Music on a grand scale

'Political Mother: Derry Londonderry Uncut' brings the atmosphere of a rock concert into the realm of modern dance, with mesmerising results. (141212JC2)

'Political Mother: Derry Londonderry Uncut' brings the atmosphere of a rock concert into the realm of modern dance, with mesmerising results. (141212JC2)

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The forthcoming ‘Political Mother: Derry~Londonderry Uncut’ is certainly a handy gig for the fortunate few chosen as part of its team. This world-class event is scheduled for the new Ebrington Venue in March 2013 - a special commission for our Culture year between London’s LIFT Festival and Culture Company 2013.

Twenty supremely talented Derry musicians have been selected by internationally-renowned choreographer Hofesh Shechter for his dance spectacular ‘Political Mother: Derry~Londonderry Uncut’. A recent gathering at Sandinos Bar marked the first time the dream team met each other, and the start of of an arduous but challenging journey. ‘Journal’ reporter JULIEANN CAMPBELL discovers more...

Local musicians who have been selected to perform in the orchestra for 'Political Mother: Derry Londonderry Uncut', which will open in Derry in March 2013. Drawing upon Derry's rich musical culture, it will feature a live band of more than 30 musicians - local artists alongside international musicians - and 16 dancers of the Hofesh Shechter Company. (Photo: Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)

Local musicians who have been selected to perform in the orchestra for 'Political Mother: Derry Londonderry Uncut', which will open in Derry in March 2013. Drawing upon Derry's rich musical culture, it will feature a live band of more than 30 musicians - local artists alongside international musicians - and 16 dancers of the Hofesh Shechter Company. (Photo: Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)

The forthcoming ‘Political Mother: Derry~Londonderry Uncut’ is certainly a handy gig for the fortunate few chosen as part of its team. This world-class event is scheduled for the new Ebrington Venue in March 2013 - a special commission for our Culture year between London’s LIFT Festival and Culture Company 2013.

Drawing upon Derry’s rich musical culture, the stage spectacular will feature a live band of more than 30 musicians - twenty chosen from a pool of over 100 in the city - to play alongside the international musicians and 16 dancers of the Hofesh Shechter Company. With local viola players, drummers, guitarists and more now immersed in the show, it’s bound to be a big hit with Derry.

Erica Campayne, Participation Producer for LIFT, elaborates on how this ambitious project came to fruition.

“Well, LIFT is the London International Festival of Theatre, and we run a festival every two years,” she explains. “We were approached to do something for the City of Culture and so we suggested the Hofesh Shechter Company as we’d always wanted to work with them! We saw Political Mother in Saddler’s Wells and it blew us away. We had never seen anything like it!

Ericia Campayne from LIFT, talking to musicians Richard Campbell and Ronan McKee. (141212JC1 Photo: Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)

Ericia Campayne from LIFT, talking to musicians Richard Campbell and Ronan McKee. (141212JC1 Photo: Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)

“Hofesh is a fantastic artist and while he’s a contemporary dance choreographer, he started as a drummer and so his shows incorporate music naturally as he makes the music and he makes the dance. So we were like “we want to work with Hofesh, let’s suggest Hofesh!” He’s so amazing!”

The team were determined to break the mould with the latest version of Political Mother. “We wanted to do something differently and so Hofesh and his team had the brilliant idea - why not collaborate with people in the city and make this something extra-special?” Erica says.

Rehearsals for ‘Political Mother: Derry~Londonderry Uncut’ start on January 21 and will last for six weeks. “This is the very first time the Derry musicians have all been in a room together today,” Erica adds. “They look a little nervous but quite excited too! Many of them have never been involved in a concert of this size.”

Derry session musician Robert Peoples is highly accomplished in the Viola and is one of those chosen to play alongside the Hofesh Shechter Company.

“I found the audition process was quite easy,” the 44 year-old tells the ‘Journal’. “ I just arrived with my instrument and they explained what it was all about and they showed clips of the show, which got my curiosity going straight away, wondering how I could do this and that. It was a bit of a personal challenge really. Within a couple of weeks they got in touch to say I was chosen and how much we’d be getting paid to perform, which was brilliant! I’ve been involved with some big gigs and symphonies before, but this is a new project for me. I love big gigs, I love the challenge!”

Richard Campbell is 36 years-old and specialises in the Lambeg drum, snare and Bodhran - skills that have taken him all over the world as a member of Different Drums of Ireland.

“Nowadays I play in the Bready Ulster Scots Pipe Band and the producers were interested in hearing the Lambeg, snare and Bodhran so I invited them up to one of our band practices and a group from LIFT and the Hofesh Shechter Company came over and it turns out they’d never heard a pipe band before, it was a new experience for them! I later went to the auditions and they told me the same day I got a part!”

Richard relishes the idea of working on such a grand scale. “I did a lot of touring before, so I know what it takes to do a show like this, the intensity and the rehearsals needed, so I’m not nervous. I’m looking forward to the hard work! But in terms of what I know so far about the show, I know it’s not political and it’s not about anyone’s mother!” he laughs.

Viola player Colin Norrby is 25-years-old and also looking forward to the challenge of performing in such a big event.

“I found the auditions were actually a lot more relaxing than any others I’d ever done. We had to learn the music from manuscript, which was fine as I can read music, but they were more interested in how you are at improvising. To an extent, you’re not given instructions and so when they give you the job, they expect you to use your own ability and judgement.”

“I think part of the reason I’m so excited is that it’s such a massive event and it’s going to be a really big deal for Derry,” Colin goes on. “I’m looking forward to the rehearsal stage, as it’s The rehearsal stage with the professional musicians from the company is going to be very interesting and will be a great learning curve. We’re not just sitting around playing with friends, it matters now.”

Likewise, 21 year-old Shane Darrell is eager to take up his viola and get started with the real work.

“Publicity-wise, this is the biggest thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “I’m not nervous now, but by January I’m sure I’ll be bricking it! My mother’s actually a choreographer and so I already have that interest in dance, so it will be good to be involved in creating the music, to meet new people and do something different for a change.”.

Laura Broone, Project Coordinator for the Hofesh Shechter Company, says: “I’d heard a lot about Derry before I came here and I think the city is brilliant. It’s steeped in culture and history and when you come here and feel that, it made the project come alive,” she says.

“There were over 100 people who originally applied and we saw about 86 people during the auditions. Hofesh and two of his lead musicians were here for that, but ultimately it was down to Hofesh who was chosen. He has a natural instinct and just knows who is going to work well within the context of the group and the context of the music. He was really impressed by the quality of musicianship in Derry. Actually, we were all taken aback by the talent here - it was really tough trying to decide who was in and who wasn’t, the talent was kind-of overwhelming.”

Jonathan May is the Development and Communications Coordinator for LIFT who was also enjoying his first trip to the city.

“It’s my first time in Derry and at LIFT we’re all really excited to bring Hofesh over and to do a project like this. His show has all the power of a rock gig but with gorgeous dance as well. It’s not high art, it can communicate with people on a really personal, no-nonsense level. That’s why it’s good that it’s a mostly standing gig with only a few seats, people do dance and get into it. I even saw a mosh-pit once, which was crazy!”

On a final note, LIFT’s Erica Campayne added: “We love Derry and we want to come back soon! Derry seems to really want this project to happen and people are really looking forward to it, which is what we wanted. We really wanted to feel part of the city.”

For more information on Political Mother, see: www.liftfestival.com.