Synergy represented by

Amy Haworth, Micaela Haslam, Heather Cairncross

(photo by Philippe Stirnweiss)

“Having just finished our Music for 18 concert in Strasbourg with Ensemble Modern and Steve Reich, Heather and I headed straight up to Cologne to rehearse Shelter (by Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe and David Lang) with musikFabrik. Amy flew in the following afternoon and we had our first singers-only rehearsal with the conductor, Peter Rundel. Heather and I worked with Peter some years ago in Paris, when we sang Tehillim with Ensemble InterContemporain. We were immediately reminded of his delightful manner, clarity and efficiency – so much so that the second rehearsal was promptly cancelled! We covered all the various vocal entries in just a couple of hours.

We had several days in Cologne, incorporating some vital shopping time, of course. One afternoon in the centre of Cologne, I came across a group of buskers. They were a ramshackle bunch, with the oddest collection of instruments – but what a fabulous noise! They played some virtuoso Bach and Vivaldi and I found it hugely uplifting. I could have stayed and listened to them all day. I bought their CD, which is of course dreadful – probably done on a old cassette Walkman in someone’s front room – but I didn’t care because I thought they were marvellous!

Anyway, back to Shelter. We were a little nervous at the first tutti rehearsal, as musikFabrik were old hands at this piece. We were very much the new girls, but the players were all absolutely delightful and supportive of our efforts. Shelter is a quasi-theatrical piece, involving 2 screens, various projections, lighting (mostly very dark!), and much moving around for the singers – around the players who are static in the middle of the stage. The original production team had been drafted in from the US, and Bob McGrath walked us round a mocked up stage in Cologne so that the changes between movements might be as seamless as possible.

Amy and Heather in Cologne

It was all marvellous in theory, but much of this preparation had to be abandoned once we got to the theatre in Strasbourg. Stage-left was impassable, due to a clutter of lights, wires, electronics etc. There were problems with lighting in other areas, and difficulties in seeing Peter. We did have a conductor monitor on the balcony, as Peter was often standing behind us, but when the front scrim came down, Peter looked like a blurred snowflake! Still, that’s what rehearsals are for!

(photo by Philippe Stirnweiss)

(photo by Philippe Stirnweiss)

Unfortunately, we were only able to rehearse on the day of the concert because the get-in took a bit longer than anticipated. We were kept seriously on our toes as everything was rejigged. Even during the show, in the wings, we were having to remind each other of what came next – where we were supposed to be, who was to lead on, and what our cue was. Happily we all made it to the end in one piece, and the audience was hugely enthusiastic.

And finally, the most important part of the tour – post gig drinks with the band. I’m amazed that it’s taken all these years for Synergy and musikFabrik to get together. This was a great team, and I look forward very much to our next collaboration.”


Leave a Reply