Opera North today announces the five lead artists who will develop new work as part of this year’s Resonance program for creators of ethnic minority music, supported by the PRS Foundation’s Talent Development Partnership, during residencies in Leeds over the next three months: musician Azizi Cole, whose year-long workshop was postponed due to the pandemic; flautist Naomi Perera; Persian percussionist Arian Sadr; afro-psychedelic funk composer and multi-instrumentalist Hannabiell Sanders; and tabla player Mendi Mohinder Singh.
Resonance was launched in 2017 to offer professional musicians and composers based in the North of England and working in all genres the opportunity to develop new ideas, collaborate with performers from other disciplines and shape their work in new directions. Previous workshops have led to major commissions for artists such as Jasdeep Singh Degun, Testament and Khadijah Ibrahiim.
Born and raised in Handsworth, Birmingham, Azizi Cole is an accompanist at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. During his Resonance residency, he will develop his multidisciplinary work Body Clock, which uses the body as an instrument to compose and perform music as well as to dance, using microphones to amplify the composition. He will collaborate with NSCD alumnus Shahada Nantaba and London-based dance artist Issac Ouro-Gnao, with costumes by Jamaican-born dressmaker Audrey Mae, based in Chapeltown.
“In these difficult and turbulent times for the arts, it is vital for us to maintain and believe in the longevity of our sense of creativity,” says Azizi. “I am grateful for this opportunity to collaborate and share knowledge and skills with truly talented artists. As a creator working at the intersection of music and dance, my research explores musicality through movement. This residency with Opera North marks the beginning of my creative practice as a lead artist.By documenting the process of Body Clock both visually and sonically, I will continue to explore and develop my practice into more comprehensive sets of works.
York-based flautist Naomi Perera uses electronics and alternative performance contexts to radically expand the possibilities of her instrument. She will work with award-winning saxophonist, improviser, producer and composer Lara Jones on an album detailing the experiences of women creating music in their own words and performances. Naomi and Lara will improvise around recordings of each musician’s playing with their oral testimony, assembling a soundscape of flutes and responding electronics. The completed album will give voice to the stories of women who are underrepresented and routinely discriminated against in the music industry.
“Using conversation and improvisation, we’ll create five tracks featuring the stories of five diverse performers,” Naomi explains. “The time, space and support Resonance provides is invaluable to us, and we can’t wait to get started! »
Manchester-based Persian percussionist Arian Sadr will develop The Wind, a three-movement work harnessing the extraordinary sonic palette produced by the daf (circular frame drum) and tonbak (goblet drum), to reflect the journeys and upheavals of his life. “I’m so happy and excited to be part of the Resonance Project,” says Arian. “It’s a unique opportunity for me to share my musical ideas with the open-minded musicians of the Orchester d’Opéra Nord, to experiment together, and finally to record the result”.
Originally from New Jersey and currently based in Newcastle, composer, bass trombonist, percussionist and mbira player Hannabiell Sanders will weave storytelling, visuals, electronics and percussion through the music of her duo with Yilis del Carmen Suriel, Ladies of Midnight Blue. “The residency will allow me to continue exploring the different ways Ladies of Midnight Blue can tell stories through our music by adding electronics and visuals,” says Hannabiell. “I will co-create a portable set with Yilis and artist James Davoll that will add a new visual experience for our audience, and we will use the residency to practice with and test its abilities.”
Learning the tabla at the age of three was the first step in a career that would take Mendi Mohinder Singh around the world, performing with artists ranging from Peter Gabriel to Take That. Offstage, the percussionist has led educational workshops for Birmingham’s Sampad charity for over 20 years. For Resonance, he will work with four visually impaired people through Leeds BID Services, creating a new body of music that will combine his tabla with electronics, the sounds of everyday objects, the rhythms and voices of his collaborators. Mendi hopes his project will unleash the power of the imagination in musical creation, allowing people without specialized training, or even with conventional instruments, to participate in a beneficial artistic exchange.
“I am thrilled to have been selected for the residency program and grateful for this opportunity to explore how to better understand, communicate and share truly collaborative musical creation with visually impaired and blind people,” says Mendi. “Everyone should have the opportunity to make music, express their creativity, build their confidence and well-being, and this project will be inspiring, uplifting, therapeutic – and fun.”
From the end of February, each of the five lead artists will receive a week of free rehearsal space in central Leeds, a grant of up to £3,500 to cover the costs of those involved and other costs, and support and advice from technicians, producers and other specialists. There are also options for a short film to document each project, and a work-in-progress performance or live stream.
Jo Nockels, Projects Director, Opera North, comments:
“It’s fantastic to welcome another group of artists to spend time developing their ideas and trying out new areas of work here at Opera North. Although they come from very different musical backgrounds, the artists of this year share a concern for contemporary experiences, and the primacy of rhythm and percussion. With collaborators ranging from visually impaired non-professional musicians to dancers and orchestra musicians at Opera North, we look forward to sharing what will happen next. then !”
The Resonance program was enabled by Opera North’s membership in the PRS Foundation’s Talent Development Partner Network, supported by PPL. The UK’s leading funder of new music and talent development, PRS Foundation supports organizations working on the frontline of talent development with a wide range of individual music creators. This reflects the PRS Foundation’s commitment to supporting composers and songwriters of all backgrounds and genres, through direct investment or by helping organizations that support artists and promote their music.