St George’s is a unique music space, in the heart of Bristol, offering an amazing variety of different music experiences nearly every single day. It’s been great fun to be photographer in residence there during the past few years. These are my highlights from 2019 (click on any of the images to see them in full size).
On 1 February, the team at St George’s explored a new concert format called “Classical Mixtape”, with the audience seated on the floor. Cellist Laura Van Der Heijden was amongst the performers placed amongst them – together with pianist Adam Heron, saxophonist Amy Dickson and violinist Daniel Paro; together with Bristol’s own Exultate Singers, conducted by David Ogden.
A few days later on 5 February, talented young musicians from the Bath String Academy and other local youth ensembles took to the stage, as part of the annual Young Artist Showcase. Bristol’s musical future is bright!
On 14 February, Norwegian jazz legend Silje Nergaard wooed a romantic Valentines Day audience, together with acoustic guitarists Hallgrim Bratberg and Havar Bendiksen.
In March, the Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwali Group brought Pakistani Qawwali music to Bristol. I’d never heard anything like this before – it was incredibly exciting. I made a short video of the performance, which you can watch here.
On 3 April, folk legend Kathryn Tickell brought her group The Darkening to St George’s. It included percussionist Cormac Byrne; drummer Joe Truswell; Amy Thatcher on accordion, synths, clog dancing; Kate Young on fiddle and vocals; and Kieren Szifris on octave mandolin. Despite their name, this was one of the most colourful concerts I’ve experienced.
By contrast, on 11 April, German minimalist pianist Volker Bertelmann (better known as Hauschka) performed a mesmerising, dark and disquieting solo set. This was followed by a second minimalist set by DJ Cheeba in the new foyer space, with visuals projected throughout the building, in collaboration with Filmic19.
Also in April, St George’s started using their beautiful new Glass Studio space, with its airy wooden walls and concrete rising ceiling. The acoustic is perfect for more contemplative music, such as that being explored by the Spindle Ensemble, featuring Daniel Inzani on piano, Jo Silverston on cello, Caelia Lunniss on violin and Harriet Riley on marimba/vibraphone. My short film of the concert is here.
In May, there were two stunning orchestral concerts. The first was from the thrilling Chineke! Orchestra (Europe’s first majority-BME orchestra); and the second was from the Aurora Orchestra, who performed Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony entirely from memory. In the photographs below you can see the high level of eye-contact that was possible for the musicians with the audience, conductor and each other without music stands in the way. It made a big difference to the music and the whole experience.
The summer season concluded with another “Mixtape” experiment, this time featuring sparkling saxophonist Jess Gillam, together with pianist Martin James Bartlett, violinist Chloe Hanslip, Bartosz Glowacki on accordion, and Andrey Lebedev on guitar.
During the year, I covered several different events around the city for the wonderful Bristol Festival of Ideas. These included discussions at St George’s with Nadyia Hussain; Tracey Thorn (Everything But The Girl); and Johnny Ball – whose colourful discussion on 8 July about mathematics took a controversial turn when he mentioned his views on climate change. The Bristol audience responded with typical spirit!
The autumn season got underway on 24 September with solo performances from classical guitarist Craig Ogden, flautist Nicola Woodward, soprano Laura Curry and rising folk stars The Drystones – all in support of my own charity Live Music Now.
On 27 September, pianist Joanna MacGregor gave a spectacular solo recital. I particularly like these contemplative portraits of Joanna, taken during her rehearsal before the concert.
My year at St George’s concluded with two hugely uplifting concerts. On 28 November, the Aka Trio featured Senegalese kora maestro Seckou Keita (seen below throwing back his head in musical abandon), together with Ethiopian ace percussionist Adriano Adewale, and jazz guitar hero Antonio Forcione; and finally, on 18 December, the virtuosic musicians of the Philharmonix ensemble lit up the hall with their dazzling festive fireworks.
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I hope you’ve enjoyed this roundup of the past year, and might feel inspired to come and experience some of the coming season at St George’s. If so, there is lots of information at www.stgeorgesbristol.co.uk
See you there!