

No serious discussion of American music, and especially of the delicate task of integrating the organ into orchestral forces, could be without a serious listening to this remarkable work, written when Copland was twenty-three and premiered with Nadia Boulanger at the organ. In its craggy, jagged edges it foreshadows some of the darker moments of Terry’s much larger and more sprawling work.

Percy Grainger: In A Nutshell Suite: Arrival Platform Humlet - BBC Philharmonic / Richard Hickox

Grainger’s music is so important to me in its scope, in its childlike view of the world and in its freshness. He’s so often overlooked as a serious composer – even today – that it’s not often appreciated how original some of his concepts were.

In ‘Arrival Platform Humlet’, for example, we see perhaps the first major orchestral work written entirely in unisons. As far as I’m aware, it’s still the best. Here’s another early twentieth-century voice bringing us something remarkable.

Terry Riley: Persian Surgery Dervishes

It’s incredibly important to understand Terry Riley’s rather wild musical history in order to have an appreciation of just what a stylistic departure his new work (At The Royal Majestic) is. There are certainly little moments in Persian Surgery Dervishes that seem to be retained in some way in the new piece, but the new work is shockingly Romantic by comparison to the works that we’ve come to know Terry for, and which with LaMonte Young and others influenced several generations of musicians in many musical genres. 

BOOK NOW for an evening with Cameron Carpenter and the BBC Concert Orchestra http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/bbc-concert-orchestra-181014-81053