Synergy represented by

Micaela Haslam, Heather Cairncross

“Heather and I arrived in Berlin just in time to miss the rush at the marvellous Italian restaurant across the road from our hotel. I can’t remember the name of the place (what’s new?) but just head for the Golden Tulip hotel and you can’t miss it. Within half an hour of sitting down, the place was packed, and on a Tuesday evening we knew that this was a good sign.  I ordered the pumpkin and sage ravioli in a buttery sauce.  It wasn’t a large portion, but it was really rich, and possible the most delicious pasta I’ve ever tasted.

I hardly noticed Berlin for these two days, as I was busy trying to sort out a film session for Air Edel. I’m always amazed at how little time we get to record film scores, when you consider how long it takes to cast and make a film. The music always seems to be last-minute and we all rush around trying to get scores finished, musicians organised and studios booked. I had 16 singers trying to organise their diaries, childcare, teaching etc, while the session moved from one day to another, and from one time to another. Of course all this had to happen while I was out of the UK. I must have spent about £50 on texts and phone calls. Still, we got there in the end and the sound track for Agora will be marvellous!

Philharmonie, Berlin

Heather had already sung Drumming with Ictus less than a fortnight ago in Salzburg, but I hadn’t seen these guys for ages and it was great to catch up again. No-one seems to change. I guess we’re all just getting older together! It was reassuring to note that the relaxed approach to rehearsing was the same as ever. We showed up on time for the sound check then went and had lunch for an hour! Finally we got round to a run-through, which was obviously going to be fine with such experienced players, and Alex Fostier on the sound desk – one of our favourite sound engineers.

Percussionists of Ictus, clockwise from left: Georges-Elie, Gerrit, Gery, Miguel and Michael

I hadn’t realized that Steve Reich was going to be in Berlin. He arrived during the run-through. Having heard this version of Drumming in Salzburg, there were a couple of places he was concerned about. In particular he wanted to clarify what the flautist was playing in Section 3, as the patterns differed somewhat from his original score. Of course nobody minded, but having the flautist play these patterns while we were trying to rehearse Section 2 was rather unfortunate timing…. Still, Michael (the flautist) remained calm and professional, and all was well in the end.

Michael Nyman came to the concert with Steve, and I had the pleasure of joining them both for dinner afterwards. They were in great form. Michael’s new piece about “Sparkie” the Geordie budgie was to be premiered in town the following night. This was a collaboration with Carsten Nicolai, with Kika Markham as speaker. Kika was delightful. She had also been at our concert and had enjoyed Drumming immensely. They were all, obviously, looking forward very much to their premiere, and we had a really fun evening. Michael showed me some of the script and told me the story of Sparkie. I was gutted that I wasn’t able to stay in Berlin and hear the piece – especially as Sparkie would be making a personal appearance (albeit stuffed), on loan from the Hancock Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne (my home town).

Steve Reich joined us on our flight back to London the following morning. From Heathrow, we only had the Piccadilly Line to contend with, while he had another 8 hour flight across the Atlantic. I don’t know how he does it!

Steve will be back in London later in the year for our performance of Music for 18 with London Sinfonietta on the South Bank. And we’ll be singing with Ictus again in October at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. See you then!”


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