It’s been a few years since noticing the work of newCelf, run by Richard McReynolds and Daniel-Wyn Jones.
They work with musicians and artist interested in new work and classic experimental material. This night at Little Man Coffee held us as a great example of their work, a celebration of the lone voice, unaccompanied in anyway.
An action pack lineup of the great Avant-Garde composers of the last 100 years. Folk music was a small but noticeable thread throughout the night starting with some Welsh music. The resounding factor of the night was essentially showing off the human voice in all its remarkable facilities. The Dada sound works of Hugo Ball, preformed by an artist who almost fainted, are good examples of this. The nonsense word play and motor like delivery can wear thin after a while, though it never stops them being amazing.
A brief section of The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter (with a familiar face from Shed Man) was another brief and strange part of the night. It felt calculating as this time, two actors buttering up a member of the audience in the only way Pinter knew how. This was a case of what was said and what was not said. This would later occur again in a section of No Exit by Jean Paul Sartre, a telling monologue about control in small confines, perfect for Little Man. A brief and bizarre moment came with Ethan Davies with his For La Monte Young. He asked the audience if Young was in the audience and then left the space, we saw him puzzled outside the venue as he walked further away. This hilarious moment has Fluxus all over it and one wondered what would happen if Young was in fact present…
King Harald’s Saga by Judith Weir was sung by Fleur De Bray. A text-book history lesson through song, the dense operatic veneer might be a bit to intense for this venue, though it did remain an interesting exercise. More Meredith Monk (in the space of a week) was very welcome with her Lullaby, an odd cat-like piece where each word is formed into “meow”. Not quite Rossini, but more strange song to go to sleep or maybe lucid dream to. Brute by Richard McReynolds was a mesmeric display of force by host Daniel-Wyn Jones. Through a series of shouting, grunting, chest beating and awful pig like sounds, the work triggered my misophonia, but also elated me.
Cardiff University alumni Soul Zisso gave a highlight of the night. The Sequenza III by Lucanio Berio is a vocal feat of absurd proportions. There is a strange Italian feel to the work which still comes through after all the whispering, ticking and other odd noises. Zisso has made this her bread and butter, performing it here and in Birmingham. Tom’s Dinner by Susan Vega is a familiar little ditty with a merry tune. Wyn-Jones’ own piece Tollborth is an electric assault concerning the Rebecca Riots from Wales’ past. The singer donned feminine clothes, (like the rioters) and we hear the words and song override one another in bars which become a harsh game of catch. Another telling piece, which blasted more Welsh at this curious audience. The evening ended with The Tuning Meditation by Pauline Oliveros. When performing this piece, it is never the same twice, as the audience are encouraged to hold sung tones, creating a wall of sound which envelops the entire space. I pushed my baritone slightly too hard here, though I did get a lovely warmup before a concert of my own on the weekend. A totally stunning way to end a sensational night.
Side note: The only work that was missing was the billed John Cage. Could this have been another case of copyright restrictions spoiling a good time?
I look forward to more concerts and am hoping to work with newCelf in the future.