Acclaimed composer Gavin Bryars and his Ensemble will be joined by singer and songwriter Gavin Friday for a performance of Nothing Like the Sun, Bryars’ commission for Opera North and the Royal Shakespeare Company, at the University of Hull’s Middleton Hallon 4 April.
The haunting, dramatic piece for chamber group and voices weaves Bryars’ music through eight of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The performers include Bryars himself on double bass, tenor John Potter, and American soprano Claron McFadden.
The selected poems focus on themes of time and memory, and each sonnet is spoken by Friday before Potter and McFadden sing Bryars’ setting, allowing for both close contemplation of Shakespeare’s words, and the uncovering of unexpected readings for them.
Opening the evening, The North Shore, an evocative piece for viola, piano and strings, is Bryars’ “response to the Idea of North”, inspired by the coastline around Whitby where he spent summers as a child.
Bryars, who was born in Goole, is one of the most respected and influential composers in contemporary music. From a background in jazz, he went on to work with the composers John Cage and Cornelius Cardew in the 1960s, and as a teacher at Portsmouth School of Art in 1970 he established the infamous Portsmouth Sinfonia. One of his first major works, 1971’s Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet, scored an orchestra along with a field recording of a homeless man singing a hymn, to unforgettable effect.
He has written four full-length operas, worked with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and English National Opera, as well as creating several commissions for Opera North, and collaborated with the likes of Brian Eno, Tom Waits and David Byrne. In 2016 he turned the journey between Goole and Hull into a work of art with The Stopping Train, a recorded piece featuring poetry by Blake Morrison, designed to be listened to on headphones on the route, and timed precisely to coincide with each station.