The Melodians Steel Orchestra UK is always looking for a new challenge and projects to stretch and improve its performances. The following are eight projects that they have worked on over the past eight years.
Art Night 2018
The Melodians collaborated with the artist Jeremy Deller for the second time to become an ‘Art Installation’ in Battersea for Art Night 2018 on 7th July. They performed a single piece of music continuously for the entire evening from 6pm until 1am the next day (with just a 1 hour break for dinner). This meant that they performed the same piece of music ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials around 50 times.
The composer of the music, Jerry Dammers, visited during the evening and seemed very pleased with the Melodians’ performance of his composition. The audience came and went continuously during the evening and when the Melodians finished their performance at 1 am on the 19th there were still around 25 people watching and listening. It might have been difficult to keep going but as the visitors changed continuously during the evening and everyone seemed to enjoy it, the Melodians were able to maintain their performance for the whole of the 6 hours of playing. They received a fantastic round of applause at the end.
Here’s a vdeo of a single performance.
Jeremy Deller on Desert Island Discs
Jeremy Deller contacted the Melodians on the 1st November to say he was going to be a guest on Desert Island Discs in 2019 and would like the Melodians to record a piece of music to be one of his 8 tracks to ‘take with him to the Desert Island’. His choice for the Melodians was Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen and he wanted an up-tempo version of the song. However, we only had 4 weeks to arrange it, learn it and record it for BBC Radio 4.
Tamla Batra arranged the music and the Melodians learnt it very quickly. It was a very short piece to fit into the programme. Jeremy came to a few rehearsals to see how it was going. Finally, on 24th November Jeremy came and recorded the rehearsal and passed it to the BBC Radio 4 (just 23 days from start to finish!).
The track was played on Desert Island Discs on January 6th and 11th. The Melodians recording made a tremendous impact and created a lot of interest in the Melodians. They now need a full video of the whole piece of music to add to their repertoire.
BBC’s Virtual Orchestra
The Melodians were invited to take part in the BBC’s first Virtual Orchestra which was to be a recording of the ‘Toreador’ by Bizet. This was a combination of performances by 1200 participants and was shown as part of the Last Night of the Proms Celebrations on Saturday September 10 2016. The Virtual Orchestra film was also shown at Proms in the Parks across the UK and was available on the BBC iPlayer. See www.bbc.co.uk/getplaying .
See the Melodians recording themselves playing the Toreador at their rehearsal rooms. Also see our certificate of participation – we believe that we were the only steel orchestra that took part!
Collaboration with Clayground Collective on the Clay Cargo Project at Kings Cross
Terry Noel was approached by the Clayground Collective to take part in their Clay Cargo project over a weekend in August 2015 (www.claygroundcollective.org/clay-cargo-beside-the-canal-at-kings-cross-this-summer).
The event was held in Granary Square near Kings Cross over the weekend of 15th/16th August. The Clay Cargo project was to make connections between clay and canals and was devised in partnership with the British Ceramics Biennial and Canal & River Trust. The project was designed to renew historic connections between clay and the canals through workshops on boats and a series of events at canalside locations. Lots of families came along to Kings Cross over the weekend and it was great to see all the children dancing to the music provided by the Melodians and creating their own clay models.
As part of the project the Melodians learned a new composition ‘Clay Cargo’ created by The Dead Rat Orchestra (Daniel Merrill and Nathaniel Mann). This was composed especially for the Melodians to play at this event and is based on a traditional tune created when the canals were first built to carry pottery from Stoke on Trent down to London. ‘Clay Cargo’ was played 4 times over the 2 days and produced a fantastic response from all those participating in the event. The event was recorded and a video of the weekend produced which includes the Melodians playing the Clay Cargo composition. You can watch it here.
Melodians Magic CD
The Melodians recorded a new CD called ‘Melodians Magic’ on 22nd November 2014 at BBC Maida Vale Studios and it is now available to buy as a CD. The album features the 3 ‘English Magic’ tracks recorded at Abbey Road Studios in March 2013 plus another 9 of the Melodians favourites that have been played at the UK opening events in William Morris Art Gallery, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and the Turner Contemporary in Margate. It can be purchased via the CDs page. Sleeve design is by Jeremy Deller and the Fraser Muggeridge Studio.
Melodians collaboration with ‘The Big Sing’ in Sounds Like Art
The Melodians opened the final English Magic Exhibition at the Turner Contemporary in Margate on 11th October 2014 with a concert. As part of the concert they performed 3 pieces of music jointly with the 80 strong choir ‘The Big Sing’ in a unique addition to their usual performance. This was part of the Sounds Like Art project created by Em Peasgood. The 3 pieces that made up the collaboration were:
- Autumn Leaves by Jacques Prevert
- All Night Long by Lionel Richie
- Music by John Miles
There was a packed gallery for the concert and the 3 joint songs were received to tumultuous applause. The Melodians also played the 3 English Magic pieces and a number of favorites from their repertoire including Bohemian Rhapsody. You can see the video of the Melodians and Big Sing collaboration by following the link. There is also a video of the popular Bohemian Rhapsody performance from the day. This project was supported by the Arts Council.
In November 2012 the Melodians were invited by Jeremy Deller to provide the soundtrack to a film called ‘English Magic’ that was to be a key part of the British Exhibition at the 55th Venice International Art Biennale. The festival would be in Venice from May to November 2013. They learnt 3 new pieces of music and recorded the backing track to the film at Abbey Road Studios on 18th March 2013. The music was unusual for a Steel Orchestra but created a fantastic result:
|Excerpts from ‘Romance’, Symphony no 5 in D, 3rd Movement||Ralph Vaughan Williams|
|Voodoo Ray||A Guy Called Gerald|
|The Man Who Sold the World||David Bowie|
The film itself was kept secret until the festival opened and the Melodians were thrilled to discover that the film also featured filming of the Melodians’ recording at Abbey Road Studios. The Melodians played at the opening of the festival and entertained at the after-show party. For the first time, the British Exhibition was brought back to the UK in 2014 and put on display at William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery and the Turner Contemporary in Margate. The Melodians opened each exhibition with a concert featuring a live performance of the English Magic pieces plus other favourites from their repertoire. Click here to see the film.
Adopt a Composer Scheme
The Adopt a Composer scheme is funded by the PRS (Performing Rights Society) for Music Foundation and run by Sound and Music, in association with Making Music. Melodians are a member of Making Music. For the 2011 ‘Adopt a Composer Scheme’ there were 75 applicants from around the country of which 6 were chosen including the Melodians Steel Orchestra. The orchestra was paired with Neil Luck and performed his new composition ‘Acirema’. Listen to it on Youtube here. Neil Luck and the Melodians Steel Orchestra were the subject of a feature on BBC Radio 3 in their ‘Adopt a Composer’ series.