The brilliant Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe will join Manchester Collective for ‘Rosewood‘ in the Howard Assembly Room on Wednesday 10 May, moving between classical and electric guitar in a programme ranging from ravishing baroque music to modernist experimentation and blistering 21st-century distortion.

Book tickets

“The way Manchester Collective explore music and programming is probably the start point that I operate from, too”, enthuses Sean: “I tend to deal with music that is either very early or quite contemporary”.

“I play the classical guitar, the electric guitar, and I also play a bit of a Renaissance lute, and I think all of these different instruments have different strengths.

“Traditionally the lute is associated with the aristocracy and the church. But the classical guitar’s origins are different, in that it was seen as the instrument of the peasants: it’s an instrument of protest and of the proletariat. In the 1700s the aristocracy took it on and were role-playing as peasants in this sort of Arcadian renewal, but really, it’s always been an anti-establishment instrument. Given this history it makes sense that the first frontmen of rock played the electric guitar and it was again seen as something barbaric.

“The classical guitar is an instrument that has many deficits of volume, sustain and projection – and good repertoire actually, when you compare it to other instruments. But it does have a wealth of colour and you’re using this huge tonal palette to make up for the things that it lacks; even using the colour to provide the illusion of the repertoire being better than it is, and it’s these aspects that draw me back to the instrument.

“The electric guitar is something altogether different. It’s not really about smoke and mirrors, it’s much more literal. You can add on a pedal and plug it into an amplifier and crank it up and you are, objectively, sort of without boundary. It’s only limited by your own imagination, and I think that, by placing the two instruments alongside one another, you really experience something that is sonically symbiotic: the two instruments bring out each other’s strengths.

“I’m very excited about working with Manchester Collective on this programme that we’ve put together. Usually when you’re working with an ensemble, you’re brought in to play a concerto and you have 20 minutes within a programme. You do your thing and maybe the conductor or the artistic director has decided the rest of the programme. We’ve made something that is more of an experience than simply a concert, and I think that’s really where the future is: we need to make things that are much more immersive in every way”.

John Cage - Six Melodies

Skeletal melodies chart an unpredictable passage in this 1950 work by the legendary minimalist, written under the influence of Buddhism and Eric Satie. Originally scored for violin and keyboard, this outing features Sean on electric guitar.

David Fennessy – Rosewood

“The title refers to the type of wood often used in the construction of the fingerboard of the guitar”, explains the Irish guitarist and composer. “It has a distinct aroma and when I smell it I am immediately and vividly reminded of the once close relationship I had with that instrument.

“Notions of calm, reflection, open spaces, echoes and resonances permeate the music”, which makes full use of the guitar’s capabilities from exhilarating hammered runs and trills to slowly unfolding melodies.

Kelly Moran - Living Again

Brooklyn-based composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Kelly Moran’s background takes in everything from classical piano to electronics and no wave punk – as well as a passion for Cage-style prepared piano. Living Again is the first of two brand-new commissions in this concert.

“I wrote Living Again while ruminating on the death of my first love, D, who passed away suddenly in early 2022. His passing brought up so many overwhelming feelings and memories, and for the first time I was forced to reckon with the weight of intense grief coupled with heartbreak. Writing a piece with strings felt like an appropriate way to pay tribute to D because we played in our high school orchestra together. He played cello, and I would admire the back of his head from the bass section during rehearsals”.

Julius Eastman - Buddha

Like Six Melodies, Buddha is clearly inspired by eastern mysticism – but coincidentally its composer infuriated John Cage with a less than Zen performance of the latter’s Songbooks in the mid-70s. Julius Eastman’s 1984 work is performed from a graphic score comprising an egg shape surrounded by ‘vibrating’ concentric lines and filled with lines and scrawls. A virtuoso pianist, acclaimed baritone and radical composer whose career was blighted by poverty, homelessness and drug addiction, Eastman (1940–1990) has only recently begun to receive his dues. Last spring, his Joy Boy was featured in the Collective’s ‘Neon’ programme in the Howard Assembly Room.

Emily Hall - Potential Space

“Psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott coined this term for the space between reality and fantasy”, says composer, violinist and producer Emily Hall of the second premiere of the night. “The title of my piece refers to this third space between the listener, the music, where something will happen, and it will be different for everyone. As the composer, I invite you, the listener to be playful in your mind as you listen. Nothing is set, it is a collaboration between you and me”. The last of its four movements is dedicated to the late and much-missed Mira Calix, whose brilliant career took in collaborations with both Emily and Opera North.

Trad. - La Folía

La Folía is one of the oldest remembered European musical themes on record, thought to have its origins in a fifteenth-century dance performed throughout the Iberian Peninsula. The guitar as we know it also took shape in medieval Spain. Sean performs on both classical and electric guitars.

David Lang – Killer

‘Angry and aggressive with unstoppable force’ is the performance direction for this 2009 work by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and founder of Bang on a Can. Sean channels some of that rock ‘barbarity’ in an obnoxious, distortion-saturated take on his 2018 album softLOUD, and promises to leave the Howard Assembly Room ringing with this reminder of the vastly extended potential of the electric guitar.


Search our site