Monday, January 25, 2010

The decade of the feral choir


Our word 'happy' comes from the Icelandic word 'happ' meaning luck or chance. So it was a happy chance that the first live music I heard this decade was from the Oxford Improvisers and Oxford Feral Choir. And in welcome recognition that we are not all beneficiaries of bank bonuses or BBC salaries, Oxford Improvers wisely shunned the burgeoning corporate entertainment market and made their concert free. Which is an interesting contrast to the new Serenata Festival targeted at "Classic FM boutique campers" which offers "Puccini and Pimms" with £795 ticket prices to match. I wonder what the folk at the BBC Proms and elsewhere will make of the Serenata Festival's claim to be 'Britain's first classical music festival'?

But back to the real world. The lunchtime concert of improvised works took place in the church of St. Michael at the North Gate in Oxford, which is where I took the header photo. Oxford Feral Choir was formed recently as a development of one of Phil Minton's vocal improvisation workshops, listen to audio samples of his work here. The Oxford Improvisers were formed in 2001 to continue the work of the Oxford Improvisers Co-Operative founded by jazz drummer Steve Harris and others in the 1980s. Composer and performer Malcolm Atkins is a central figure in the Oxford Improvisers and the group has released three CDs including Accession, a work created by Malcolm Atkins. Their website has a number of free downloads of performances and there is a video below. Solo 2 (Dedicated to the memory of Karlheinz Stockhausen) on YouTube is also well worth a visit.



The concert by the Oxford Improvisers and Feral Choir confirmed what jazz and world musicians have known for years but classical musicians are still reluctant to accept - you do not need a printed score to create honest, moving and thought provoking music. At the end of the free concert there was a retiring collection for Medical Aid for Palestinians. I wonder if the Serenata Festival in August will end with a collection for stressed-out bankers?

Header photo is (c) On An Overgrown Path 2010. Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

1 comment:

Miles said...

Hi, thanks so much for the positive write up about the choir. We are returning to the church on the evening of Wednesday 10th March, if you make it along do please identify yourself to us afterwards!

We have set up a Facebook group for the choir and used your photo on it. If this is a problem do post a follow up comment to let me know and we will remove it.