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Spinal Chords now available to download

Wed 2 May 2012

Spinal Chords download

Our performance of Sally Beamish’s Spinal Chords, commissioned by the OAE for the New Music 20×12 initiative, has now been released on the NMC label and is available to download.

Recorded at its world premiere at Southampton’s Turner Sims concert hall, the performance features Juliet Stevenson narrating the text by writer Melanie Reid. You can find out more about the piece here.

Visit the NMC website for more information and to download the piece, which is available as an MP3 for 79p (FLAC 89p)

Spinal Chords is part of New Music 20×12, supported by the PRS for Music Foundation.


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Spinal Chords on the radio

Fri 20 Apr 2012

This Saturday there’s a chance to hear our performance of Sally Beamish’s new work Spinal Chords again, when it is broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Hear and Now programme. The piece was recorded at it’s Queen Elizabeth Hall performance with narrator Juliet Stevenson reading Melanie Reids’s words and is one of the PRS for Music 20×12 comissions.

Hear and Now goes out tomorrow, 21 April, at 10.45pm on BBC Radio 3. It’s not often that the OAE is featured on a new music programme!

Find out more about Sally Beamish’s Spinal Chords

Pictured: Sally Beamish and Juliet Stevenson in rehearsal with us.

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Spinal Chords in pictures

Tue 27 Mar 2012

Last month we gave the world premiere performances of Sally Beamish’s Spinal Chords, one of the PRS for Music 20×12 comissions for the Olympic year. The music is set to text by Melanie Reid, and was for these first performances, narrated by Juliet Stevenson. Here are a few pictures from the rehearsal and London performance. All pictures by Joe Plommer.


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Sally Beamish and Melanie Reid talk about ‘Spinal Chords’

Thu 9 Feb 2012

Tomorrow night we bring Sally Beamish’s new piece, Spinal Chords, to London for its premiere in the Capital (above: in rehearsal). Its world premiere in Southampton on Sunday got a great reaction from the audience and the press, with The Times giving it 4 stars and commenting:

“Spinal Chords does not so much express as impress: the “’chords”’, played only on the “’cordes’” –  the stringed instruments of the OAE —- sear into the nerves as they are deconstructed, painfully built up, fall back again into stasis, then start to reconnect and grow into fragments of melody, motif and new motivation, shared among the band’s 13 soloists. And, finally, three gently vibrant, questioning chords. The audience becomes gradually and wonderfully aware that the musical process is an almost direct transcription of the physical one. In a work that is totally devoid of drama or self-pity, it is left to the listener to supply the emotional subtext.” Read the full review (Times Subscribers only)

The piece is set to text by Melanie Reid, and documents her journey from an accident which paralysed her through to now, as she strives to regain movement.

Members of OAE staff snuck into the rehearsal last Saturday and can confirm the piece’s emotional power – personally I found a tear in my eye within moments of it starting. At that rehearsal BBC Radio 4’s The World this Weekend were in attendance, and you can hear the report here, 23 minutes into the programme, with the report featuring footage from the rehearsal itself, giving you a sneak preview of the music.

Plus, here’s a video featuring both Sally and Melanie Reid, chatting about how the piece came about. Tickets are still availble for the concert tomorrow (10 February) at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Spinal Chords has been commissioned as part of New Music 20×12

William Norris, Communications Director

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Spinal Chords in rehearsal

Fri 3 Feb 2012

Giving a world premiere of a new work is, understandably, a rareity for the OAE. It’s not totally unknown however, and we have performed new pieces by Mark Anthony Turnage, Jonathan Dove and Heiner Goebbels in the past. Indeed the Goebbels has become something of a signature piece for us and the London Sinfonietta, with us notching up several performances now, across Europe and the USA.

This Sunday sees us give our latest premiere, this time by Sally Beamish. It is part of Music 20×12, 20 new works commissioned by the PRS for Music Foundation for the Olympic Year. Scored for strings only, it is set to text by The Times columnist Melanie Reid, and we are very pleased to have secured actress Juliet Stevenson to narrate it.

Sally Describes the piece in her programme note:

“I have known Melanie Reid, and enjoyed her writing, ever since I moved to the Stirlingshire village where we both live, in 1996. When she had her devastating riding accident in 2010, and began writing ‘Spinal Column’ in The Times, I followed it every week.

The idea of working with her came to me when the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment asked me for suggestions for a PRS for Music Foundation New Music 20×12 Cultural Olympiad commission. To my delight, she agreed, and I received the text for Spinal Chords (her title) in May 2011.

It was hard to know how I could best serve the words, which I found deeply moving; but Melanie’s title gave me a good starting point: the idea of the chord as the backbone of the music. ‘Cords’ (without an ‘h’) also suggest strings, threads, linking and joining. I realised the role of the music should be as a backdrop for a very slow drama – that of Melanie’s ‘spinal journey’.

The decision to use an actor, rather than a singer, was to preserve the directness of the text, and of Melanie’s own voice.

I started with twelve chords, which are stated, very slowly, three times; each time in a different key. The chords themselves are closely linked to each other : each builds on the one before. The string orchestra is treated as a large chamber group, with 13 solo lines, and the chords are stated at first by broken-up groups of players, gradually consolidating into larger groups, and then with the addition of ornamentation, and later, scales. The music reflects the agonising slowness of recovery, and the gradual re-connecting as the body finds ways to heal.

The piece uses the distinctive techniques of Baroque string playing: expressive bowstrokes, with a minimum of vibrato. I also draw on the similarities between Scottish traditional ornamentation, and that of Baroque music.”

Today saw the first rehearsal of the piece, with composer Sally Beamish in attendance, and here are a few pictures of the rehearsal.

Sally will appear alongside violinist Matthew Truscott, who is directing the concert, on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune today from 5.45pm. If you miss it you can listen to it again here.

You can read more about the collaboration between Sally and Melanie in The Times here (subscribers only)

The World Premiere of Spinal Chords is at Southampton’s Turner Sims on Sunday 5 February, with the London Premiere at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 10 […]

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