If you’re after Manchester gigs with a difference, you’ve come to the right place. Songs of the Caged Bird is one of a kind.
Everyone thinks they know about Manchester music, and what gigs you can expect to see in the rainy city – the answer usually begins with Factory. But if you’re after a completely different musical experience, try this: Songs of the Caged Bird (Fri 12 Oct), a powerful new song-cycle commissioned by Manchester Jazz Festival, written by composer-pianist George King, and performed by arguably Manchester’s finest jazz diva, Doreen Edwards, along with King and musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music.
This one-off gig in the atmospheric setting of the Grade I-listed Pump House (inside the People’s History Museum) takes Maya Angelou’s seminal book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, as its starting point, and then sets original recorded speech samples from the American Civil Rights Movement against a piano and string accompaniment. The libretto includes work by Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and a re-setting of the lyrics to Strange Fruit – Abel Meeropol’s poem famously interpreted by Billie Holiday. You can watch a taster of the gig in the video excerpt below. The recently re-opened People’s History Museum is the most apt of settings for this gig, as it is the nation’s only museum dedicated to Britain’s march towards democracy and equality over the past 200 years or so. It’s also a beautiful setting, the recently restored Pump House now connected to a multi-million pound new museum wing, and all of it sitting snugly on the Spinningfields riverside (opposite the Mark Addy).
There are three ways to experience this gig:
#1. Walk + supper + gig: Local historian Ed Glinert leads the walk, starting at Victoria Station at 4.30pm, taking you on a tour of Manchester’s civil rights past (such as the activist Paul Robeson, Abraham Lincoln and Gladstone). The walk ends at the People’s History Museum where you can take supper and dip into the late-opening galleries before immersing yourself in the Songs of the Caged Bird (£25, all in).
#2. Supper + gig: Alternatively, try supper, galleries and the gig (galleries open from 6pm, £19). Supper is served in the museum’s Left Bank café and features a Cajun-style bowl of the day (vegetarian) and glass of house wine or a soft drink.
#3. Gig only: Come along for the gig only (7.30pm; £12).
BOOK NOW: Songs of the Caged Bird, 6pm-9pm (walking tour starts 4.30pm at Victoria Station), Friday 12 October 2012, £24-£12.A partnership between Manchester Jazz Festival, RNCM, People’s History Museum and New Manchester Walks. For more Manchester gigs, art and culture, find out what else is on during the Manchester Weekender.