Violinist Alda Dizdari discusses Robin Holloway’s music and Donnagh McKenna’s painting

Violinist Alda Dizdari and pianist Tom Blach perform Robin Holloway’s Violin Sonata alongside works by Schubert, Faure and Ravel at Southbank Centre on Thursday 2 July. The concert also features four of Donnagh McKenna’s huge, bright canvases. Alda talks about playing Robin Holloway’s challenging and dramatic music, and bringing music and visual art together on stage:  

When I asked Robin Holloway, the brilliant British composer, about his creative inspiration for writing for the violin the response was very clear, ‘Life’, with all its facets, is his inspiration. He said:

‘I am often inspired, direct or oblique, by life, literature, landscapes & cityscapes, paintings, reflections, etc: but more often still by music itself—the innateness of it.’

For me as a performer, this statement is an important one. It makes the process of creation much wider, luminous, eclectic, much more real.

Robin’s solo violin sonata is one of the most challenging works I have been working on since tackling the Bartok solo violin sonata or the works of Bach, two composers who inspired this piece.

And the challenges, as in the Bartok and Bach, are not only technical, but more so emotional.

To capture the source of inspiration is like capturing a prism with all its facets, the diversity, colours, drama, beauty and ugliness, the myriad of expressions have to come out of the instrument in a fluent and clear way. The communication has to be clear for the audience, flawless for the structure of the piece. The responsibility is immense.

The art of Dounnagh McKenna gives me the same type of inspiration, his gigantic work with its abstract language somehow shares the same power of expression. Even the language used to describe his work is similar to that used about Robin Holloway’s sonata: strong colourful language, drama, beauty, diversity, contradiction.

One of Donnagh McKenna's paintings that will be displayed during the concert

One of Donnagh McKenna’s paintings that will be displayed during the concert

I didn’t have the chance to know Donnagh while he was alive but I am pretty sure, judging from his work, that his creative inspiration was stirred up by life, by all that surrounded him, and he experienced it and expressed it full of passion and with obsessive dedication to his art.

It will be a very interesting experience for me as a performer, but more so, for the audience, to take in the music and the art and to see how these two different art forms come together to create a unified vision about the world we live in, life, beauty and everything we hold dear in our existence.

By Alda Dizdari

June 2015

Book tickets here. 

This is a Public Service Announcement

Sarah Carne#

This is a Public Service Announcement is a new work by artist Sarah Carne, commissioned by People United in association with Southbank Centre.

For Festival of Love, Sarah is investigating how we acknowledge the people who we meet in our daily lives. What influences the thoughts and emotions which are generated in these micro-moments?

Sarah has devised a series of prompts to encourage positive connection between strangers. These are being displayed on information screens across the Southbank Centre site throughout the festival.

Sarah’s work is largely observational, she has spent the last few months here at Southbank Centre thinking about peoples interaction with each other and the site.  This has informed the work on display here. Sarah shares her thoughts and reflections in her blog, of which there is an excerpt below.

So, the Festival of Love Opens Tonight and I am Testing a Very Short Test. 5 June 2015

So, the Festival of Love opens tonight and I am testing a very short test (such a useful word). I finished it late last night, and it stood at 4 seconds long. Always amazing how so much thought and filming, and thought and walking, and talking and other people’s help, can be distilled into a 4 second test….

Which as of this morning has become a 5 second film – that key second of black at the end that my brain had overlooked yesterday.

It will be appearing, intermittently, on the screens as from tonight – then changing as the weeks pass.

It’s a long way away from Keith Arnatt’s Self Burial (Television Interference Project) 1969 but that’s very much been in my mind as I’ve been working and is always worth a link! “


This Is a Public Service Announcement is very much a cumulative work which will continue to grow as Festival of Love continues. We will continue to share Sarah’s thoughts as the work progresses. People United is a creative laboratory and arts charity that explores how the arts can inspire kindness and social change.

The best tools for the job: putting old string instruments in new hands

Artist Louise Kaye and her husband David have an unusual relationship with the team of world-class musicians they have assembled for a charity concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall on 22 June. Louise explains:

‘Two unrelated facts triggered my desire to support Parkinson’s UK by organising this concert. First of all, my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s five years ago, at the age of 55. David had, we realised, been showing symptoms for at least five years before that.

Secondly, we are fortunate to be friends with many top-notch musicians around the world. As well as travelling far and wide to attend their concerts and recitals, we enjoy providing a home base for them when they are passing through London. We are not musicians ourselves, but over the past 12 years we have bought a number of fine old string instruments and two bows which are now on long-term loan to eight musicians, five of whom will be playing on 22 June.

Louise Kaye

Louise Kaye

It all began when we had been following the development of the Jerusalem Quartet over a few years and had a chance to meet them at a house concert. We then discovered that Amihai Grosz, who was then the violist with the quartet, was the only one playing a modern instrument which was not close to the league of the other three instruments. Having been told that buying good string instruments was an excellent investment we decided to buy Amihai a viola. He was very much involved with the selection of the instrument, and it took about 10 months to find the right one, made by Gasparo da Salò around 1570.  It was much more expensive than the budget we had given him, but in the end we decided that it was such a marvellous instrument and he was worthy of it, so we went ahead and bought it.  We have not regretted our decision for a moment. He is now the section leader for the Berliner Philharmoniker, a position he gained partly because of the tone of the instrument.

Each time we have purchased a new instrument it has been because we first developed a relationship with the musician and loved their playing.  We could see that, like Amihai, a better instrument would help them reach greater heights in their careers. Our intention is that each musician will keep the instrument for the duration of their professional career.  Then it will be passed on to another player in their late twenties or early thirties, also for the duration of their career.

Of course, this means that our purchases are not really an investment in financial terms, as we do not intend to resell them, but they are definitely an investment in people, and all eight of the players have become an extension of our family. They are more than happy to give something back to us by doing a fundraising concert such as this one.’

Violist Jennifer Stumm is one of the musicians whose instrument was bought by Louise and David. She talks about what it’s like playing a viola made in around 1590:

Jennifer Stumm

Jennifer Stumm

‘There are obvious advantages to having as excellent a tool as possible with which to ply one’s trade–one drives faster in a faster car!  But the relationship of string instrument to player involves so much more–a true melding of personalities. There is magic in how this thing, with which you spend most of your time, connects you with 400 years of history, and how its sound has been moulded by so many hands. It’s a privilege to be a link in that chain. It reminds me of the power of history and human connection and expression—the reasons I play classical music in the first place.’

Like Louise and David Kaye, violist Ori Kam has personal reasons for giving his time and talents to this concert:

‘My uncle has been living with Parkinson’s for 20 years. Another friend has Parkinson’s as well. A small number of diseases like HIV and Cancer take up most of our collective attention and funding, so it’s important not to forget to support research for other conditions. We musicians receive so much support from audiences, individuals and from society in general, when I have the opportunity to do something for the greater good I don’t think twice.’

The concert on 22 June at Queen Elizabeth Hall includes Brahms’ Sextet No.2 and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Souvenir de Florence’.


Guy Braunstein violin
Tai Murray violin
Ori Kam viola
Jennifer Stumm viola
Richard Harwood cello
Adi Tal cello
Kyril Zlotnikov cello
Tom Poster piano

Book now

One person in every 500 has Parkinson’s. That’s about 127,000 people in the UK. All proceeds from this concert will support the work of Parkinson’s UK – funding research, awareness-raising, and vital emotional and practical support for people with Parkinson’s, their families and carers.

Khiyo live at Alchemy Unplugged Cafe

Sohini Alam by Rimon KhanOn Monday 18th May at 7.00pm, Khiyo return to Alchemy with a stripped-down acoustic set in the Alchemy Unplugged Music Lounge. Formed in 2007 by British-Bangladeshi vocalist Sohini Alam and composer / multi-instrumentalist Oliver Weeks, the band take an experimental approach to Bengali heritage music, presenting folk and protest songs, the music of the great Bengali composers and more modern material in fresh, dynamic new arrangements that draw on Western classical music, jazz, folk and rock as much as they do traditional Bengali music.

Their radical approach to well-known songs can come as a shock to those who grew up with the originals and has not always been popular. In 2013, the band was at the centre of controversy in Bangladesh about the music video for their version of Rabindranath Tagore’s Amar Shonar Bangla, also the national anthem of Bangladesh. Against the backdrop of political turmoil caused by the verdicts on war criminals from Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Independence, Khiyo was accused of sedition for ‘distorting’ the anthem by one of the most well known musicians in Bangladesh, with the controversy flaring further as more of the biggest names in Bangladeshi music weighed in for and against the band’s version of the song, which went viral as a result. Despite the often furious nature of the debate, it had a positive effect on the band’s reputation, making them national news in Bangladesh and raising their profile in the UK and India.

Khiyo are steadily gaining a reputation as a powerful live band and are currently promoting their debut album, which was released by Arc Music in April 2015.  Alchemy is pleased to welcome them back as part of our Unplugged Music Cafe Programme.  For the full cafe programme see here.

Festival of Love 2015 – Nominate Your Change Makers

Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love 2015 takes inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of public service and his commitment to making the world a better place for others. Nelson Mandela achieved huge change for the people of South Africa through persistent peaceful action, proving that the small acts of one person can lead to big changes. At his 90th birthday celebrations in London’s Hyde Park Mandela said: “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”

Inspired by this call to action, Southbank Centre is asking the question ‘How can we make the world a better place?’ The opening weekend of Festival of Love – 6-7 June 2015 – will celebrate 67 ‘Change Makers’ who are dedicated to making changes in their community and have a positive impact on the lives of others. With the help of partners across the country, Southbank Centre will choose 67 people and showcase their stories during the weekend.

We are looking for people in your community who’s actions have the potential to create change and inspire others.

–  Do you have an inspiring neighbour who is making your town a better place to live?

– A young person who is challenging injustice?

– A family member who is doing inspiring work to make peoples’ lives better?

To nominate someone you know, please click here.

( The form is very simple and will only take a few minutes!)

The closing date for nominations is Sunday 10th May 2015.

Tell us about your nominations on social media using the hashtag #MyNomination

David and Louise Kaye on their investment in musical instruments – and musicians

Philanthropists David and Louise Kaye donate money to support school-age musicians through the London Music Masters Bridge Project, but they take their commitment to music several steps further than simply writing a cheque now and they. They open their home to visiting professional musicians – as overnight guests as well as for rehearsals and performances.

They also invest in string instruments, though as David says, “Buying fine instruments has been a good investment, but as we have no intention of selling them, it defeats that purpose. We do it for our love of music and the satisfaction of supporting young people in their careers.”

Louise explains how it started: “We had been following the Jerusalem Quartet for some time, so when we found out, 10 years ago, that Amihai Grosz was looking for a new viola, we wanted to help. Having the new instrument made a real difference to his playing and his career. My husband has Parkinson’s disease and in 2013 I asked all the players who have our instruments if they would do a fundraising concert for Parkinson’s UK. They were all delighted to be able to give something back to us and there was a wonderful atmosphere at the concert. These eight musicians have become part of our extended family.”

You can hear the Jerusalem Quartet at Southbank Centre on Friday 24 April, and a chamber concert in aid of Parkinson’s UK,  by performers who have benefitted from the Kayes’ instruments, including former leader of the Berliner Philharmoniker Guy Braunstein, on Monday 22 June.