May and June are proving to be busy months this year! Last week, I took part in a very exciting project, premiering works by two RNCM composers, Philippos Rousiamanis and Deane Smith, alongside an ensemble of singers and cellists.
The project, entitled Juliet the Moon, was a live installation created especially for Manchester Central Library’s spectacular Reading Room and explored the relationship between two protagonists, Frank Merrick and his wife Hope Squires. Frank was a piano tutor at the then Royal Manchester College of Music and was imprisoned during the First World War as a conscientious objector, leaving Hope to look after his pupils. The RNCM has undertaken a great deal of research into the musical life of Manchester during WWI and there were many fascinating objects and articles on display.
Philippos’ and Deane’s pieces were completely different and both made great use of the space of the room; in one scene, the singers were walking around the central column as if in a prison yard; in another, we were opening hidden letters addressed to Hope Squires and improvising musical phrases. Poignant excerpts of Frank and Hope’s letters to one another were used in several movements. The cellists were spaced around the room in a circle, with singing glasses played by the composers in another corner. Thanks to an enormous domed ceiling, the acoustic was amazing: whispers in one corner were heard over twenty metres away on the other side.
The installation took place as part of Manchester After Hours, an evening of creative collaborations in the city’s most unusual venues. It was a pleasure to work with the composers, instrumentalists and singers and to take part in a project exploring this period of British history. I’m excited that we’ll be repeating a movement from one of the works next month in a recital at the College.
Many thanks to our fantastic audience for coming, to the Library for hosting us and to the RNCM and Manchester After Hours for programming the installation!
Pictured: Chelsea Burns, Caroline Taylor, Leh Thai, Dasha Papysheva (singers); Philippos Rousiamanis, Deane Smith (composers); Mario Castelló Córdoba, Gabriel Solano Romero, Natalie Bechmann, Lola Ramirez, Yuuki Bouterey-Ishido (cellists)