Psappha – Lockdown Series Premieres

Part of our Online events guide

Johnny James, Music Editor
Chris Payne

Psappha - Lockdown Series of YouTube Premieres, online, 25 May 2020, free entry - Find Out More

Contemporary classical ensemble Psappha continue their series of YouTube Premieres with John Adams’ Shaker Loops, which you can watch online from 20:30 on Monday 25th May.

Captured on film in 2015, this performance was part of Psappha’s debut concert in St Michael’s, the former Italian chapel in Ancoats. Ever since that concert, the venue has been the home of the ensemble’s rehearsals, recordings and intimate performances. It’s seen them take on everything from visionary 20th Century works to cutting edge world premieres, with each performance solidifying their reputation as one of the country’s most exciting contemporary classical ensembles. It feels quite special to rewind the clock and see where this five-year relationship between ensemble and venue began.

Part of a programme which also featured Quest by George Crumb (issued by Psappha via last week’s YouTube Premiere), Shaker Loops is one of John Adams’ seminal works. Written for the sonic mass of seven string players, the piece is built out of looped, oscillating patterns – a technique taken from the era of tape music where small lengths of pre-recorded tape attached end to end could repeat melodic or rhythmic figures ad infinitum. In this sense, it’s typical of the minimalist style, and yet Shaker Loops also represents Adams going against the tide.

The piece was written in 1987, when minimalism was growing increasingly polished and mechanistic. Works like Steve Reich’s Music For 18 Musicians, which was also written in 1987, were things of pristine beauty, based on the notion that repetition and gradual harmonic development were the essential hallmarks of the style. Shaker Loops is also predicated on repetition, however this is a gritty and emotional work. It features quick harmonic changes, dissonances, and fast dynamic shifts. Suddenly, minimalism was injected with something new – what Adams described as a “dynamic, almost electrically charged element”.

The piece was a great choice for Psappha’s first concert in St Michael’s, where the ensemble themselves were the fresh new element – one that, like Adams’ piece, continues to inspire many. Performed by some of the North West’s best musicians, Shaker Loops is well worth tuning in for on Monday.

Psappha - Lockdown Series of YouTube Premieres, online

25 May 2020 8:30 pm
Free entry

Dates and Times

  • 18 May 2020 8:30 pm
  • 25 May 2020 8:30 pm
  • Always double check dates and times with the venue before making a special visit