Join us on 14th June 2023 at 7.30pm at St Thomas’s Church, St Thomas’s Square, Salisbury SP1 1BA, for a transporting evening of music from La Folia under Artistic Director Howard Moody, in collaboration with Best Foot Music – an agency supporting musicians, poets and communities who have sought refuge in the UK from around the world.
Bach’s ‘Musical Offering’, on violin, flute, cello and harpsichord, is woven with sounds from around the world like the oud, tar, vocals and percussion, opening borders between musical traditions. To include Sudanese musician and poet Bashir Al Gamar’s chilling poem ‘A Child and a Doll’, which speaks of a displaced child on a beach, contrasting with Shakespeare’s “isle full of noises: sounds that delight and hurt not”.
La Folia musicians:
Howard Moody – harpsichord
Jeff Moore – violin
Robin Michael – cello
Fiona Kelly – flute
Adrian Zolotuhin – guitar
Buster Birch – drums, percussion
Bashir Al Gamar – oud, poet, composer
Jamal Alsakka – tar, bongos, tabla
Edith WeUtonga – singer, mbira, bass guitarist
A note from Howard:
When Gareth Machin invited La Folia to take part in this year’s Salisbury International Arts Festival, he mentioned that Shakespeare’s The Tempest would be having some influence in his programming. This led me to think about how Shakespeare’s drama could in some way be reflected in a concert programme with a small group of musicians.
Caliban’s speech from Act 3, scene 2 became the haunting starting point: “Be not afeard; the isle is full of noises, Sounds and sweet airs that give delight, and hurt not”. It is the musical offering of the island itself that becomes the point of refuge for Shakespeare’s exiled characters who have been brutally evicted from their own land, washed up and isolated on the beach.
The next step was to place Bach’s great masterwork The Musical Offering into the centre of the programme. Bach visited King Frederick II the Great of Prussia on 7 May 1747. The King, himself a musician, showed Bach a new delicate musical invention called a fortepiano that was to develop over the subsequent 100 years into something that we now recognise as a modern piano. The King gave Bach a theme on which to improvise a fugue. After astonishing the King with his improvisation, Bach took this ‘royal theme’ home, transcribed his own improvised fugue (that will start tonight’s concert) and composed a sequence of canons, a trio sonata and the most extraordinary array of other fugues (at the work’s high point, the “ricercar’), all based on King Frederick’s theme.
Coming back to Shakespeare’s drama, I then began to wonder how the “sounds that delight and hurt not” of Shakespeare’s characters and Bach’s music could be put together in order to bring something of the true spirit of Bach’s improvised music making whilst wars were raging through Europe. (Only nine months before meeting Bach, King Frederick had activated the Seven Years War by sending his troops into Saxony, substantially funded by the British. Nearly a million people were killed during the seven-year conflict).
In today’s world our own musical interactions are increasingly being touched by the diversity of musical heritages. An increasing number of these interactions are with musicians who seek refuge on our shores. Thanks to the connection of Phill Minns’ visionary charity ‘Best Foot Music’, I had worked a couple of years ago with the Sudanese refugee poet and musician Bashir Al Gamar. Bashir’s poem A Child and a Doll had made a strong impression on me. It resonated with Shakespeare’s The Tempest, finding a central place in this musical offering. Phill also connected us with Jamal Alsakka, a master musician from Syria. More recently I heard Edith WeUtonga sing. Knocked out by the way that her music making felt like “sounds that hurt not” I asked her immediately if she would be part of our musical coming together. The next requirement was to find classical musicians who improvise as well as play written music for Bach’s demanding score. Jeff Moore was willing to travel from Orkney for the experience, Robin Michael could manage to get to Salisbury in time from Copenhagen and Fiona Kelly had a couple of days free from her constant international schedule. And of course, what La Folia event would be complete without Buster Birch and Adrian Zolotuhin bringing their extraordinary diversity of jazz styles into the mix. To cap it all, master instrument maker Robin Jennings had just finished making a new harpsichord in his Shaftesbury based workshop. He was willing to supply it for this unique Bach outing.
A precise programme order of events is not possible, since that is not the nature of such a collaboration, but I hope this description of the process of bringing us together explains why surprise and invention must lead the way (as the title of the group La Folia implies). Bach’s canons and fugues will be played by various combinations of flute, violin, cello and harpsichord. The Trio Sonata will bring all the Western classical instruments together, as will the mighty six-part Ricercar, hailed as one of the greatest manifestations of human invention. Bashir’s poem A Child and a Doll will find a place in Sudanese and in English alongside songs and instrumental pieces by Jamal and Edith. One thing can be sure, we will all end up where Bach began – improvising.
Thank you to the Festival for giving us this opportunity to make music that will express both inner and outer conflict as well as, like Bach’s crafted music, becoming just music itself – a musical offering. Howard Moody (Artistic Director, La Folia)
With grateful thanks to :
John and Ann Compton
Andrew and Catherine Johnson
La Folia Patrons, Friends & Supporters
La Folia Trustees
About Best Foot Music:
Best Foot Music Collaborations with musicians & communities who have moved to the UK from around the World. Art and music are important avenues through which the questions of identity, social cohesion and integration can be explored and stereotypes can be countered. Working collaboratively with musicians with diverse heritages from around the World. Supporting and documenting music projects made by people from refugee and migrant backgrounds. Established in 2009, Best Foot Music is an intercultural music and art organisation. We aim to encourage social inclusion and cultural diversity by supporting, promoting and documenting the music and arts of communities and individuals who have moved to the UK from around the World.