Entries in Spitalfields Music (6)


Alan Howard and The Sixteen in first stage presentation of "Old Earth" by Samuel Beckett


Four Monologues from Samuel Beckett's Fizzles

Friday 15 and Saturday 16 June at 6.30pm and 8.30pm

Village Underground, London E1

Part of a special focus on music and theatre at Spitalfields Music Summer Festival (8-23 June)

One of the country’s finest classical actors, Alan Howard makes a rare stage appearance in the premiere of Samuel Beckett’s “Old Earth”.

The series of four monologues, directed by Jonathan Holmes, director/founder of theatre company Jericho and designed by Lucy Wilkinson, features a new score for eight singers by British composer Alec Roth commissioned by Spitalfields Music and The Sixteen and conducted by Harry Christophers.

“Old Earth” is staged in the informal, evocative setting of Shoreditch’s Village Underground as part of Spitalfields Music Summer Festival (four performances only, 15/16 June. Press Night performance – 8.30pm, Friday 15 June).  It is part of a special focus on music and theatre at this year’s Spitalfields Music Summer Festival which also features the Opera Group’s new production of Harrison Birtwistle’s Bow Down and Vignette Productions/La Nuova Musica’s staging of two oratorios from the middle Baroque:  Giacomo Carissimi’s Jephte and Charpentier’s Sacrificium Abrahae.*

Samuel Beckett used the word “Fizzles” to describe eight short prose pieces written between 1975 and 1978 that defy traditional narrative structures and conventions of time, place and character.  The four intriguing ‘fizzles’ presented here – Afar A Bird; I Gave Up Before Birth; Closed Place and Old Earth – offer fragmentary, stark reflections on death, nature and memory.  Words drift, thoughts expand and concertina, meaning becomes transitory in Beckett’s powerful, complex writing.

Alan Howard made his stage debut in Major Barbara at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry in 1958. He has since appeared in over 30 productions at the RSC including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Henry V, Henry Vl, Coriolanus, Antony and Cleopatra, Richard ll, Richard lll, The Forest, Good, Henry lV Parts l & ll, The Bewitched, Doctor Faustus, Troilus and Cressida, The Revenger’s Tragedy and The Hollow Crown. At the National he has appeared in The Heiress, Flight, Oedipus Rex, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, La Grande Magia, Les Parents Terribles, Macbeth, Kings, Pygmalion, Oedipus. Other theatre work includes The School for Scandal (Barbican) King Lear and Waiting for Godot (The Old Vic), Lulu and The Play About The Baby (Almeida) and Gates of Gold (Gate Theatre, Dublin). On television he appears in the forthcoming HBO/BBC series Parade’s End. Other television work includes Foyle’s War, Death in Holy Orders, NCS Manhunt, David Copperfield, Midsomer Murders, A Perfect Spy and Coriolanus. His film credits include The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Soup, The Secret Rapture, Dakota Road, The Return of the Musketeers, Strapless and Oxford Blues.

Composer Alec Roth is no stranger to literary inspiration.  He has previously enjoyed a long artistic association with the writer Vikram Seth, which resulted in a cycle of four major works over four years co-commissioned by the Salisbury, Chelsea and Lichfield Festivals.  Previously Music Director of the Baylis Programme at English National Opera; Associate Composer at Opera North; Founder Director of the South Bank Gamelan and Lecturer in Music at the University of Edinburgh, recent projects have included pieces for the Salisbury Festival, Academy of St Martin in the Fields and tenor Mark Padmore.

Jericho specialises in inventive relationships between theatre, music and performance space.  Jericho House Founder and Director Jonathan Holmes’ approach chimes with that of The Sixteen director Harry Christophers, and the two companies have collaborated over a period of seven years, including a concert revival of Henze & Bond’s Orpheus Behind the Wire in 2008 and the 2005 premiere of several songs by John Donne at St Paul’s Cathedral. In 2007, Jonathan wrote and directed the testimony play, Fallujah, which ran for five weeks in the east end of London with a score by Nitin Sawhney and a cast including Harriet Walter, Irene Jacob and Imogen Stubbs.  In 2009, his testimony play Katrina, about New Orleans and produced in association with the Young Vic, sold out for a month in a warehouse in Southwark and most recently, he brought a new production of The Tempest to London’s St Giles Cripplegate and on an unprecedented tour of the West Bank.

After 32 years of worldwide performance and recording, The Sixteen is recognised as one of the world’s greatest ensembles.  Comprising both choir and period-instrument orchestra, The Sixteen’s total commitment to the music it performs is its greatest distinction. A special reputation for performing early English polyphony, masterpieces of the Renaissance, bringing fresh insights into Baroque and early Classical music and a diversity of 20th- and 21st-century music, is drawn from the passions of conductor and founder Harry Christophers. In recent years The Sixteen has performed and recorded the works of composers such as Roxanna Panufnik, Will Todd, Gabriel Jackson, Tarik O’Regan, Roderick Williams and Ruth Byrchmore, and particularly James MacMillan with whom the group has a close relationship.