The Night Shift

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Music for Folk

Thu Oct 19 2017

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‘They face away from the audience and the instrument is covered in felt. They play in the most tender and devastati……


We’re returning to Peckham’s CLF Art Café on the 24th October, but it won’t be your typical Night Shift. We caught up with clarinettist Katherine Spencer (also known as ‘Waffy’) to explain a bit about what’s in store. 

Could you talk a bit about the theme behind this Night Shift?

We’re exploring folk music and the folk that it was written for, through an OAE lens, so we’re going to be playing the music on a variety of early instruments. It’s an experiment in musical diversity and not being in a box.

What have you got to play for us?

Loads ! We’re starting off with some Bartok. He was very interested in marrying the classical and folk worlds and letting them intertwine. He wrote a set of tunes for two violins. We’re doing them for clarinet and violin. 

We’re also going to do something by a Spanish composer. It was written in 1553 so there wouldn’t have been clarinets at the time, but I’m going to join in anyway! There’s also going to be a part for the audience to play, as the more the merrier in this piece . After a quick stop off with one of the great virtuosi clarinet pieces by Weber we then head to South America – drinking songs from Peru, and folk songs about birds, contrasted by Purcell’s Bird Music from the fairy queen. 

We’ve also chosen some Mozart, you can’t have a clarinet extravaganza without some Mozart. I think some of the piece sounds like a Landler, a style of folk music from Germany. Mozart particularly loved a clarinettist called Anton Stadler, because he could make his instrument sound like the human voice. And that brings us on nicely to the very last piece we’re going to do, which is some Klezmer. This piece is also trying to mimic the human voice, and emotions – ecstasy, despair, cries, laughter.. 

Klezmer music must have a fascinating history. How did it come about? 

There’s actually very little known about Klezmer music historically, but when the Jewish immigrants came to America, they started to integrate Klezmer with elements of the American jazz music. The Klezmer bands took on this quasi-jazz style. The music we’re going to play is more in that modern style of Klezmer. 

 How have you encountered all of this music? 

It’s interesting. A lot of it I’ve come across when I’ve been doing education or community projects with children, the elderly or people in a prison. You quickly learn what’s going to light the fire of your audience. We classical musicians like to get out of a concert platform box. We just like all forms of music, as long as it talks to the soul. We might not be experts at it, but we’re going to play it anyway! 


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