Extraordinary new musical collaboration to commemorate the Somme ..
Mercury Prize nominated Field Music and electronic duo Warm Digits to perform live score with Royal Northern Sinfonia at film premiere on 10 July as part of 14-18 NOW 2016 season
An extraordinary new collaboration commemorating the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, Asunder brings together some of the region’s most exciting contemporary and classical musicians – Field Music, Royal Northern Sinfonia and Warm Digits, with award-winning British artist and filmmaker Esther Johnson and respected music writer, film producer, curator and member of best-selling pop band Saint Etienne, Bob Stanley.
Fresh from a US tour to promote their new album, Commontime, Field Music’s David Brewis explains why the Mercy Prize nominated band were so keen to get involved:
“The chance to write something completely new and play it with an orchestra doesn’t come around very often. And as we heard about the plans for the film, the idea of telling a more complete story about our home town and how the war affected it was very appealing. There’s nothing quite like hearing a full orchestra right in front of you and if we get it right, then the balance between what you see and hear on screen and what you see and hear from the musicians should be spectacular.
“One of the other things which intrigued Peter [Brewis] especially about this project was our love of the orchestral music from that period. Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring premiered in 1913, Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire in 1912. Bela Bartok and Maurice Ravel were composing, as was Claude Debussy, so it was a time of huge change in harmony and composition and we’ve dipped into that period for inspiration a lot.”
Steve Jefferis from Warm Digits adds, “We've always been interested in art, film & music projects where the process can take the music off in unpredictable and exciting directions. So working with a film artist of Esther Johnson's calibre was very appealing. Plus the chance to work again with Field Music, and for the first time with an orchestra, made this an unmissable opportunity for us - working with an orchestra opens up new worlds of possibility.”
Royal Northern Sinfonia have a strong record of working across various genres, with previous collaborations with bands and artists including Sting, John Grant, Lanterns on the Lake and Joanna Newsom. Director Thorben Dittes says:
“Royal Northern Sinfonia is thrilled to be involved in this commission which will mark an important point in our collective history. As well as establishing itself as one of the leading chamber orchestras in Europe, giving concerts in its iconic home Sage Gateshead, in concert halls, community centres and churches through the north east and touring the world, Royal Northern Sinfonia has forged a reputation for unusual collaborations. We jumped at the chance to work with Field Music and Warm Digits on Asunder.”
Royal Northern Sinfonia will be conducted by Hugh Brunt, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the London Contemporary Orchestra, winners of the Ensemble category at the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards 2015.
More recently, Brunt conducted the string and choir arrangements on Radiohead’s new album A Moon Shaped Pool.
Sunderland quartet The Cornshed Sisters will perform an a cappella rendition of traditional Wearside folk tune The Rigs of Sunderland Fair, which filmmaker Esther Johnson came across during the early stages of her extensive research in a book of folk songs in the Sunderland Local Studies Collection. Marie Nixon from the band said, “We were thrilled to be asked to be a small part of this amazing project as it's made by so many of our favourite artists and commemorates Sunderland's contribution to such an important event in our history.”
Asunder will tell a powerful story of the North East’s involvement in one of the most traumatic battles in military history through largely unknown personal experiences. The film will be narrated by Kate Adie OBE, with Alun Armstrong as the voice of the Sunderland Daily Echo & Shipping Gazette.
Writer and Creative Producer Bob Stanley said, “For me, Asunder is an opportunity to work with a group I've admired from afar for years, Field Music, and one of my favourite documentary makers, Esther Johnson, as well as a group I only discovered last year but are one of the most thrilling electronic acts in the country, Warm Digits.
“The premiere will be a truly unique event - the combination of a live score to a new film featuring some incredible archive footage and fascinating local stories, along with the other events going on inside and outside the Empire should be a really memorable day, and I hope one that people will be talking about for years to come. I want everyone who sees it to take pride in the region’s unique history and to feel they can help to build its future.”
Artist and filmmaker Esther Johnson adds, “Sound is such a powerful and important element of filmmaking and it has been wonderful to work closely with Field Music and Warm Digits. I’ve played music since I was a child, and having an orchestral score performed live with the film will be a very special moment.”
The project is the first North East co-commission in the national 14-18 NOW programme - extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War, as part of the UK’s official centenary commemorations - an important milestone for the city in the year Sunderland begins work on its bid to become City of Culture 2021.
Asunder will premiere at Sunderland Empire on 10 July before touring at selected venues. To book tickets visit www.atgtickets.com/shows/asunder/sunderland-empire/ or call the box office on 0844 871 3022.