Lyons Scholars James Cave and Patrick John Jones Banff residency
Lyons Celebration Award holders James Cave and Patrick John Jones have recently completed their residency at the Banff Centre, working on new pieces for performance later this year. Here are their reports:
James Cave: My visit to Banff was a genuinely life-changing experience, artistically, socially and spiritually. My time at the Centre was divided between working on a one-act opera Returns, based on the writings of an Iraq-veteran-turned-peace campaigner, Joshua Casteel, and attending sessions of the first-ever World Music Residency at Banff. The two activities cross-pollinated each other much more than I had initially anticipated. I spent each day studying Persian, Indian, Turkish and Lebanese music with the Residency’s inspiring faculty, and singing, improvising and playing with committed, passionate musicians from around the globe. Over time, this experience caused me completely to reconsider my creative practice, and to approach it with new enthusiasm: my involvement in the World Music Residency had enable me both to listen to music with fresh ears, and to think about music and music-making in exciting, new ways. Whereas, before arriving at the centre I had planned to write a relatively ‘conventional’ one-act opera, using Western classical instruments and vocalists, I now plan to feature musicians from and range of global traditions.
It was suggested to me by other participants in the programme that this ability to learn from others is the true ‘magic’ of the Banff experience. The Banff Centre provides resident artists with first-rate facilities and with the time and space to work in spectacular, inspirational surroundings, and it does this wonderfully well. But, in addition, it also provides you with the opportunity to meet and collaborate with like-minded people from around the globe, to develop long-lasting creative partnerships and networks, and to expose you to new ways of thinking. Whilst in Banff, I took part in a collaboration with the Toronto-based medieval group Pneuma Ensemble, and a number of Iranian and Lebanese musicians, to reinterpret 12th century Portuguese ‘cantinas’; I also devised a site-specific work for the Centre’s art faculty in conjunction with the performance artist Seema Kapur, making use of the impressive acoustic of the faculty building’s stairwell. During my time at Banff, I learned to whirl like a dervish, received tuition in raga from one of India’s finest teachers, and made a host of new friends and artistic colleagues. For me, this was a genuinely life-changing experience, and I thank the SJLCT for supporting me in attending the Centre.
Patrick John Jones: My main project at The Banff Centre – the Sir Jack Lyons Celebration Award commission – was to work on a piece for The University of York Symphony Orchestra. This is the first time I have written for full orchestra, so I spent a large amount of time in my studio pondering the vast amount of people I was writing for and trying out different ideas for the piece.
To begin with I found it a rather daunting task. The orchestra is a huge and multifarious palette of colours, offering a bewildering array of different blends. But Banff was the ideal place to make a start. It is a little haven that is focussed towards creativity and designed to remove the usual distractions of everyday life. I was living just a few minutes walk away from a capacious studio, a gym, the on-campus restaurants, a beautiful library full of scores, and some of the most spectacular landscapes I’ve ever seen. Within this setting I felt like I had the freedom to play with ideas, swirl the colours around, and – importantly – make plenty of mistakes along the way.
There is also an amazing sense of artistic community in Banff. You could literally meet a crime writer, a video artist, a painter, a post-spectral composer, a sarangi master and more over a single helping of Elk rogan josh. I wanted to make the most of this community and the opportunity to learn from others, so when I wasn’t composing I sat in on courses in Persian, Turkish, Arabic and Indian music, attended concerts at the music department, visited the studios of the resident visual artists and went on group hikes into the Rockies.
The positive effect of being in a group of such enthusiastic and talented people all committed to different artistic endeavours was incredible. It helped me approach writing with renewed energy and make friendships and professional connections with artists from around the world. All in all, it was an experience I’ll never forget and I am supremely grateful to the Sir Jack Lyons Charitable Trust for making it possible.
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