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The Organ Reframed Festival at Union Chapel sets out to prove that this versatile instrument is not all about church music

21 September, 2018 — By Róisín Gadelrab

Organist Frédéric Blondy will perform a piece by éliane Radigue

The stuffy image of the organ will be turned upside-down at the third annual Organ Reframed festival next month.

Featuring nine world premieres of cutting-edge work from artists including Éliane Radigue, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Darkstar, Philip Jeck & Sarah Davachi, the festival will also host a rare 16mm screening of Visions in Meditation by experimental film-maker Stan Brakhage.

Taking place at the Union Chapel, Islington, which houses its own remarkable organ, over October 12 and 13, Organ Reframed aims to challenge the perceptions of modern audiences with a mixture of film, music and sound art, showcasing the versatility, relevance and beauty of the organ – and focusing on commissioning new music and introducing new artists.

The festival will conclude with a perfor­mance of a new work by lauded composer Éliane Radigue, a pioneer of experimental music.

The opening night will feature a special screening of Visions in Meditation, a collection of short films by Stan Brakhage, whose dreamlike silent films will be interwoven with three new works from elec­tron­ic artists. Philip Jeck, Sarah Davachi and Darkstar will perform their new works alongside James McVinnie on organ and the London Contemporary Orchestra (Radiohead, Frank Ocean, Steve Reich, Actress, Beck).

Saturday evening’s programme opens with a new piece from sought-after Hollywood film composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, who has written the score for the upcoming film Joker with Joaquin Phoenix, making her the first woman to write music for a live-action DC Comics film. Her previous scores include Sicario: Day of the Soldado and Mary Magdalene. Hildur will perform her new work live with James McVinnie and the London Contem­porary Orchestra Soloists.

The second half of Saturday evening features a piece by Éliane Radigue, a pioneer of musical evolution since the 1960s, who has composed her first work for organ to be performed by Frédéric Blondy. This will be followed by a screen­ing of a short docu­mentary of Éliane working on the comm­ission, provi­ding a rare glimpse into her artistic process.

A staple of the Union Chapel calen­dar, Day­light Music curated by Arctic Circle puts together an eclectic programme of music every Saturday from noon. A special edition for Organ Reframed will feature multi-instru­mentalist Terry Edwards and by Seamus Beaghen, plus per­forman­ces from singer-song­writer Doug­las Dare and elec­tropop keyboard player, singer and prod­ucer Deer­ful.

Festi­val part­ners Spit­fire Audio will also present panel discus­sions on Com­po­ser Insights with Emmy award-win­ning com­poser Michael Price (Sherlock) and more to be announced.

Throughout the weekend, Exhale, a special sound installation by Kathy Hinde inspired by the bellows that provide pressured air for the Union Chapel organ, will use mechanical bellows systems to resonate acoustic sound-making devices.

The festival is curated by Union Chapel organ music director and composer Claire M Singer, who said: “I’ve been writing and performing with the organ experimentally for over 10 years now. Knowing what an incredible instrument it is and the scope of what is possible the idea behind the festival is to commission artists to write new music for it, broadening the current repertoire and pushing the boundaries of experimental music.

“It seems that most people associate the organ with church or classical music and the festival is about showing that it is a hugely versatile instrument, in fact it can be thought of as the world’s first synthesiser and can be incorporated into many different genres of music.

“To have the opportunity to build on the organ’s rich history and bring it to the attention of a new generation is incredibly exciting”.

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