Part of the ancillary events accompany the Tokaido Road performance coming to the Gulbenkian, Beach Creative in Herne Bay is currently hosting an exhibition of photos by Wynn White.
Wynn White is an American fine art black and white photographer and printer living in Japan. A selection of his beautiful images are projected alongside the historic Hiroshige woodblock prints during the chamber opera. A particularly ‘hands on’ photographer, Wynn does all of his own gelatin-silver processing and printing, getting involved in every step of the process. He also uses various historic techniques of printing, including salt, cyanotype, Vandyke, argyrotype and platinum/palladium.
The exhibition at Beach Creative runs from Tues 12 – Sun 24 May; admission is free, more details can be found here. Tokaido Road is performed at The Gulbenkian Theatre on Saturday May 23: details online here. Our first Lunchtime Concert this term explores themes of East-meets-West in music for two pianos by Debussy and Ravel with poems read by Nancy Gaffield from her cycle on Friday 22 May at 1.10pm in Colyer-Fergusson Hall performed by Your Loyal Correspondent and Matthew King – details online here.
Our second exhibition in the new Colyer-Fergusson Gallery space is a powerful, energy-filled series from Canterbury-based collective, Earthbound Women. Entitled Saxon Shore Way: a response to Tokaido Road, the exhibition explores the historic ancient Roman shoreline from Gravesend to Hastings, and features dramatic visions of different sections of the route in mixed-media format including collage, print, etching and collagraph.
The group describes the exhibition as ‘a palimpsest…modern observations written over the ancient history of the Kent coast,’ with some stunning images capturing the visceral power of the sea at Reculver, a haunting nightscape of the moon low over Whitstable, Harty Ferry at Faversham, the river at Chatham and more. The series marks a particularly Kentish reply to Hiroshige’s ’53 Stations of the Tokaido Road’ to which it responds, continuing the themes of travel and landscape begun in the previous photography exhibition by Hope Fitzgerald.
The exhibition runs until 24 May, and accompanies the performance of the chamber opera Tokaido Road: a journey after Hiroshige which comes to the Gulbenkian on Saturday 23 May (details here). Admission to the exhibition is free, gallery open during normal hours.
Read more about Earthbound Women here: follow in the footsteps of the Romans at Colyer-Fergusson…
Currently touring the UK after a successful premiere at the Cheltenham Festival last year and its recent London premiere at Milton Court Theatre, we are very pleased to be bringing the chamber opera, Tokaido Road: a journey after Hiroshige, to Kent on Saturday 23 May.
The chamber opera, an evocative fusion of music, poetry, art, mime and photography comes to the University in a few weeks as part of the University’s fiftieth anniversary celebrating the work of members of the University community; the libretto is written by Nancy Gaffield, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing in the School of English, and is based on her own award-winning cycle of poems of the same name. Commissioned by frontier-challenging Okeanos Ensemble, and composed by Nicola LeFanu, the work is inspired by Hiroshige’s 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road, a series of woodblock prints evoking the Japanese landscape and its people along the ancient route linking Edo and Kyoto. The chamber opera sees Hiroshige reflecting on life, love and loss on his journey along the Tokaido Road, unfolding against a backdrop of projected images of both Hiroshige prints as well as photos of modern-day Tokyo.
The score combines Western instruments with Japanese sho and koto, and the first half of the performance sees members of Okeanos perform traditional Japanese music.
Come along The Road when it arrives at the Gulbenkian Theatre on Saturday 23 May; details and tickets here. You can find out more about the chamber opera, including image galleries and audio extracts, here.
As a curtain-raiser to the performance of Tokaido Road, which comes to the Gulbenkian Theatre on 23 May, the lunchtime concert the day before is an exploration of the meeting-point between poetry and music for two pianos, set against a backdrop of some of the Hiroshige prints which inspired both poetry and opera.
Pianists Matthew King and myself, together with poet Nancy Gaffield, part of the Creative Writing team in the School of English and author of the original Tokaido Road cycle of poems, spent yesterday exploring the programme which we have put together, which intersperses music by Debussy, Ravel and Matthew himself with poems from the cycle, which Nancy will be reading. There is some wonderful connectedness between the words and the music – a phrase in a poem is echoed by a rising melodic shape; the opening arc of a poem emerges out of a slowly-dying piano chord; a cluster-sonority echoes the tone of one of the Hiroshige prints which is projected above the performers. We spent several hours immersed in floating words and chords in the darkened concert-hall, playing with moving between music and poem.
The concert will take place on Friday 22 May at 1.10pm, admission is free, more details here: come and immerse yourself in time-out-of-place with music, poetry and print.
It’s with an heraldic fanfare of trumpets that we’re delighted to announce that the new Colyer-Fergusson Gallery space is now open, with its first exhibition being the evocative and scenic #walkSwaleMedway project by Faversham-based artist, Hope Fitzgerald.
The upper balcony now hosts an array of jewel-like images in beautiful frames, inspired by Hope’s walking project, and will be on display for two weeks until Friday 1 May. The exhibition is also the first of several ancillary events for the Tokaido Road chamber opera coming to the Gulbenkian next month, which explores similar ideas of travel and landscape. Hope’s exhibition is a response to, and is inspired by, her walking around the Swale area; read more about the project here.
Admission is free: come and lose yourself in the landscape of the county in Colyer-Fergusson. #walkSwaleMedway is sponsored by Arts Council funding via Ideas Test.
As part of the Tokaido Road project coming to the new Colyer-Fergusson Gallery later this month, Faversham-based photographer Hope Fitzgerald will be bringing her #walkSwaleMedway series. In advance of the show opening on Friday 17 April, I caught up with Hope and asked her about the ideas behind her various walking projects, and what to look forward to in her forthcoming exhibition.
Tell us about the #walkSwaleMedway project
Walk Swale Medway began with a continuous walk of nearly three weeks through Swale and Medway starting on 22 June, 2014. Using a mobile phone, I took pictures as I walked and posted them to Instagram using #walkSwaleMedway. Links were also shared on Twitter and Facebook. As part of the original Walk Swale Medway three-week walk, I relied on the kindness and hospitality of my neighbours in Swale and Medway. I took a few photos, heard stories and shared them on Walk Swale Medway. Sometimes a friend recommended someone who could help.
The website includes a selection of writing and photographs featuring the places seen, the people met, and the stories heard along the way. Walk Swale Medway continues to be an open ended invitation to take notice of and share where we live, connect with and contribute to our community
What was it about the Tokaido Road project in particular that interested you in taking part ?
It was completely unfamiliar to me at first, so that was appealing. I was interested in the fact that a connection had been made between #walkSwaleMedway and the paintings Hiroshige made from views sketched while walking the Tokaido Road. Once I’d read up on it, I was really struck by the fact that Hiroshige’s paintings included details of date, location, and anecdotes of his fellow travellers, just like I had with WSM by adding text on my Instagram images before posting. There’s this lovely timeless parallel – of movement and looking around, and taking notice. It was also his job, really, and not that well paid, but the success of the Tokaido Road series increased awareness of his work.
#walkSwaleMedway explores similar themes of travel, landscape and people to Hiroshige’s ‘Tokaido Road:’ do you see WSM as a Kent-ish version ?
The more I look, the more parallels I see. I’m also really pleased to be on the fringe of a project that has inspired a lot of people working collaboratively to make something new – the librettist Nancy Gaffield, composer Nicola LeFanu, and musician Kate Romano, among others. Not the first time Hiroshige has inspired others, I like this about it, too.
You’ve done similar projects walking in Faversham, and to Folkestone last year for the Triennial: what is it that makes you want to explore like this ?
Walking in Faversham is where it all began, almost by accident. I gave myself a two-week target of walking every day, with a new pair of trainers as my incentive. By about day 10, I was hooked, and walking was a reward in itself. I didn’t mean to do it – it sort of just kept going! I did that every day (barring a couple of sick days) for a year before #walkSwaleMedway. WSM was much more profound an experience than I’d anticipated – I thought I’d just go for a wander, but it was challenging and exhilarating in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I heard a radio programme later about long distance walking and how intimidating it can be, but I didn’t really think it through – I just thought ‘Hey, I know, I’ll walk across Swale and Medway.’
I walked to Folkestone to take part in Alex Hartley’s brilliant work called Vigil, in which a set of mountain climbing ledges hanging off the outside of the Grand Burstin Hotel was occupied by volunteers. It seemed like as good a reason to walk somewhere as any, so I went for it. It took three days, and the countryside that way is beautiful and walking for a long time is a great way to see things. There’s a wonderful metaphor for life built into walking for me – it’s just one step at a time – sometimes they are heavy, sometimes light, but always just the one step keeps you going. I’ve been so busy lately that I have been skipping steps here and there, but I’ll find my stride again. I’m looking for an excuse to walk somewhere most of the time.
What can we expect when #WalkSwaleMedway opens in Colyer-Fergusson later this month ?
The plan is to mirror, in number at least, the 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road along the eighteen panels of the new Colyer-Fergusson gallery. The photographs are small, so on an intimate scale and framed in hand-finished black shadow boxes. They are printed on aluminium, so some are jewel-like, while others glow with the feel of watercolour. They are pictures of my home.
Hope’s #walkSwaleMedway exhibition opens in Colyer-Fergusson on Friday 17 April and runs until Friday 1 May; admission is free.
One of the very great strengths about Colyer-Fergusson is its mulitplicity of purposing – the flexibility of the concert-hall, the practice-rooms functioning as green rooms during events, the social area that also works as a performance space – and we are very excited to be drawing further on the building’s potential next month by launching the Colyer-Fergusson Gallery, which will run the length of the upper balcony.
The building welcomes plenty of visitors on a daily basis – people using the practice rooms, ensembles using the rehearsal spaces, music teachers working with the Scholarship students, as well as members of the University community and the general public using the social areas or passing through on their way through to the Gulbenkian. At weekends, the building throngs with external events; choral concerts, orchestral performances, visiting performers. The first-floor balcony is a large space that offers scope for visual art to be presented to those moving through the building, and next month sees the first of three planned exhibitions which will adorn its walls.
The first two exhibitions form part of the Tokaido Roadproject (a touring chamber opera with a libretto by Nancy Gaffield, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, to music by Nicola LeFanu, which comes to the Gulbenkian Theatre in May): Walk Swale Medway by Faversham-based artist Hope Fitzgerald, and Saxon Shore Way: a response to Tokaido Road by the local collective, Earthbound Women. Both exhibitions will explore similar themes of journeying and of travel, as part of the project, drawing inspiration from the landscape and the history of Kent. In September, to coincide with the Alumni Weekend, the gallery will host a photographic exhibition by the University’s very own Matt Wilson, whose excellent photographs of music events often feature on these pages.
There’ll be more about each exhibition nearer the time. Walk Swale Medway will be the first to grace the exhibition space, and will run from Friday 14 April to Friday 1 May. Leaflets about the new gallery can now be found in the foyer.
Because it does. Doesn't it ? Blogging about extra-curricular musical life at the University of Kent.