07 febbraio 2014

La rara opportunità di seguire dal vivo una completa esecuzione di Glad Day, il capolavoro westbrookiano sull'opera di William Blake, si presenta due volte nei prossimi giorni: l'8 febbraio a Londra, nella 'chiesa dei poeti' di St Giles-in-the-Fields, in un'estesa versione corale cui prende parte il Queldryk Choral Ensemble diretto da Paul Ayres, e l'11 febbraio in Francia, a Cenon vicino Bordeaux, nella versione per solo sestetto (Mike e Kate Westbrook, Phil Minton, Billy Thompson, Karen Street e Steve Berry).

Particolare importanza - per la consonanza di tempo e luoghi, ricorrenze e ambientazione - assume l'appuntamento londinese di domani sera, che Mike Westbrook così evidenzia nell'ultimo numero dello Smith's Academy Informer: "This concert is dedicated to the memory of the poet Adrian Mitchell. My involvement with William Blake’s poetry began with Adrian’s musical Tyger staged by the National Theatre in 1971, down the road from St Giles-in-the-Fields, at the New Theatre now the Noel Coward Theatre in St Martin’s Lane. In Tyger the songs were performed by actor/singers and our band consisted of trumpet, trombone and saxophone, guitar, bass guitar, drums, Hammond organ and piano. The show’s West End run, a controversial, and much criticised venture for the National Theatre in the days of Laurence Olivier’s tenure, turned out to be our one and only incursion into mainstream entertainment. However, Adrian’s subversion of the stage musical genre was not calculated to win over the New York impresario in the audience. Blake on Broadway - that would have been something!
Alternative theatre beckoned. The Brass Band, which began as an adjunct to theatre groups, soon took off in its own right. It soon claimed the Blake songs as its own. Phil and Kate have sung them ever since. We have taken these songs into many countries, to Europe and as far afield as New York and Australia. The DVD Glad Day Live, filmed in 2008 at a performance at Toynbee Hall, attended by Adrian Mitchell just shortly before his death, is the fifth version of this material that we’ve recorded. Blake’s poetry has continued to inspire the many musicians who have travelled with us over the years. The personnel and instrumentation of the band have varied enormously. A special concert at The Foundling Hospital in 2007 brought us together for the first time with the present combination of accordionist Karen Street, violinist Billy Thompson, bassist Steve Berry and Paul Ayres’ choir.
Many of our most memorable performances of the Blake have been in London. William Blake was a Londoner, born in 1757 in Soho. His voice still resonates through the city’s streets in poems like London Song from his Songs of Experience. In The Fields from Islington to Marybone, with its references to Pancras and Kentish Town, he evokes the semi-pastoral London of his day, in his imagination gloriously transformed. He might easily have included St.Giles-in-the-Fields, which he surely knew well. It is a great privilege for us to be working with the Simon Community and to perform this selection of William Blake’s poetry in The Poets’ Church."

This is a rare chance to see what was described in the Independent on Sunday as “perhaps the greatest work in all British jazz”. Mike Westbrook’s settings of William Blake’s powerful poetry, originally commissioned in 1971 for the National Theatre production of Adrian Mitchell’s Tyger, have been performed throughout Europe and in New York and Australia, by a succession of Westbrook ensembles. A DVD supported by Airshaft Trust of the choral version, filmed 'live', is released to coincide with the concert at St Giles-in-the-Fields.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the foundation of The Simon Community, a registered charity that reaches out to homeless people, offering a radical alternative to institutional care, particularly for those for whom no other services exist. The Simon Community refuses government funding to ensure its independence, integrity and freedom to campaign. St Giles-in-the-Fields, in the heart of London’s West End, occupies a site where a church has stood since the 12th century. It is commonly known as ‘The Poet’s Church’ and has a long history of providing relief for the poor and today supports the work of the Simon Community.

William Blake was born in Soho in 1757. A poet and artist regarded in his lifetime as eccentric and politically dangerous, Blake is now acknowledged as one of the great visionaries in British Art whose work resonates strongly in the 21st Century.