Grand Union's priority is live performance, and over the last 30 years we have toured all over the UK and to many parts of the world
By universal consent, Undream’d Shores at the Hackney Empire was without doubt Grand Union’s best large-scale spectacular ever – fluid, seamless, exciting, daring, colourful, moving, humorous and tragic by turns. The quotes from members of the large and enthusiastic audiences over the weekend (below), and the comments of reviewers too (we particularly appreciated the warm and perceptive comments in Neon Nettle!), give a vivid impression of the show and impact it made.
Recordings and video excerpts will be available soon, and Tony Haynes will be writing regularly about the music and report on developments over the next few months on his blog.
Meanwhile, here is a taster – an extraordinary, brand new bhangra version of the classic Bengali baul song Lalon Ki Jat, which pits the professional musicians of the Grand Union Orchestra against the full might of the GU Youth Orchestra.
Also brand new, but quite different, is the beautiful Carta ao Mar, originally written by Tony Haynes for the Portuguese version of the show earlier this year, sung by Liana, and one of the highlights of the Empire show.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Orchestra’s début (described more fully here), two numbers were included from the original show and first album The Song of Many Tongues:
Some typical shorter comments on the show...
- “The sound is great. It's much more focused around the songs and feels a lot tighter than many shows. I've found it very emotional! And I love that it opened with 'I Live in the City' which is an all-time classic.”
- “The best one yet at the Empire! The Chinese lady was superb as well. The development of the pieces was very well done. No explanation needed.”
- “A really wonderful collaboration that celebrated the diversity of London, and some really beautiful songs. Enjoyed the mixture of everything musical about the show - excellent!”
- “Loved it! Really displays a panorama of the community in music. Loads of performing talent, well written and original and a real sense of joy.”
- “Absolutely fantastic idea to show on the stage the multicultural part of London. Beautiful stage, nice 'vibe', lovely voices & exciting improvisation.”
- “Great performance, original music, great musicianship. My daughter really enjoyed getting involved. If Grand Union didn't exist, it should be invented! Thank you.”
...and from two longer appreciations:
“I am a white second generation immigrant, and thus invisible as such, but “I Live in the City”, for example, strikes an important chord (no pun intended). My mother, a German Jew who left Germany in 1933 at the age of 13 and who, after various wanderings, finally came to live in London in the late forties, said late in her life that she could best describe herself as a Londoner. I’m sure that the same is said of other cities by other people who have found their home there and it is vital that they should continue to feel that.
Undream’d Shores is such a hopeful and beautiful reminder of the importance and richness of migration. Thank you again.”
“It was such a joy to get to one of your events. You took me on a journey round the world and back and I'm sure I felt a little of the pain and the joy of each place as I travelled. Thank you.
I continue to be blown away by your virtuosity and heartfelt musical expression! Any young people who get a chance to hang out with you will be changed for good for ever! There were a few new faces tonight, but basically the show was made magical by the awesome genius of all of you GU veterans! I loved it. And Naveen Arles is a fabulous addition to your team. I’m inspired by his work. The community choir shone!
My favourite amongst the jewels was your arrangement of Yemanyah. When the men of the choir came in with the counter melody, I melted. Then the orchestra took it to another level! Awesome!
Thank you so much for a truly inspired evening. Keep on keeping on! You are changing the world.”
Details of our programme for 2015 and beyond will be announced in the New Year – and look out too for the launch of our new website!
Our main preoccupation is still our ambitious international collaboration with like-minded artist-led companies in France and Portugal, supported by a substantial grant from the European Union Culture Fund. Each of the partner companies is producing their own show in collaboration with Grand Union. They all explore a common theme – migration – and include local performers; but each has its own title, reflecting local character and history.
The French strand concluded with Soie et Charbon (Silk and Coal) at Espace La Fare Alais, Alès in September 2014; the Portuguese strand concludes with Mil e Uma Marés (A Thousand and One Tides) at the Auditorium Luisa Todi in Setúbal, February 21st 2015.
The Isle Is Full Of Noises
This EU-funded programme will conclude in April 2015 with an unusual event combining debate with performances, presentations and exhibitions. It will bring together artists in different disciplines and from different cultural backgrounds who share Grand Union’s artistic, social and political vision; and who engage with, draw artists from and/or take inspiration from the culture of the immigrant and migrant-descended communities that make up Britain’s ever-broadening demographic.
Full details can be found here. Events will take place in iconic East London venues like the Hackney Empire, Rich Mix, Wilton’s Music Hall and St John’s Bethnal Green, with Queen Mary University hosting the discussion sessions.
Touring Undream’d Shores and ancillary programmes, and developing projects related to its ideas and ethos – our Youth Orchestra, the Summer School, Second Generation apprenticeship scheme and practical workshops promoting the art of improvisation – will form the backbone of Grand Union’s work for the next three years. More detailed information can be found here.
Grand Union’s Summer School, fulfilling a long-held dream of the Company, was a huge success. In partnership with the music services of Essex and Cambridgeshire and our own Youth Orchestra, it took place in the picturesque setting of Oundle School, near Peterborough, Monday to Wednesday August 11th to 13th.
Young musicians aged 12-21 who play non-Western instruments and/or wish to learn more about music from other parts of the world had the opportunity to work with Grand Union’s core musicians who are experts in most traditions worldwide. Full details can be found here, and regular updates on the GUYO website. A full report is in preparation.
Highlights of 2013
Trading Roots performances:
- Colchester, Arts Centre
- Cambridge, West Road Concert Hall
- London, Rich Mix Arts Centre
- Southampton, Turner Sims Concert Hall
- Setúbal, Music Festival
- Lisbon, Museu do Oriente
- London, Wilton’s Music Hall
- Alès, Fête de la Musique
- Birmingham, mac Arena
- Leeds, City Varieties Music Hall
- Liverpool, Capstone Theatre
Music Untamed - Hackney Empire Theatre
On the Edge – four-day world jazz festival, Wilton’s Music Hall
Grand Union Orchestra 2012
- Liberation and Remembrance – Hackney Empire (London Jazz Festival)
- The Golden Highway – Hackney Empire (London 2012 Festival)
- What the River Sings – Trinity Buoy Wharf (BBC Music Nation Festival)
- 11.11.11 – Hackney Empire (Remembrance Day event)
- Battle of Cable Street – Wilton’s Music Hall (75th anniversary commemoration)
- If Paradise – Queen Elizabeth Hall (also CD launch based on Radio 3 broadcast)
- Four-day World Jazz Festival
- Wilton’s Music Hall
- Portugal (Setúbal)
- All About Jazz profile
- If Paradise at the Queen Elizabeth Hall
- 11.11.11 at the Hackney Empire
- If Paradise CD
For full details of our available shows, the latest line-up of the Grand Union Orchestra and our current Learning and Participation programme, go to press and bookings.