Manchester Collective: The Holy Presence at Hallé St Peter’s

Johnny James, Managing Editor
Phil Sharp/Manchester Collective

Manchester Collective: The Holy Presence at Hallé St Peter’s, Ancoats 15 August 2021 Tickets from £10 — Book now

Two days before their BBC Proms debut, Manchester Collective invite you to join them for a hometown celebration of life, music, and some truly extraordinary composers.

The ensemble will be joined by future-leaning harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, who has built a career around the unlikely and the virtuosic, fusing Baroque sounds with everything from jazz to electronica. He’s the perfect match for Manchester Collective, whose barrier-breaking approach to repertoire, performance and recording makes them one of the most electrifying ensembles in the country.

The Holy Presence will see Manchester Collective and Esfahani present a programme of outsiders, taking music that in some way exists in the shadows, and holding it up to the light. The concert is titled after a raucous and thrilling work by Julius Eastman. A key figure in the story of American minimalism, Eastman was nonetheless sidelined by the classical establishment of the 1960s and ’70s, due to being a Black and openly gay composer. On the brink of erasure from the pages of 20th-century music history, Eastman’s lost scores – which reveal a composer way ahead of his time – have been painstakingly reassembled from recordings, and reinstated into the minimalist canon. Included is The Holy Presence of Joan D’Arc (1981), which at Hallé St Peter’s, for the first time ever, will be performed in the context of a string orchestra.

Also in the programme is a pair of subversive concertos by Joseph Horovitz and Henryk Górecki. The former is a witty confection of jazz colours and textures by a composer who has been similarly overlooked by the classical establishment, the latter an intense and devastating musical prank that would test the limits of any harpsichordist.

We’ll also hear a work that Manchester Collective commissioned back in 2019: the ethereally beautiful The Centre is Everywhere by Novello Award-nominated composer Edmund Finnis. And last but not least, the ensemble’s own Ruth Gibson (violist) will take the stage to present Dobrinka Tabakova’s Suite in Old Style, backed by string orchestra and harpsichord. Joining the dots between East and West European, ancient and contemporary, it’s an extraordinary work by a British-Bulgarian composer who shows that something new can always be found, even in the most familiar places.

Manchester Collective: The Holy Presence at Hallé St Peter’s, Ancoats 15 August 2021 Tickets from £10 Book now

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