Music in the Round announces composer Helen Grime as the first ever Guest Festival Curator for Sheffield Chamber Music Festival
3 Dec 2021
Friday 13 – Saturday 21 May 2022
Crucible Studio Theatre and venues across Sheffield
Sheffield Chamber Music Festival 2022
Music in the Round announces composer Helen Grime as the first ever Guest Festival Curator for Sheffield Chamber Music Festival 2022, a vibrant nine-day celebration of chamber music this year featuring well over a third of the chamber works by living composers and women composers past and present, including the world premiere of The Light Blinds, a new RPS commission by Angela Slater (Saturday 21 May).
The Festival displays the extraordinary versatility of the eleven musicians of Sheffield-based Ensemble 360, who perform in 15 concerts over the nine days of the Festival, joining to form duos, trios, string quartets and wind quintets in myriad combinations. Started in 1984 by leader of the world-renowned Lindsay String Quartet, Peter Cropper, the Festival is held in the intimate Crucible Studio Theatre, an extraordinary and unique in-the-round space that brings audiences to within an arm’s length of the chamber musicians.
Two concerts on Sunday 15 May tune in to the wonders of the natural world at the opening and closing of the day, with performances at Sunrise (5:15am) and Sunset (8:00pm). Alphorn transcriptions herald the dawn alongside Tansy Davies’s Yoik, drawing inspiration from traditional Sámi song, while Pablo Casals and Akira Nishimura bring musical depictions of birdsong to the early-morning event. Old meets new as night falls with Ensemble 360 joined by Sheffield Music Hub in eventide choral music by Sheffield local Judith Bingham, Cheryl Frances-Hoad and Tarik O’Regan alongside their Jacobean predecessors.
Many concerts in the Festival venture further afield: on Thursday 19 May, Ensemble 360 take a Nordic journey through the Danish Horn Trios of Hans Abrahamsen, Swedish composer Britta Byström and Norwegian favourite Edvard Grieg, before returning the next day for a soundscape from twentieth-century France (Friday 20 May), as chamber pieces by Nadia and Lili Boulanger are heard alongside Debussy, Ravel and the harmonious language of contemporary composer Arlene Sierra.
The wind players of Ensemble 360 push forward to new frontiers (Friday 20 May), pairing Aaron Copland and Mozart’s Piano Quintet with the beautiful clarity of Judith Weir’s Airs from Another Planet, imagining ancient Scottish melodies transformed through generations of evolution in outer space.
The Festival opens on Friday 13 May with a programme stressing the similar sonorities of Janáček and Anna Meredith.
Ensemble 360 trace the close links between masterpieces in art and music on Saturday 14 May, conjuring up extraordinary images by contemporary composers, from Francisco Goya’s broad brush strokes of an old couple dancing (as heard by Martin Suckling in Visiones) to Huw Watkins’s resurrection of First World War soldiers, originally portrayed by British artist Stanley Spencer. Festival curator Helen Grime finds inspiration in the miniature worlds of American visual artist Joseph Cornell’s assemblage boxes and miniatures by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, in a concert that also includes works by Bach, Chopin & John Cage: who inspired the artists Paul Klee, Whistler and Gerhard Richter respectively.
Joined by soprano Ruby Hughes & pianist Joseph Middleton (Thursday 19 May), Ensemble 360 explore songs for chamber ensemble, including Helen Grime’s Bright Travellers cycle, exploring pregnancy and early motherhood through the achingly beautiful poetry of Fiona Benson, Respighi’s Il Tramonto – setting Shelley’s The Sunset – and songs by Ives.
Further visiting artists include guitarist Sean Shibe (Wednesday 18 May) and folk duo Karine Polwart & Dave Milligan (Tuesday 17 May). A late-night experimental performance in Sheffield’s Site Gallery by Bastard Assignments (Thursday 19 May) continues Music in the Round’s Sounds of Now series, curated by Tom McKinney and launched by Elaine Mitchener and Apartment House in Spring 2022.
Works by Helen Grime are featured throughout the Festival, including her String Quartet No.1 (Monday 16 May), heard as the string players of Ensemble 360 recontextualise harmony across the centuries from Purcell’s intricate Fantasias to Sky Macklay’s Many Many Cadences. Grime’s Seven Pierrot Miniatures close the Festival on Saturday 21 May in a programme of Britten, Brahms, and Oliver Knussen’s …upon one note.
Joining together in trios for clarinet, viola and piano, as heard in Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen, Ensemble 360 pays homage to the composer through the trio and duo works of Helen Grime, György Kurtág and the twentieth-century composer Rebecca Clarke, renowned for her viola writing (Tuesday 17 May). Later that afternoon, Ensemble 360 bring the oboe to the fore in works by Grażyna Bacewicz, Helen Grime and Martinů.
Ensemble 360 conclude their survey of Beethoven’s String Quartets, including his final String Quartet No.16 and final three Piano Sonatas Op.109-111, joined by the complementary musical voices of Caroline Shaw and Errollyn Wallen’s The Negro Speaks of Rivers in recital on Wednesday 18 May and Friday 20 May.
Two family concerts open and close the Festival, including the enchanting story of an intrepid young inventor, Izzy Gizmo (Saturday 14 May), presented by Aga Serugo-Lugo.
Guest Festival Curator Helen Grime said:
“It’s been a huge pleasure and honour to be guest curator of the 2022 Sheffield Chamber Music Festival. I’ve had lots of fun, working with Ensemble 360, putting together programmes of music I love, finding connections between old and new music and threading through various themes that are close to my heart.
Each concert features the music of at least one female composer, including overlooked gems from the last few hundred years, as well as more recent pieces and a world premiere.
I’m very excited to be welcoming some of the most distinguished musicians working in the country as guest artists, and I hope audiences will enjoy meeting them, as well as seeing Ensemble 360 back in their Festival home, the Crucible Studio Theatre.”
Tickets to Sheffield Chamber Music Festival go on general sale on Tuesday 7 December 2021 at 10:00am. These can be purchased from www.musicintheround.co.uk, or from Sheffield Theatres box office in person, or by calling 0114 249 6000.