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Resonance: Opera North’s new residency for BAME music-makers

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Four music-makers from the North of England are celebrating their selection for Resonance, our new residency programme for artists from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, with support from PRS Foundation’s Talent Development Partner Network.

The successful artists, Nwando Ebizie, Thandanani Gumede, Moji Kareem and Christella Litras, will each receive rehearsal space for a week here at Opera North to develop their proposal, a grant of up to £3,000, technical and artistic support, and the opportunity to perform their works in progress for an invited audience.

Resonance is open to BAME musicians, composers and performers working in all musical genres, aged 18 and over and living in the North, who are interested in collaborating with performers from other artistic disciplines, telling stories, or testing an exciting possibility.

Afrofuturist artist Nwando Ebizie will work on the creation of an immersive opera inspired by the visions of the medieval mystic Hildegard of Bingen. Working with mezzo-soprano Loré Lixenberg, DIY electronics artist Tom Richards and other associates including neuroscientist Dr Edward Bracey and experimental theatre company MAS Productions, her score for live vocals, turntables, electronics and projection mapping will reimagine Hildegard’s visions in the context of contemporary knowledge about neurological conditions, and Nwando’s long-standing interest in ritualistic performance.

Nwando Ebizie comments:
"I am so excited to be part of the Resonance programme. It is a rare opportunity to get into a room with my dream team of talented artists and scientists and explore an idea that has become an obsession of mine. The time and space that Opera North are giving is vital for the creation of experimental works and processes such as this. I've been having so many conversations with the collaborators and can't wait to begin to explore these ideas."

Founder of the music and dance group Zulu Tradition, Thandanani Gumede plans to create a new song cycle fusing jazz, gospel and traditional Zulu music, and exploring themes of migration, home, inner conflict and peace. With his Leeds-based band Ubunye, Thandanani has forged an eclectic blend of Western music and South African traditions, sung in English and the Zulu and Xhosa languages. During his residency he will work with his songwriting partner in Ubunye, pianist, vocalist and composer Dave Evans, and renowned bassist Kenny Higgins, whose past collaborators include Corinne Bailey Rae and Zoe Rahman.

Thandanani Gumede comments:
“I am genuinely thrilled to have been selected for a Resonance residency and I hope that this opportunity will lay the groundwork for a continuous future project.”

Founder of Utopia Theatre Company, director Moji Kareem will develop a new live performance and multimedia opera retelling the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin in the light of the disappearance of the Chibok schoolgirls in Nigeria. Incorporating the testimonies of the schoolgirls who escaped their Boko Haram captors, and combining traditional West African and European instruments, the piece will be a bold attempt to bring together very different traditions, with collaboration from composer and singer Juwon Ogungbe and Sola Oyeleye, a multifaceted theatre artist who is experienced in writing librettos for opera and music drama.

Moji Kareem comments:
“I was ecstatic at the news of the residency. I have always been fascinated by opera and this is a great opportunity to collaborate with other artists of diverse backgrounds, reinvigorate my practice and re-evaluate the focus of my work.”

Singer-songwriter, producer and composer Christella Litras is the founder of Caution! Collective, which develops and showcases the talent of young singers in Leeds and the surrounding area. Her composing credits include Geraldine Connor’s Carnival Messiah, and Firebird and Windrush for Phoenix Dance. Working with her long-term collaborator, singer Rob Green, with South Indian Classical Musician Vijay Venkat on violin and flutes, Christella will develop her soundtrack for the sequel to Alain Bidard’s dazzling, inventive 2015 sci-fi film Battledream Chronicle – the first animated feature film from the Caribbean island of Martinique.

Christella Litras comments:
“I am delighted to be collaborating with artists of such high standard and skill. The Resonance residency will enable me to continue exploring my art form, and bring together the influences of new and established creative partners in a fusion of film and live music.”

A fifth project, Brolly Productions’ opera The Powder Monkey, will also benefit from a residency as part of the Resonance programme. Set aboard a slave ship, the production uses traditional music from West Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the North of England and creole work songs to tell the hidden stories of enslaved people, lascars and cotton workers in live performance and animation. Composer Errollyn Wallen, designer and illustrator Rachana Jadhav and writer-director Dominic Hingorani have based the work on artefacts and records in the Atlantic Gallery at the National Maritime Museum. During their residency in Leeds they will work with musicians from South Asian Arts-uk, whose performance India’s Children, marking the 70th anniversary of Partition last year, was the first project to be developed under the Resonance umbrella.

Jo Nockels, Projects Manager, Opera North, comments:
“The Resonance 2018 residencies are a hothouse of original, fascinating stories and ideas from a hugely varied group of music-makers who, between them are exploding ideas of what opera is and can be. We’re all excited to see how these projects will unfold over the course of the next few months.”

Joseph Frankland, Senior Grants & Programmes Manager, PRS Foundation, comments:
“PRS Foundation take pride in our Talent Development Partner Network and Opera North’s proactive approach to nurturing BAME talent. The latest open call has unearthed fantastic music creators in Thandanani, Moji, Christella and Nwando – whose previously supported work has been outstanding – and we know the Resonance residencies will be transformational.”

Resonance residencies begin at Opera North on Monday 5 March.


Image credit: Nwando Ebizie as Lady Vendredi.

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