Anna Meredith: FIBS with the RNCM Festival Orchestra, Manchester International Festival

Anna Meredith: FIBS with the RNCM Festival Orchestra, Manchester International Festival

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Posted 2023-07-09 by David Keyworthfollow

Sat 08 Jul 2023

RNCM Pre-Show featuring Norrisette, Molly Becker, Beatriz Carvalho, and Talland Quartet.

One of the best things about the Manchester International Festival (MIF) is the way it makes use of different spaces in the city and takes you away from your usual haunts. I hadn’t been inside Depot Mayfield before, only seen it from the dreaded Platform 13 on nearby Piccadilly Station.

It is now a multi-use space but apart from the addition of a stage, it didn’t seem much changed from its industrial days.

With its vast concrete floor, steelwork pillars, exposed wires, iron struts and lack of windows, the depot looks like the kind of place where villains would meet in a late-night drama to do dastardly deeds and deals. Or a secret location where an illicit rave would be held. On the night of this concert, rain was draining through the roof to one side, creating a dark pool in which the glow of fire exit signs was reflected.

Anna Meredith. Photo credit Gem Harris

The Anna Meredith show started with an assault on drums by her and Sam Wilson - it looked as though they were intent on beating them into submission.

The sound was intense rather than ultra-loud, in a massive-PA system, Heavy Metal sense.

Anna Meredith took on a varied role - part DJ, pointing the way; part inspiration to her fellow band members at her side to up the noise and speed, part singer and also an oboe player.

She also enjoyed chatting between tracks and interacting with the audience. The problem was that the microphone didn’t really project her voice enough in the cavernous space and it only seemed to be those standing nearest to the stage who were laughing and cheering along to what she said.

It was the high-energy, rhythmic numbers that worked best, with the heavy beats bouncing off the walls and evoking the brutal machinery of industrial Manchester. The RNCM Festival Orchestra added texture to the sound. They were conducted by Robert Ames, who also conducted the Manchester Camerata and AFRODEUTSCHE concert at Aviva Studios . As was the case there, the classical musicians were not an adornment but integral to the aural experience - as Anna Meredith acknowledged via frequent applause in their direction.

There were quieter moments, such as a section where attention focused on Maddie Cutter’s cello playing but overall, compelling as the experience was, there was not a great deal of melody to offset the intensity.

This may have been why when Anna Meredith came back for an encore, she led the other musicians in a fast-paced version of Elton John’s I’m Still Standing. The lyrics were shown on the screen, karaoke style, so that we could join in and end the night on a high of a collective sing-along.

Before the show, I was vaguely aware of Anna Meredith as an experimental composer. The best way I can describe Saturday night under her musical direction is as a classical concert you could dance to.

Prior to the main performance, there was support from Norrisette, Molly Becker, Beatriz Carvalho, and Talland Quartet. I enjoyed Norrisette the most as her arty, electronic pop suited the venue best. Molly Becker sang some well-crafted songs beautifully but had the same problems as Anna Meredith with getting the microphone to project her words in the vast former railway yard and Royal Mail distribution centre.

Depot Mayfield, 11 Baring Street, Manchester, M1 2PY

Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) website

For more information on MIF23 see their website.

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222371 - 2023-07-08 18:12:32

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