“The Audience” for Narrator and Quartet by Wendy Cope and Roxanna Panufnik
This project brings together a number of strands. The quartet asked Wendy Cope, one of the UK’s pre-eminent poets, to write a series of ten poems to be set to music for quartet and narrator. The poems are a series of portraits of archetypal audience members and one about the performers – they evoke familiar audience and performer experiences. For instance, the struggle with an irritating cough. Or a player flustered by a terrible day of frustrating travel. Wendy Cope is a master at turning mundane emotions into witty but perceptive poems. Unafraid of rhyme and metre, she is unusually accessible to large numbers of people without ever being banal or superficial. Not surprisingly, in 1998 she was the listeners’ choice in a BBC Radio 4 poll to succeed Ted Hughes as Poet Laureate. There resulted a work which exudes lightness of spirit and affection.
Roxanna Panufnik agreed to be the composer. She is one of the UK’s most eminent young composers (www.roxannapanufnik.com) and had already set a previous cycle of Wendy Cope’s poems. She has also written for string quartet several times. She was the ideal person for this assignment, and was very enthusiastic about it. As Julian Haylock says in International Record Review “No matter how demanding the subject matter, she always seems to find a way to set words that sit hand-in-glove with the text… (re: If I Don’t Know, Wendy Cope song-cycle) …such is Panufnik’s blinding musical wit and imagination that she negotiates each setting with a magician’s sleight of hand.”
The new work was ready in the Spring of 2009. The narrator is usually Wendy Cope herself but sometimes an actor or actress according to availability and the wishes of the promoter. The quartet have in the past worked with Kate Buffery, Andrew Motion, John Sessions, Janet Suzman, Samuel West and Gabriel Woolf.
Haydn “The Seven Last Words of our Saviour on the Cross”
Haydn’s work was originally commissioned in the 1780s by the Archbishop of Cadiz to punctuate his own sermons on the Words as part of an Easter Day service.The work was first performed on Good Friday, 1787, as part of the midday service. The cathedral’s walls, windows and columns were clothed in black; the only light came from a single central lamp; and the huge cathedral doors were locked at the start of the service. The Bishop delivered lengthy sermons on each of the Seven Last Words and Haydn’s music followed each sermon.
The Endellion String Quartet have solved the problem of how to perform this deeply intense and atmospheric work without the assistance of the Archbishop of Cadiz by commissioning a series of seven poetic meditations from Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate. The Quartet presents the work as a complete concert with each of Haydn’s sublime slow movements preceded by a narration of a meditation on the Word in question. The narrator is often Andrew Motion himself, and Sam West is also a regular narrator. Andrew Motion has created a wonderful narrative which creates the perfect context in which to perform this extraordinary piece without simply playing Haydn’s seven movements (and Introduction and Finale) without punctuation –which Haydn –with good reason- certainly never intended.
The Endellions also perform Haydn’s Seven Last Words in a version with poems written by Ruth Padel who narrates as well. These poems imagine Christ’s agony on the Cross as a journey of self exploration and at the same time are shockingly immediate in their depiction of physical suffering.
Words and Music : W.H. Auden with Sam West (Narrator)
1) The quartet and the actor and director Sam West present a programme featuring readings of carefully selected poetry from Auden’s oeuvre. These are chosen to preface performances of related works by Elgar, Martinu, Britten, Shostakovich and others who have a special poetic or personal connection with Auden. They share a sense of being outsiders whether through political belief, sexual orientation or personality.
2) Music from the Endellion Quartet sandwiching poems by Ruth Padel
The Endellions offer an event in which they perform Beethoven’s quartets Op 18 no 6 and 131 sandwiching poems especially written and narrated by Ruth Padel which explore Beethoven’s personality and growth.
The Endellions also perform Schubert Rosamunde and Death and the Maiden around poems especially written and narrated by Ruth Padel.
Beethoven with the Endellion Quartet
The Endellions with guest-lecturer offer two lecture-demonstrations in conjunction with concerts featuring Beethoven. The lecture-demonstration could form part of a long weekend of Beethoven concerts and associated activities.
1) A comparison between Beethoven piano sonata Op 14/1 with Beethoven’s own arrangement of the piece for string quartet, which he claimed could only have been done satisfactorily by him and him alone. We can examine in fascinating detail the many illuminating differences between the original and the arrangement – far beyond what is required by the differences in the instrumentation. There are many radically different notes, dynamic markings, phrase markings, movement titles etc. and the whole piece is in a different key. This indicates what is vital to the essence of the piece and what is incidental or variable. The audience can hear examples of the piano version and the string quartet version side by side.
2) A comparison between Beethoven’s earlier and later version of the first movement of quartet Op 18/1; this sheds light on Beethoven’s compositional processes by highlighting what he found necessary to change and examining why he made the changes and why he preferred the later version.
Business Lecture-Demonstration – The Art of Teamwork and Leadership
For businessmen and women, project managers, large or small organisations, colleges and other educational establishments, sports bodies and others. This makes a unique, lively and stimulating contribution to a staff training day, a project managers’ conference, a business school course etc and can encourage a disheartened team of any sort.
The string quartet is a perfect model for a business team, a non-hierarchical group whose members have to find ways of working together in harmony to realise a complex blueprint (the composer’s score), for a strict deadline (the concert date). This requires efficient decision-making and conflict resolution, an ability to give and take criticism well, an understanding and acceptance of each other’s roles, strong commitment to the project, and the ability to listen, respond and communicate. The quartet is also a team in which the baton of leadership is rapidly handed from one member to another as the music and other circumstances dictate.
Participants have the opportunity to sit close to the performers, questioning, discussing and joining in the rehearsal process. To benefit from this event it is not necessary to have any previous knowledge of classical music. In fact those participants who have never before heard a live classical music performance are often even more astonished and enthused by the experience than those of their colleagues who have.
Lecture-Demonstration : The Art of Teamwork and Leadership with Mike Brearley
As above but with Mike Brearley presenting.
Mike Brearley captained Middlesex County Cricket Club and then the England Test Team in the seventies and eighties with astonishing success. He led Middlesex to four County Championships. Of his thirty-one Tests as England captain, he won seventeen and lost only four. He led the England team to their momentous Ashes series victory against Australia in 1981 including the extraordinary fight-back in the famous Headingley Test. He now works as a psychoanalyst, writes about cricket for The Observer, makes radio programmes and gives talks on leadership. His book “The Art of Captaincy” was widely praised for its insights into teams and leadership. Sam Mendes says “ I found myself reaching for this book looking for insights when I was in LA making “American Beauty”.
The quartet introduce and play music for children of all ages encouraging discussions about the instruments, composers and musical ideas, and telling stories about the life of a professional group such as the time …
- a cat got into the electricity substation in Cambridge and put out all the concert hall lights (the cat survived).
- there was a bomb scare in Maidenhead.
- tiles blew off the roof of a German concert hall due to a ferocious storm, endangering life and limb of the audience.
- the quartet arrived back at 7.35pm from a leisurely curry for a 7.30pm concert in Portsmouth (having been told the wrong start time!)
- their aircraft was delayed for an hour because the air staff thought a passenger was missing – they forgot to count the cello as a passenger.