CoLab Week 1

The first week of the festival is over and half the students of Trinity Laban have been hard at work creating together for 5 days. The atmosphere around both faculties has been electric, everyone showing passion for their projects. Several times people have grabbed me to say ‘What are you doing in 15 minutes? Come and see my performance!’ and so far I’m yet to be disappointed by anything I’ve seen.

The week started with an extravagant launch party, featuring the fabulous cabaret-cellist Zoe Martlew  (http://zoemartlew.com), a red button-controlled live improvisation ensemble made up of teachers from the college and a set by the balkan band Opsa! who performed alongside ‘friends’, including solo cellists, trumpeters, guitarists and singers. Opsa! (http://opsabalkan.com) was formed 4 years ago in the very first CoLab festival and has gone from strength to strength, now playing regular gigs in London – one of CoLab’s biggest success stories.

Here they are with Greek baritone Anastasios Michalis:

During the day on Friday I went to three events. The first was a collaboration between music and dance students, working with composer Olly Muxworthy (http://www.ollymuxworthy.com), who made a suite of short pieces each of which described a particular animal – creating extra movements for Saint-Saens’ The Carnival of The Animals, including penguins, starfish, whales, birds of paradise and meercats.It was a lot of fun!

In the Old Royal Naval College Chapel was a performance by Trinity Laban musicians in collaboration with South Korean music students. They played a mixture of traditional Korean and western music, and some new compositions based on both British and Korean folk stories which feature Korean and western instruments.

The highlight of the afternoon was a presentation from the project ‘Too Many Trumpets’. Several trumpet players from the college took it upon themselves to use as many different kinds of trumpet as possible (normal, bass, piccolo, flugelhorn, bugle, post-horn, alp-horn…and MORE) and write arrangements for the ensemble, each player having to change between several instruments during the course of the performance, which took place in the courtyard of King Charles Court.

Friday night saw a ‘happening’ with many of the biggest projects of the week presented simultaneously, taking over the whole dance faculty building. At this stage I must apologise for the fact that none of the videos below have any sound – there must be something wrong with my smartphone. However I hope you can imagine what music might be going on. Let me know what you imagine in the comments.

Highlights from the programme included…

Elliot Galvin’s arrangement of Carla Bley’s 1978 album Musique Mechanique. Quite the musical genius, Galvin’s vibrant approach to arrangement and band leading saw him use a mixture of sound painting (a language of physical gestures that serve to facilitate live improvisation) and pre-learnt bits of the Carla Bley music. The performance also featured three dancers, one of whom spoke the text of ‘At Midnight’. It was a spellbinding performance at the Bonnie Bird Theatre:

West African Drumming and Dancing. Well this was just what it sounds like. I could have sat in the room all night while the pounding cross-rhythms washed over me. Tremendous energy and a colourful performance.

Favela Rising. Composer Louise Kulbiki is writing a new musical based on the politics of the slums of Brazil. This week she has been workshopping her music with a troupe of musical theatre students and some musicians. The result was a bold, sassy collection of scenes and songs. Here’s a silent clip:

Other Highlights. Another room I could have stayed in all night was where the Mingus Big Band was playing. Over the week they learnt 6 tracks from a Charles Mingus album by ear. The Bollywood Brass Band performed favourite numbers from Bollywood films in the foyer area of the building to a huge crowd who clapped and danced along. The evening was rounded off with a ceilidh – always a lot of fun. About 50 audience members were led in Scottish dancing by caller (and festival Artistic Director!) Joe Townsend while a band of students played the tunes – again learnt entirely by ear.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first week of CoLab and tomorrow I can’t wait to start my own project.  Stay tuned for news of what’s happening! #colabulous


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