Classical and contemporary music at IF:MK
Music and sound are the beating heart of IF: Milton Keynes International Festival, produced by one of the UK’s leading music venues, The Stables. This year is no exception with two new ground-breaking works as major Festival highlights.
The Festival’s opening Saturday sees the world premiere of a new commission for voice and chamber ensemble, a contemporary response to the globally renowned hymn Amazing Grace. Forever? is a collaboration between composer Roderick Williams (pictured) and poet Rommi Smith. To create her powerfully moving text, Smith interviewed people, locally and internationally, about their personal response to the hymn, written 250 years ago by the Reverend John Newton, a former slave trader who became vicar of local parish Olney. Forever? will be premiered on Saturday 22 July at The Stables, one of the UK’s leading music venues and founder and producer of the Festival. It will be performed by Chineke! Chamber Ensemble, part of Europe’s first majority-Black and ethnically diverse orchestra with mezzo soprano Andrea Baker, tenor Ronald Samm and the MK Sweet Sounds choir f(ormed specially for the occasion). Forever? is commissioned by the Cowper & Newton Museum with The Stables and the performance is part of Amazing Grace 250, a year-long programme of activity led by the Museum.
Then opening on 14 July and running throughout the entire Festival to 30 July is The Place Between, a special commission by Milton Keynes’ iconic centre:mk in collaboration with the Festival. This large-scale installation revealing the secret life of flowers and plants is created by artist Rebecca Louise Law and sound artist Jason Singh. Both Law and Singh root their creation in the plants and flora local to Milton Keynes, working with local people and communities in their research. Singh has captured the electrical activity happening deep within the vegetative tissue of plants, using bio feedback technology to capture the data which he then converts into his musical score. Law has worked with MK residents to find 20,000 examples of local plant life then sew and wire the stems and fronds together to create her multiple trails of dried flowers and plant material. Law’s otherworldly environment and Singh’s binaural immersive soundtrack, heard via headphones, transform centre:mk’s Middleton Hall into a contemplative space for visitors that is simultaneously protective, potent and fragile.