Since this diary of musical travels so often visits places where transport links never meet, I want to laud Nottingham, where the ascent of a few stairs (and I’m sure there was also a lift) at the newly refurbed central station brought me to a waiting tram, delivering me in moments to the very stage door of the Theatre Royal. I was in this place of public transport arete to spend a couple of days with Komposit, who are a group of East Midlands-based musicians brought together by Jo Freya. (She’s maybe best known as the vocalist of the great British-Celtic-European folk band Blowzabella, founded forty years ago by instrument-making students at the London College of Furniture. I feel pan-celtic pride just thinking about this groovy group, who are still very busy playing, recording and touring.)
The five musicians of Komposit are also widely skilled, Colin Reed for instance playing expertly on violin, then improvising extensively on alto sax, before finally singing in a real tenor voice (I think he was at this point also on keyboard) which he declared to be his actual day job. Instruments that often fall in the ‘rather loud’ category – melodeon, electric guitar, percussion – were played with exquisite sensitivity by Dave Gray, Cliff Stanton and Satnam Singh respectively. Cellist Nikki-Kate Heyes told us that much of her daily work was spent looking after Lincolnshire's thriving community music scene. We were also privileged to be led on one of our days by the fabulous jazz trombonist Annie Whitehead. All wonderful company.
Our job was to work on and mentor new compositions by four young creators. Again, there was ‘no normal’. Two classically-trained composers, Daniel Sutheran and Adam Heaton, bravely developed new work, live, with very little recourse to notation. The intrumentalists were absolutely forensic in their attention to detail, despite having nothing much to read; a very counter-intuitive situation for those of us who usually rely on notation. Working with songwriter Aimee Stones and rapper Megan Harrison (two very young people) we were at great pains not to inflict intrusive musical settings onto their sincere vocal performances. Working with a rapper, a first for me, wasn’t completely removed from my own experiences with opera singers, trying to make complicated, fast text as clear as possible.
Komposit will continue, in a three month project, to rehearse, perform and record this work (with local music technology students). I reflected happily on this unusually joined-up thinking while travelling smoothly home on magically interlocking transport systems.