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UK-wide premieres announced for first ever New Music Biennial composers

Posted on 14 November 2013

20 brand new commissions will contribute to Culture 2014 – the cultural programme of Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games

Dates for the first set of New Music Biennial premieres are announced today by PRS for Music Foundation. Beginning in January 2014, the twenty commissions will be performed at concert halls, arts centres, festivals and outdoor spaces across the length and breadth of the UK as well as at two weekend showcases presented by London’s Southbank Centre (4-6 July 2014) and Glasgow UNESCO City of Music at Glasgow Concert Halls (1-2 Aug 2014). Additionally the works will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and available on BBC iPlayer for 7 days afterwards. They will also be available for digital download from NMC Recordings.

The New Music Biennial hopes to reach over 250,000 people with these new pieces of music which will be performed across the UK and in Glasgow where the New Music Biennial forms an important strand of the cultural programme which will celebrate Glasgow’s hosting of the XX Commonwealth. The New Music Biennial composers chosen by a prestigious and diverse panel of judges that included Dame Evelyn Glennie, Cerys Matthews and Jason Yarde, were selected from over 130 proposals, and cover a wide range of genres reflecting the diversity of musical life across the UK.

This first edition of the New Music Biennial, which has a strong international dimension, has been developed by PRS for Music Foundation, in partnership with Creative Scotland, Arts Council England and the British Council.

Commissions have been devised by composers and performers who are known for pushing the boundaries of their work. This includes Matthew Herbert whose new piece will use the sounds of 20 pianos from across the world, Shingai Shoniwa, lead singer of the Noisettes collaborating with David Okumu, a collaboration between composer Andy Scott and poet/playwright Lemn Sissay which looks at the world through the eyes of a child in the care system, and a folk commission led by composer and broadcaster Mary Ann Kennedy which will consist of songs created on ferry crossings in the Scottish Highlands, to be performed in Inverness and on the Arnamurchan peninsula. Other projects include accomplished jazz musician Gwilym Simcock working with City of London Sinfonia and clarinettist Michael Collins and a project led by Tête à Tête Opera in which young composer, Samuel Bordoli will bring together opera and skateboarding..

Below is the full list of performance dates for the 20 commissions, before all the works are presented at London’s Southbank Centre (4-6 July 2014) and Glasgow UNESCO City of Music at Glasgow Concert Halls (1-2 Aug 2014). The list of dates is subject to change, please see for the latest.


Commissioned by Gael Music
Performed by Matheu Watson, Luke Daniels, Patsy Reid, James Fagan & Mac Morin

23 January GLASGOW Celtic Connections Festival
20 May EAST KILBRIDE East Kilbride Arts Centre
21 May BANCHORY Woodend Barn
22 May STIRLING The Tolbooth
25 May CHIPPENHAM Chippenham Folk Festival

This piece explores the many drove roads or tracks set deeply into the Scottish countryside and the long-vanished trade of Scottish cattle-droving through its hardy highland cattle drovers and their wider connections to the New World. Features musicians Ceri Owen Jones and Ceri Rhys Matthews.

LAU – The Bell That Never Rang

Commissioned by Celtic Connections Festival
Performed by Lau and Elysian Quartet

30 January GLASGOW Celtic Connections Festival, Grand Hall, City Halls
2 May NEWCASTLE Sage Gateshead

Although the two groups come from very different musical worlds, Lau and Elysian Quartet have common ground in their love for exploration and experimentation. This piece is a celebration of Glasgow; the title refers to the verse attached to Glasgow’s coat of arms and relates to the deeds of St Mungo.


Commissioned by Royal Philharmonic Society

13 February GLASGOW Glasgow Short Film Festival
Plus many other film festivals across the UK

The RPS brings Dobrinka Tabakova’s youthful classical music out of the concert hall and in to Ruth Paxton’s bold film-making. ‘PULSE’ is a film about the energy and diversity of life in a modern city, unearthing the driving forces behind the mix of international societies and cultures.

LUKE STYLES – The Girls Who Wished to Marry Stars

Commissioned by Juice Vocal Ensemble
Performed by Juice Vocal Ensemble and Tangent

13 Feb LANCASTER Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts
29 May LONDON Village Underground

This theatrical new work by Luke Styles will feature three live dancers, blurring the boundaries between dancer and musician, and retell a Native Canadian folk tale in a playful, highly dynamic way.


Commissioned by INTER/actions Festival of Electronic Music
Performed by pianists Clare Hammond, Xenia Pestova and Kathleen Supové

16 March BANGOR INTER/actions Festival of Electronic Music
18 March CARDIFF University Concert Hall

This new piece brings together three international soloists in a tour de force for three pianos with electronics, sampled birdsong, and percussion, combining spectacle with refined classical keyboard artistry, and juxtaposing harmony, rhythmic drive with sounds from nature in a powerful and engaging way.

DAVID SAWER – Bronze and Iron

Commissioned and performed by Onyx Brass

22 March GLASGOW George Square, Glasgow Concert Hall
Plus open air and bandstand performances all over the UK

Celebrating the group’s 21st birthday, the acclaimed Onyx Brass presents an exciting commission for brass quintet by composer David Sawer in over twenty informal and free outdoor performances across Britain’s historic bandstands, outdoor festivals and public spaces. The project will bring contemporary music out of the concert hall and on to the village green.

PIERS HELLAWELL with Bourne Davis Kane –

Sound Carvings, Strange Tryst
Commissioned by Moving On Music

29 March BELFAST Brilliant Corners Jazz Festival

Avant-garde composer Piers Hellawell and improvising virtuoso Bourne Davis Kane collide in a shared space; the goal is music created by all of them. Both parties leave behind established writing methods to learn from one another, undermining assumptions about both improvising and the notation of music.

GWILYM SIMCOCK – Natural Supernatural

Commissioned and performed by City of London Sinfonia

4 April BRADFORD-ON-AVON, Wiltshire Music Centre
6 April HULL, City Hall
12 April DUBLIN, National Concert Hall
1 May LONDON, Cadogan Hall *
15 May SOUTHAMPTON, Turner Sims

This commission fuses the worlds of classical music and jazz, and celebrates the virtuosity of City of London Sinfonia’s Principal Conductor and Clarinettist Michael Collins with a distinctive new work for Clarinet, Strings, Jazz Trio and Speaker.

  • FULL VERSION PREMIERE with Michael Collins and City of London Sinfonia joined by Gwilym Simcock and his jazz trio


Commissioned by Foden’s Brass Band
Performed by Foden’s Brass Band with Lemn Sissay, Anna-Clare Monk and Lauren Scott

2 May MANCHESTER, Royal Northern College of Music

‘A Child Like You’ looks at the world through the eyes of a child in care. Poet Lemn Sissay is one of these children. Award-winning composer Andy Scott will write for Foden’s Brass Band, singer Anna-Clare Monk and harpist Lauren Scott. He will collaborate with Sissay, who will narrate this powerful, thought-provoking and uplifting work.

AKWASI MENSAH – The Dynamics of Perception

Commissioned by Jazz re:freshed
Performed by Akwasi Mensah with Ayanna Witter Johnson, Oli Savill, Alex Bonfanti, Nathan Allen and Kaidi Tatham

8 May LONDON Mau Mau Bar

Filmmaker Bunny Bread weaves a tale of guilt and innocence from three distinct perspectives. The accompanying live score guides each unique telling of the story, where Akwasi Mensah explores how dynamics in music can be used to manipulate the emotions of an audience.


Commissioned by Third Ear Music

16 May OXFORD Oxford Contemporary Music at The North Wall
11 Oct FALMOUTH University College

Composer Matthew Herbert will be telling the stories of twenty unique pianos from around the world – from Steinways at famous locations to forgotten out-of-tune family pianos. Matthew will sample each piano, document it in photographs, and record short oral histories. The composition, for solo pianist, will be played on a simple table, turned into a virtual piano through bespoke soft/hardware created by the Radiophonic Workshop.

STEPHEN MONTAGUE – Tales from the Commonwealth

Commissioned by sound festival, Red Note Ensemble & Woodend Barn

30 May BANCHORY Woodend Barn

This is a new children’s work for 6 musicians and narrator based on tales sent in by children from different countries across the Commonwealth, rewritten by award-winning playwright Zinnie Harris.


Commissioned by Serious

tbc May NORWICH Norfolk & Norwich Festival
tbc July WILTSHIRE WOMAD Festival

Shingai Shoniwa (Noisettes) and acclaimed singer-songwriter/guitarist/producer David Okumu are coming together to create a new vocal work entitled ‘Stars Align’. Inspired by their shared African heritage and working with David’s band The Invisible, David and Shingai will perform with vocal groups and choirs, crossing cultures and responding to the youthful energy of the Commonwealth.


Commissioned by Tête a Tête

1 June ABERDEEN Transition Extreme Skatepark

Blending skateboarding, choral singing and the unique acoustic of skate parks, Tête à Tête and composer Samuel Bordoli team up with skaters and community choirs across the UK.


Commissioned by Mind the Gap

14 & 15 June BRADFORD Bradford City Festival, Mirror Pool, City Park

A gift arrives. What’s inside? Curious? Then follow talented learning-disabled composer Jez Colborne on a musical odyssey to discover what it means to be gifted. Accompany Jez to the very heart of music-making within a shipping container. A Trojan gift, a makeshift musical instrument. Guaranteed to make your senses tingle.

GABRIEL JACKSON – On the Shore of the Mind

Commissioned and performed by Mr McFall’s Chamber

18 June STORNOWAY An Lanntair
19 June ISLE OF ARRON Brodick Hall

Mr McFall’s Chamber is celebrating historic links by commissioning Bermuda-born composer Gabriel Jackson to write a setting of poems about island life by both Scottish and Caribbean poets.

ALISTAIR ANDERSON – Panning for Gold

Commissioned by Sage Gateshead

22 June GATESHEAD, Sage Gateshead

A unique musical collaboration between one of the UK’s most talented Steel Pan musicians, the world’s most respected English concertina player, a DJ, clog dancer and youth steel bands from the UK and the West Indies.


Commissioned by Watercolour Music

3 July ISLE OF SKYE Fèis an Eilein Festival, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig
1 August INVERNESS Eden Court Theatre

‘Aiseag’ (The Ferryboat) is connection. A lifelong fascination creates a journey between the Highlands and Canada’s Gaelic diaspora. Electronica and found sound, Cape Breton and Scottish Highland musicians, a Gaelic choir and a Glasgow string section are all aboard with composers Mary Ann Kennedy and Scott Macmillan, audio designer Nick Turner and poet, Aonghas MacNeacail.

NIRAJ CHAG – You run on tracks, not roads

Commissioned by Arts Depot
Performed by Niraj Chag

29 June LONDON Artsdepot

In East Africa the building of the rail road by the British Empire sent thousands on a journey across continents. Niraj will explore his own cultural heritage from India through Uganda to the streets of the UK, playing with the musical language of three diverse cultures.

YANN SEZNEC – Currents

Commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival

31 July EDINBURGH Edinburgh Art Festival, City Art Centre

Created from hundreds of fans controlled by real-time weather data, and drawing on wind conditions in South Africa, New Zealand, England, Canada and India, Seznec’s composition offers a portrait, at once accurate and abstract, of the Commonwealth, exploring ideas of distance, data, modern convenience and memory.


For press enquires contact:
Talia Hull
07834 431 007

Notes to editors

New Music Biennial is a PRS for Music Foundation initiative, in partnership with, Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and the British Council. It is presented in collaboration with BBC Radio 3, NMC Recordings, Southbank Centre and Glasgow UNESCO City of Music.

Additional support has been given by John S. Cohen Foundation, Jillian Barker and David Cohen, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, Google, Incorporated Society of Musicians, The Bliss Trust, The Finzi Trust and The Hope Scott Trust.

The New Music Biennial commissions were chosen by an expert judging panel including one of the UK’s most eminent musicians Dame Evelyn Glennie, singer/songwriter and broadcaster Cerys Matthews, award-winning composer Max Richter and multi-talented composer/saxophonist Jason Yarde, the Southbank Centre’s Head of Classical Music, Gillian Moore MBE and Director of Glasgow UNESCO City of Music, Svend Brown. The panel was chaired by Roger Wright (Controller BBC Radio 3 & Director BBC Proms).

More information about the New Music Biennial go to

About PRS for Music Foundation
PRS for Music Foundation is the UK’s leading funder of new music across all genres. Since 2000 PRS for Music Foundation has given more than £16 million to over 4,500 new music initiatives by awarding grants and leading partnership programmes that support music sector development. Widely respected as an adventurous and proactive funding body, PRS for Music Foundation supports an exceptional range of new music activity – from composer residencies and commissions to festivals and showcases in the UK and overseas.

About Creative Scotland
Creative Scotland is the national development agency for the arts, screen and creative industries. Our vision is that Scotland will be recognised as one of the world’s most creative nations – one that attracts, develops and retains

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