YSFNM 2015: PercusSing

National Centre for Early Music welcomed May this year by hosting a performance from the York Spring Festival of New Music. Unknown review PercusSing, a dynamic new soprano and marimba duo formed by Ana Beard Fernández and Zoë Craven, both recent graduates from the University of York.

PercusSing produced one of the most interesting sounds that I have heard in a while. The intimate feel of just two performers in this soprano marimba duo created a raw and captivating sound. Between them an impressive level of energy was maintained and the sound was warm, full of contrasting moments and interesting variations.

Both she and Zoë Craven (marimba) performed confidently and their communication with each other was subtle but effective

Ana Fernandez’s pure and angelic voice soared into every crevice of the concert hall. Her performance did not falter and she tackled some challenging vocal moments with apparent ease. Both she and Zoë Craven (marimba) performed confidently and their communication with each other was subtle but effective. Craven’s precision in her playing is also worth noting, giving a true security to the sound and fulfilling the aim of the phrases. The performers’ focus was clear and pulled the audience into the vibrant music with ease.

There were, however, some minor issues in the performance. Given the lack of familiarity to all of these works, the end of one piece and the start of another was occasionally unclear, particularly between the first two works. This is an issue that could easily be resolved if the ending of pieces were more clearly defined but proved disappointing when it detracted from individual pieces the equal attention and praise they deserved.

It is important to say that this concert was formed entirely of newly composed works specifically for this group. I found them all engaging and was impressed by the innovative and diverse use of instruments. Certain works were particularly memorable. The opening piece, “Stolen Child” by Stef Connor, incorporated haunting vocal lines and this when combined with Fernandez’s slow movement around the room immersed the audience in solitary sound and the, at times, strange and poignant vocals.

As the final ‘lullaby’ movement came in, the whole sound became serene with a increasing definition reminiscent of a more traditionally classical sound

This was followed by Roger Marsh’s interesting three song collection titled “Walking Away.” The majority of the vocals told the story through spoken word and were interspersed with a refrain-like marimba, focusing on rhythms and a chant-like harmonic pattern. A particularly interesting feature was the merging of theatre and music through musically supported speech. As the final “lullaby” movement came in, the whole sound became serene with a increasing definition reminiscent of a more traditionally classical sound.

The “Seven Short Duets” by Kirsty Devaney were a set of light hearted and modernistic songs. Ranging from instructions on selfie-taking to rambling paranoid thoughts; this collection was intriguing and enjoyable. It would appear Devaney intended to make a comment on the struggles of modern life and she achieved this in an amusing manner. Amongst the humour however, were some clever compositional ideas, giving this odd little collection some intriguing layers.

This concert was thoroughly enjoyable and captivating. The innovative new works partnered with such skillful and professional performers paved the way for a highly successful concert.

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