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Groundbreaking musical developments take centre stage at Walled City Music Festival

19 May 2017

Ground breaking developments in accessible music-making will be showcased at this year’s Walled City Music Festival, running 31 May – 4 June in Derry-Londonderry. A revolutionary bespoke ‘guitar’ which can be played with just one finger and a brand new piece of music for inclusive ensemble comprising acoustic and electronic instruments are two of the highlights of the festival, as part of a programme with inclusivity at its heart. The programme marks a culmination of several projects, funded by the British Council, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch), Garfield Weston Foundation and PRS for Music Foundation. Partners are drawn from across Ireland and the UK, including Drake Music, St Magnus International Festival and Ulster University. A free symposium focusing on accessible Digital Practices will open proceedings on Wednesday 31 May, followed by a showcase event, open rehearsal, performance and composition workshops.

Frank Lyons, Professor of Music at Ulster University Magee and Chair of Walled City Music, who developed the concept of ‘Inclusive Creativity’, will premiere his new piece NonZeroSum on Friday 2 June. He explains:

‘Inclusive Creativity aims to level the playing field in performance and composition for disabled musicians by developing new technologies and methodologies for their use. In Derry over the past two years, we have explored and exemplified the practice through local ensemble Acoustronic, made up of disabled and non-disabled musicians who meet weekly to perform and compose music.

We are now taking this a step further with the creation of an inclusive 9-piece ensemble comprising musicians from the Benyounes String Quartet and Acoustronic for which I have composed my new work, NonZeroSum, commissioned by PRSF Beyond Borders, an exhilarating challenge! We’re delighted to be touring this new piece with the ensemble to Dublin and London in the Autumn. Come and hear the world premiere on Friday 2 June!’

The event at 4pm on Friday 2 June at Cultúrlann includes a rare opportunity to hear the contemporary classic, Black Angels by the legendary American composer George Crumb, performed by the Benyounes String Quartet. Subtitled 'Thirteen Images from the Dark Land’ and written 'in tempore belli' at the height of the Vietnam War, this intense, immersive work is composed for the unusual combination of electric string quartet, crystal glasses and two tam-tam gongs.

In the spirit of sharing good practice, the challenge to write for the combined forces of Acoustronic and Benyounes has been extended to emerging composers who have been invited to take part in a workshop on Saturday 3 June. Members of the public who want to get a sneak preview of the performance on Friday are invited to an open rehearsal on Thursday 1 June at Cultúrlann at 2pm for an intriguing insight into some of the new instruments and ways of working.

Drake Music, which has been working in this field for over 20 years, is a key partner. Gawain Hewitt, National Manager, Research & Development, will give a keynote address as part of the opening symposium, Inclusive Creativity: Digital Practices on Wednesday 31 May.  He will be joined by musician and activist John Kelly, who has a physical impairment that restricts the use of his hands, and who conceived and created the idea for a new type of guitar, bespoke to his access needs. He worked with coder Charles Matthews to create a prototype and the final version of the ‘Kellycaster’ will be unveiled in Derry on Wednesday 31 May. The day-long symposium is free and open to all, especially those working in community, education and arts sectors. Visit www.heartsofstem.wordpress.com for more information and to book.

Andrew Barnett, Director of the UK Branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, commented:

“The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) is supporting Walled City Music because of our strongly held belief that participating in the arts brings enormous benefits to individuals and communities. We are delighted to see disabled musicians rightly taking centre stage. We hope this festival demonstrates that it is a lack of access and not a lack of talent that is putting up barriers.”

Tickets for the event on Friday 2 June can be purchased from the Millennium Forum Box Office and the public showcase and open rehearsal are open to the public with no booking required.

For more information visit www.walledcitymusic.com


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