To start a new contemporary ensemble for a country is a bold move, but that’s what Michael Rafferty has done with UPROAR which will present its first programme at Chapter in Cardiff on Friday 26 October. Amongst the 10 commissions are works by Composers Edition’s Andrew Lewis and Lynne Plowman. Dan Goren caught up with Michael Rafferty to find out more…
DG : Great to see you launching UPROAR which as far as I can tell is the only professional group dedicated to contemporary music in Wales! Is that true?
MR: Yes. Other performing organisations in Wales programme some contemporary music within their concerts but UPROAR is the only one dedicated to contemporary music. The emphasis will be on the very new – commissions and music written since 2000. But we may also stretch back to the late 20th century as there are many classics from this period yet to have a first performance in Wales.
DG: Your inaugural concert is coming up on 26th August – what can audience’s expect from an UPROAR performance?
MR: Everyone involved with UPROAR is passionate about new music – about creating something new to share with the public. All the musicians are highly experienced new music specialists with vast experience working with living composers. They are experts who know all the latest instrumental techniques and are eager to keep pushing the boundaries. Audiences can expect impeccable performances delivered with infectious enthusiasm – a real celebration of contemporary culture. We intend to make each performance a unique event, looking beyond the conventions of a traditional classical concert – in the first project, for example, there will be an imaginative lighting design from Ceri James as a framework to unify the programme of 10 new commissions.
DG: Good musicans eager to perform new repertoire are of course the lifeblood of the contemporary music scene. I know Composers Edition’s own Torbjörn Hultmark is performing in the opening concert. Which other musicians will we get to hear?
MR: We have Miranda Fulleylove and Philippa Mo playing violin; Fiona Winning, viola; Sally Pendlebury, cello; Ken Knussen, bass; Jo Shaw, flute; Michael Whight, clarinet; John Orford, bassoon; Doug Coleman, trombone; Lucy Wakeford, harp and Julian Warburton, percussion.
DG: That’s quite a line-up! Great to see commissions by Composers Edition’s Andrew Lewis and Lynne Plowman in the first concert. As a conductor, what draws you to commissioning and performing new works?
MR: It’s that sense of being part of a contemporary culture – working with living artists to create something which reflects the people, place and time we live in.
In my early musical training, I was steeped in the classics, which I loved, but a transformative moment came when we played Peter Sculthorpe’s ‘Music for Japan’ with the county youth orchestra. Suddenly, music became much more alive – with new techniques to learn and the realisation that you might actually be able to meet and talk to the composer who had created the piece. Many years later, I met Peter Sculthorpe at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival told him how his piece had influenced my development.
DG: Looking forward, what do you envisage for the ensemble? Do you have particular aims you’d like to acheive?
MR: There will be several different strands of activity. In addition to the concert repertoire we are planning multimedia collaborations with dance, theatre, film, visual arts, video and live electronics. We intend every performance to be an ‘event’ with high values placed on visual presentation. We want to bring the most adventurous international new work to Wales and take new music from Wales to the wider world. The long term aim is to present three or four different strands each year with each project touring to venues in and outside Wales.
DG: I wish you all the very best with your new venture and look forward to following its development.UPROAR.org.uk Andrew Lewis Profile & Works Lynne Plowman Profile & Works