Meltdown: The Last Post

It’s the last day of the festival, and the journalists of Meltdown Media have one last review to post before they go. The ten-strong team has done a great job of reporting on the festival, posting daily reviews, interviews, photos and video. We wish them all the best as they go back to A-levels, university courses, jobs and gap years.

We’ll leave the last word to Max, who emailed to say: ‘I feel unbelievably lucky to have partaken in the course … I’m definitely going to miss attending the Meltdown Festival and I think I will have many sentimental memories from it.’

We’ll second that.

Amanda Holloway, Ruth Hardie and Amber Price-Rees

Last Night’s Review: Young Jean Lee’s ‘We’re Gonna Die’
by Grace Hathaway

150827_We're_Gonna_DieA casual browser of the Meltdown programme may have been baffled by the phrases ‘We’re Gonna Die’ and ‘life-affirming’ placed in such close proximity to each other, but that is exactly what Young Jean Lee’s play is. Having been warned by other members of the Meltdown Media team that I would ‘definitely cry’ and that the performance was ‘really depressing’, I was thrilled to find that though I did cry, I also came away feeling uplifted.

We’re Gonna Die provides a delightful balance of increasingly personal and dark monologues with catchy songs, blending humour and honesty in a way that allows the audience to really connect with Lee. David Byrne’s voice carries the songs easily, with an absolute highlight being his hilarious impersonation of Lee’s great grandmother – on her deathbed!

Lee’s performance combines whimsy with pain through a little dark humour, declaring at the start that though ‘I hope none of you are in pain or lonely right now’, if we are, she hopes that the performance will give us some comfort. That is the overwhelming theme of the play really, the fact that grief and loneliness and suffering are an inescapable part of human life, but there are small things that can give a little comfort which she shares with us.

At the end of the performance the audience joined in with an a cappella rendition of the final song, and there was something wonderfully reassuring about hearing hundreds of people joining Lee and the band to sing out the words ‘we’re gonna die’.

The final performance of We’re Gonna Die is tonight, get your tickets here.

Meltdown Day 5: Meet the Ex-Goth Classical Pianist

We are approaching the halfway point of the Meltdown Festival and yesterday the budding music journalists were rewarded with the opportunity to watch the live broadcast of Lauren Laverne’s radio show.  Standing on the same balcony that hosted the after-show parties and surrounded by PRs, researchers and fact-checkers, we observed  a cappella singer Petra Haden (who wowed the crowds with versions of The Who songs last night), house musician Matthew Herbert who is performing on the 23 August, and of course the curator of the festival, David Byrne. Whilst the temporary set looked similar to the BBC newsroom seen on TV, behind the scenes was a different story. Around a dozen people were working as the broadcast took place, searching on their laptops, managing the sound and occasionally getting up to press a handwritten note into the host’s hands. Over the sound of the traffic and horns of the river boats, we could overhear Lauren helping Petra to relax and the guests taking off their headphones for a chat whenever the music was playing.

Lauren Laverne interviewing David Byrne on BBC Radio 6 Music

Lauren Laverne interviewing David Byrne on BBC Radio 6 Music

Another highlight of the day was Eliza McCarthy, an up-and-coming young pianist, who performed a free gig in the ballroom.  She is a trained classical pianist who moved to the UK from Philadelphia aged 12 to attend the Menuhin School. Her set included pieces composed by Mica Levi, who she has been working with for the past year, and John Luther Adams, both of whom were in the audience watching her perform. She admitted that this was the first time she had met John Luther Adams, despite being an avid fan. If that wasn’t enough pressure, she is also a big fan of David Byrne, describing his music as the ‘soundtrack of my life’. She got involved in Meltdown ‘fairly unromantically’, due to an email which cited Mica Levi and John Luther Adams as two of David Byrne’s favourite composers. She jumped at the chance, emailing back asking if she too could perform at Meltdown.

Playing piano started on a whim when her mother asked her if she wanted to have lessons. ‘It sort of snowballed when I started doing competitions’.  This snowball effect brought her to England to study at the specialist music school (and later Guildhall School of Music and Drama). Her music taste developed at the Menuhin School because, as a boarder, she was subjected to a lot of different styles of music – everything from Marilyn Manson to Bach. She even went through a goth/grunge phase, but due to the lack of pianos in the scene she continued with classical music. Her advice to budding young musicians is to

Remember that the music comes first

Eliza McCarthy

Eliza McCarthy

When younger she contemplated careers such as acting and dancing (a dream crushed due to her being told ‘my feet were too flat’).  A natural performer from a young age, this is reflected by her energetic and unique performances. But she admits that it can all get a bit intense. ‘Sometimes I do fancy maybe having a farm somewhere, in the middle of nowhere’, she says, explaining how she likes to feel connected with nature. ‘But it only lasts a few minutes, then I remember I’ll get bored’.  She does have other ways of relaxing though:  in September she will begin teaching Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction at Guildhall to help the performers cope with the stress.  With her parents being Zen Buddhists and spending summers as a child at Zen Camp, Eliza explained how she’d ‘always been a meditator’.  She turned to mindfulness as it ‘stems from all of the Buddhist practices in a secular way’.  When asked if other artists should try it, she looks slightly surprised before adding ‘everyone should. It’s just a way of being aware’.

Well, for her at least the mindfulness seems to be working: she played her hour-long set with energy and passion and her audience was completely transfixed.

Last Night’s Review: Benjamin Clementine

By Max Caffyn-Parsons

Benjamin Clementine is a London-born singer-songwriter and pianist who was discovered busking in Paris.  He is influenced by classical music and poetry but he fuses this with contemporary styles of music, including chamber pop and folk.

Benjamin Clementine

Benjamin Clementine

Last night at the Queen Elizabeth Hall Clementine brought his compelling, introspective storytelling and gorgeous aesthetics to the stage in an intimate performance. The show opened with the venue going dark and a spotlight being cast upon the stage, making only the piano and microphone visible. Clementine then entered, barefoot and dressed in a trench coat. He opened with ‘Edmonton’, and his powerful vocals and sublime piano playing immaculately set the tone of the performance from the outset and immersed the audience in his poetic, melancholy stories.

After each song the stage would fade to black and some seconds later the spotlight would make Clementine reappear, which was very fitting for the personal and sombre themes that he explores in his songs. At times smoke would form dramatic shadows upon him, making the performance even more evocative.

Clementine embodied all of the emotions that he conveyed to the audience. He is the master of dynamics and has a large vocal range – subdued during the quiet and touching parts of his songs, he delivered louder, more passionate vocals during a lively outro. Much of the performance consisted only of Clementine and a piano, but his astonishing vocal and pianistic talents kept the audience amazed and delighted.

A drummer came on after three songs to accompany Clementine for some of the tracks. He too was a great performer and his hypnotic rhythms complemented the interesting melodies. The drummer had a solo, too, which was a nice way to vary the set towards the end of the show.

Clementine channelled the potent emotions of his songs impeccably throughout the show. Integrating multiple styles of music and encompassing his influences, he succeeded in captivating the audience from start to finish with his truly entertaining showmanship.

Enter the world of mobster Meyer Lansky with Crouch End Festival Chorus



Colin McIntyre, who sings in the tenor section of Crouch End Festival Chorus, writes about the choir’s first impressions of the piece they will be premiering at Southbank Centre on Monday 27 April, Roland Perrin’s Lansky: The Mob’s Money Man.

‘Welcome to the colourful world of Meyer Lansky. The news that Crouch End Festival Chorus’s next commission was from a jazz composer was received by members of the choir with a sense of nervous anticipation. We have a reputation for tackling anything that produces a sound, from rock guitarist Robert Fripp, TV and film music composer Murray Gold, Procol Harum and The Kinks, through to the early music of the Elizabethan era.

But jazz… that’s a bit different, particularly for those unfamiliar with it. Those wicked rhythms, strange chords—discords to some ears.

The piece was billed as ‘a choral jazz concert drama’. Seeking further information, we looked on the internet—and found not a single work that answered this description.

And so on to the first rehearsals. Though not exactly disasters, they quickly showed the extent of the work needed to do justice to this piece. The various voice parts quickly organised separate rehearsals among themselves, called ‘sectionals’, outside our regular weekly ones. There were a few grumbles that it didn’t really matter what notes we sang—the sound was weird and the audience wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

As we progressed, it slowly dawned on us that, if we all hit the right notes, the sounds that emerged were not weird, but rather hauntingly beautiful.

And by that stage we had become aware that the music was not just about jazz, but included Jewish klezmer sounds from the shtetls in old Russia, and later the steamy Afro-Cuban rhythms of 1950s’ Havana. For many of us, these were further trips into unfamiliar territory. As with the jazz, the more we became familiar with it, the more we embraced it.

I hope you enjoy listening to this music as much as we enjoy singing it.’

Find out more and book tickets here.

Ariane Todes interviews renowned French violinist Renaud Capuçon

Ariane Todes interviews renowned French violinist Renaud Capuçon ahead of his three-concert journey through Beethoven’s violin sonatas on 6, 7 and 9 November at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Renaud Capuçon on Beethoven’s violin sonatas

Featured image

Renaud Capuçon dreamed of performing a Beethoven Violin Sonata cycle from the age of seven. He heard his teacher playing them all in two concerts and recalls, ‘I don’t know if he was any good, but I was so proud and I remember thinking that when I was older I would do this.’ He learnt the ‘Spring’ Sonata when he was eight, despite his teacher’s warnings about being too young, and when he and Frank Braley first met in 1998 they decided together to fulfill the dream, working on the entire set over time and finally recording and touring it five years ago.

Hearing the sonatas chronologically as we do here, we have a 15-year window on Beethoven’s life, from the three Op.12 sonatas, written in 1797–8 when he was 27, through to his Op.96 sonata, written in 1812 when he was 42 and substantially deaf. Capuçon explains the process: ‘Each sonata is a journey within a journey. It’s amazing to be able to play ten sonatas that cover Beethoven’s life. It’s like jumping into special Beethoven water. You get absorbed in one particular atmosphere, following a path and enjoying the changes that the composer undergoes.’

Capuçon describes some of these changes and reveals his own favourite sonata: ‘In the first three sonatas, Op.12, Beethoven is full of life. They feel youthful but you already recognise the Beethoven who’s going to bang on the table and to revolutionise colouring. Op.12 No.3 and Op.30 No.6 are less well-known than the ‘Spring’ (Op.24 No.5) and ‘Kreutzer’ (Op.47 No.9), but they have heartbreaking slow movements.’ Op.30 No.8 is the happiest of the cycle – it could be a young opus because it’s very fresh and optimistic. There’s such a contrast between No.9 and No.10. No.9 is like a duel, a violent discussion between violin and piano. No.10 reminds me of the final Beethoven piano sonata in the way it’s written for piano – the sense of time being completely suspended as you wait for the harmony to move – it’s like a dream. You can clearly feel that Beethoven was deaf by then – there is a kind of desolation and renouncement. He’s not angry any more – it’s like he’s accepted everything. It’s my favourite because it’s incredibly intense and introverted. You can feel Beethoven’s suffering, and what emerges is so pure.’

What are the challenges of playing all these works in such a short space of time? ‘There are more than 30 movements so you have to stay absolutely focused and concentrated. The real challenge is to give to each movement and each sonata the correct character. It changes a lot, very quickly: from playing a scherzo you go to an emotional slow movement and then you get a rondo finale that’s full of energy. You also find extreme dynamics, such as a subito piano after a fortissimo, or the opposite. Beethoven often creates a peaceful line and then suddenly breaks it and goes somewhere completely different. You have to be aware of all these changes: to let the violin sing, but also to be at the edge of this change.’

Capuçon and Braley have played the pieces in more than 60 concerts together as well as recording them. So will these performances be the same as they’ve played them before? Absolutely not, says Capuçon: ‘It will be completely different, because we’ve changed, life has changed. I’ve had a son, which changed my way of playing, and I have a new bow, which also makes a difference. This is what is exciting in music. Every concert is an adventure.’ After playing together for nearly 20 years, the duo know how to get the most out of the music and of each other, says Capuçon: ‘We really push each other to our limits. It’s not a diplomatic way of playing because we know each other so well. The more you can trust your partner, the more exciting the performance can be.’ And for any violinist, the pieces represent the ultimate challenge: ‘You can’t cheat in this music. These sonatas demand the full a range of qualities you should have as a violinist.’

BOOK NOW to experience this astonishing creative journey live at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall,

© Ariane Todes, 2014

Shot Through the Heart Poetry Film Competition – Shortlist and Winners Announced


Southbank Centre is very proud to announce the shortlisted poetry films for its inaugural poetry film competition. Shot Through the Heart Poetry Film competition received entries from all over the world and judges selected 10 films to showcase at the prize giving evening in the Purcell Room at Southbank Centre as part of Poetry International Festival on Friday 19 July. Book tickets here.

There were two prizes – one for films made for adults and one for films made for children – all inspired by the themes of Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love. Judges Alastair Cook, award-winning filmmaker, photographer and founder of Filmpoem, Thomas Zandegiacomo Del Bel, Artistic Director of Zebra Poetry Film Festival in Berlin and Malgorzata Kitowski, Founder and Director of PoetryFilm had a difficult selection process due to the quality of the work.

Shortlisted films for adults are:

1. Three Heart Poems by Simon Barraclough, Animation by Carolina Melis
2. Millionaire by Michelle Oliver (Mab Jones), Animation by Lauren Orme and Jordan Brooke
Click here to watch this sample video online
3. I’ll murder you by Sarah King, Amit Lennon and Francesca Beard
4. Rolling Frames by Ella Jane Chappell, Film by Katie Garrett
Click here to watch this sample video online
5. London by poet Sophie Herxheimer and filmmaker Joseph Giffard Tutt
6. Bitch by Catherine Linton
7. Loveletter to Francis by poet Stacy Makishi, Director Nick Parish, Exectuive Producer Marc Boothe
8. This is not a thank you by Be Manzini
9. Best by Kerry Bradley
10. Sitting for the Mistress by poet Seni Seneviratne, Director Shirley Harris, Production diva creative ltd.

Judges also selected poet and filmmaker Robert Peake as the winner of the children’s prize with his film Buttons about two creatures that find long distance love.  Robert Peake is an American poet in England and will be joining Southbank Centre on the Clore Ballroom on Saturday 19 July to talk about his winning film and show us some of his favourite poetry films for children.

Winning films receive £500 to be split between poet and filmmaker as well as a pair of tickets each to Poetry International’s Gala Reading. The winning children’s film will be shown in Imagine Children’s Festival 2015 headlining a children’s poetry film event and both winning films will be shown at 2014’s ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival in Berlin.

‘I can see the genre evolving and becoming increasingly acknowledged; however, there is still significant scope for development. Poetryfilms offer opportunities to create fresh semiotics and to explore the art of meaning-making in new ways. Of Southbank Centre’s seventy three competition entries, the strongest material best embraced these challenges.’ (Malgorzata Kitowski, Founder and Director of PoetryFilm who has been making poetryfilms and producing curated PoetryFilm events for 15 years)

‘It was a pleasure for me to watch the films and to discover some well-known filmmakers and poets, but new filmmakers, too. I have seen a lots of films but the nominated films are really very good films and it will be pleasure for me to show some of them at the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival.’ (Thomas Zandegiacomo Del Bel)

We need your help to create one of our ‘Festival of Love’ outdoor installations

AGAPE_FRONT_NEW dezeen_The-Pavilion-by-Morag-Myerscough-and-Luke-Morgan_13



Temple of Agape is being created by artists Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan, and is constructed from hundreds of large scale hand-painted flag-like signs, covered in words about love and in a riot of bright colours, will at its highest point be 8m high. The Temple will provide a place for celebration and shared thoughts. Tying into the Agape theme – love of humanity – the temple will represent the power of love to conquer hate. On the side of the temple will be the Martin Luther King Jr quote:

‘And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love.’

The Temple of Agape will provide a stunning backdrop for the festival finale Big Wedding Weekend (30 and 31 August), and there will be love seats behind the temple, overlooking the river, providing a place to sit and contemplate love in all its guises. There will be a new temporary staircase leading out of the temple and connecting the riverside with Southbank Centre’s Riverside Terrace on Level 2.

We are looking for a number of volunteers to support the artist by helping to paint over 150 signs for the installation. All the signs are hand painted using vinyl stencils for the typeface and masking tape for the patterns and painted with water based exterior paint. An essential part of the process may also be lifting and moving big sheets of ply around the studio. You don’t need to be super strong just prepared to lift things.

The location of the studio where the work is taking place is TBC, but likely to be somewhere in East London.

Due to the complexity of the installation we would prefer graduate age or above. Volunteers need to be prepared to work hard and take detailed instruction. The majority of the painting is roller work. These two videos show how we plan to do it.


The painting of the panels would begin 26-31 May and you would need to be available for at least one full week to help with continuity (4-5 people each day)

We are able to pay up to £8.90 travel card per day on submission of a valid receipt.

During the install period there will be a huge job of decorating all the scaffold with tape and help make the taped roof for the tree canopy along Queens Walk. This will require larger numbers of people and be a fun process, working in the outdoors (and hopefully glorious sunshine) from 19-25 June.



Paul Denton, Participation Design Manger

Please add Temple of Agape volunteer in the subject field.

Unfortunately we are unable to respond to unsuccessful enquiries.


Images above:
FOL Model Concept 2014, Morag Myerscough  © Myerscough Studios
The Pavilion, Morag Myerscough & Luke Morgan, Dezeen Magazine

Steven Isserlis & Olli Mustonen – ‘a symbiotic relationship’

A View from the Platform


Steven Isserlis’ friendship with Olli Mustonen stretches back to the early 1980s. They first met at a young soloists’ concert in Finland when Mustonen was only 16. ‘The concert was in Tampere,’ says Isserlis, ‘which was where, as Olli likes to point out, Lenin met Stalin for the first time [in 1905].’ The boy pianist already had a reputation as a composer, and Isserlis was struck by his exceptional talent. ‘I remember talking to him about his composing. His English was excellent, but his voice hadn’t broken,’ recalls Isserlis with some amusement. ‘I asked him, “When are you going to come to England?” And he shot back, in his high-pitched voice, “When you pay me.” Then I asked, “When are you going to write something for cello?” And he said, ‘When you pay me.” We became friends almost instantly.’

Such a longstanding friendship almost always comes across in a closeness of connection on stage, and that’s certainly true for Isserlis and Mustonen. ‘Our personalities are very different,’ notes the cellist. ‘But we have a chemistry that works.’ What inspires Isserlis about Mustonen’s playing? ‘He has such energy when he performs – an extraordinary force of conviction. He believes passionately in every note he plays. I think he’s genuinely different, in the way he plays, to anyone else. Some people think he’s trying to be different, but he’s not – he really is different.’

Both players have strong musical convictions, meaning that matters of interpretation naturally involve a certain amount of give and take. ‘But we think very similarly about a lot of music,’ says the cellist, ‘including all the pieces we’re playing tonight.’ The Russian sonatas on the programme featured on the players’ first disc as a duo, recorded for RCA Red Seal in 1995. ‘I played the Prokofiev and Shostakovich with many people before I played them with Olli,’ says Isserlis. ‘But playing them with him for the first time felt like coming home. There’s an unusual moment in the second movement of the Shostakovich, where I make quite a nasty noise – it’s something I took from the original manuscript. I’ve found it makes some pianists raise their eyebrows disapprovingly. But when Olli and I first played the piece, he immediately said, “That’s it! That’s just right.”’

Mustonen’s 2006 Cello Sonata and Sibelius’s Malinconia both appear on the players’ new BIS disc, alongside Martinů’s three cello sonatas. Isserlis describes the Sibelius as ‘a tone poem for cello, andquite unlike anything else’. And how about his partner’s work? ‘The sonata feels very natural, but Olli’s music is difficult to categorise. It’s certainly tonal and essentially Finnish, in that there’s a strong element that’s influenced by the Finnish folk singers he heard when he was growing up, and that’s also inspired by the landscape of Finland. You can hear the impact of Sibelius on his musical language, but he’s also greatly influenced by Bach and Beethoven. His music is rooted in the past, but it’s also original and fresh.’

Isserlis credits Mustonen with helping him hone his approach to Malinconia. ‘I don’t think I would have come to understand it, at least not as quickly, without him,’ says the cellist. ‘It’s music that’s in his blood.’ For his part, Isserlis is proud of having introduced the Prokofiev sonata to Mustonen. ‘For some reason, some people are sniffy about the Prokofiev sonata. Having fallen in love with it when I was a teenager, I was keen to play it through with Olli, who didn’t know it. Of course, he fell in love with it immediately, and we’ve played it together countless times.’

This seemingly symbiotic relationship carries through on to the stage, which Isserlis says is an environment where sparks fly between the two of them and anything can happen. ‘Olli’s the kind of pianist who “takes off” in performance,’ he says. ‘We both spur each other on, and that’s always very exciting.’

By Peter Somerford

Book tickets to see them perform in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, 8 May here

Pianist Alexander Ardakov return to Southbank Centre

This Wednesday 7 May Russian pianist, Alexander Ardakov, returns to Southbank Centre to perform a programme of piano classics, showcasing the best of Russian composition alongside popular works from the Romantic period and beyond.

From Chopin’s famous First Ballade and Scriabin’s Third Sonata, to works by contemporary composer John Skiba, this programme explores some of the finest music in the repertoire.

Alexander Ardakov has taught at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance since 1991, and his notable recordings for radio include performances for BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM.

At home not only with the Russian classics but also the composers of the romantic period, his extensive discography includes Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson.

Take a look at Ardakov in action in the video below, where he performs Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3:


Return of the Prince of Kerala to Southbank Centre after 14 years!

Dhruv Arts presents Prince Rama Varma in an evening of South Indian Carnatic Music on Friday 25 April at Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall. This concert, featuring a first class line-up of Carnatic musicians, showcases Prince Rama’s deep, rich, baritone voice and nuanced aesthetics and is preceded by a talk by the Prince, providing an introduction to Carnatic music.

Take a look at Prince Rama in action at the Sivananda Yoga Centre in Kerela…


Join Southbank Centre for an evening of mesmerising South Indian Carnatic music on Friday 25 April, 7.30pm at Purcell room.


We Pay Tribute to Nelson Mandela


We are deeply saddened by the news of Nelson Mandela’s death. For almost 30 years, the sculpture of Nelson Mandela by Ian Walters has taken pride of place at Southbank Centre, beside the Royal Festival Hall, and floral tributes are being left beside it. From dusk today (6 December) a selection of quotes by Nelson Mandela will be projected on to the Royal Festival Hall.

Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, said; ‘Possibly the greatest achievement of the second half of the 20th century was the ending of apartheid. A fundamental battle over human rights was won and Nelson Mandela’s belief in the essential goodness of humanity has been a gift to all of us.’

In tribute to Nelson Mandela’s life and work, Southbank Centre recently curated a special evening on 18 September 2013 when 27 leading writers, musicians, poets, and performance and spoken word artists each performed a piece of work, to mark the 27 years Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa.

The Nelson Mandela sculpture was commissioned by Ken Livingstone when he was leader of the Greater London Council. It was unveiled in 1985 by ANC president Oliver Tambo.