A series of works by Miriam Bean, commissioned by Journeys Festival 2019.
Journey’s Festival International is an arts festival, produced by ArtReach, which takes place in Leicester, Manchester, and Portsmouth. The festival works directly with refugee charities and leading arts organisations to produce a rich and diverse programme of events and experiences that explore the refugee experience through art and culture.
‘Enharmonic’ is a series of works devised by Miriam Bean which look at the universal language of music through the extraordinary stories of refugees and asylum seekers. ‘Enharmonic’ manifested itself as a series of workshops in the run-up to the festival, a site-specific installation during the week of the festival, and the debut performance of an original piece composed for piano, strings, and ondes Martenot on the closing night.
I recorded some short ondes Martenot parts for the audio installation that ran in All Saints’ Church during the week of the festival. Several speakers and transducers were placed in and around the church, even inside a grand piano, playing randomly-selected recordings of piano, viola, cello, double bass, ondes Martenot, and pure tones.
On the closing evening, I performed the debut of the composition, also titled ‘Enharmonic’, alongside Elizabeth Paling on the viola, John Bean on the cello, Alison Bean on double bass, and Anne Heney on piano. We were conducted by Willard Welsford. The composition was a collaboration between Miriam and her mother Alison, and draws inspiration from Olivier Messiaen, Jonny Greenwood, and John Cage, as well as a ten year old boy named Hamza and his rendition of ‘Atouna El Toufoule’.
Miriam & Alison’s ‘Enharmonic’ covers a lot of ground; from drawn out and dense clouds of strings, piano, and ondes Martenot, to bold explosions and seemingly erratic articulations, pausing in between to allow the piano and ondes Martenot a brief romantic interlude. The piece lasts for around 12 minutes, and was very well received by the audience. As well as ‘Enharmonic’, we also performed Messiaen’s ‘Vocalise-Étude’ for piano and ondes Martenot, and the whole group of musicians interpreted two sets of graphic scores, designed by Miriam. In between the various elements of the programme, some of the musicians spoke briefly. I spoke to the audience about the ondes Martenot, John spoke about graphic scores, and Willard gave the audience some insight into ‘Enharmonic’.