We've just arrived at the EU Capital of Culture in Umeå, Northern Sweden and heard that our work has been featured on the cover of International Arts Manager magazine this month with the South Iceland Chamber Choir and Jack White's ongoing collaboration project. Perfect timing as we'll be introducing the choir to their next collaborator Emil Råberg who is the composer in residence for the International Choir Festival and is creating new work for the SICC as they return as a host ensemble for Collaborative Compositions 2014.
Thanks to photographer and film maker Brian Fitzgibbon you can now experience a brief moment of what it's like to sing in one of Hilmar Örn Agnarsson's choirs. Captured at Saturday's concert for the 2014 Reykjavik Arts Festival it makes me think we should install a Conductor Cam™ at all of our events. Hilmar is renowned for his ability to get an incredibly rich and emotional sound from the choristers he leads, a skill that caught the attention of Sir John Tavener a decade ago and started the long relationship between the composer and the South Iceland Chamber Choir.
The best thing though is of course to go and see the choir for real to get the full experience of Hilmar's magic and this week you've got two chances. The first is tomorrow at the Choir's home venue of Skálholt in the mountains of Iceland's Suðurland and is a major fundraising event to allow the choir to continue their work.
If that's too far to travel they're heading to the UK for the Ageas Salisbury Arts Festival for a performance on Monday the evening of the 2nd June that will feature Jack White's "Islands (Ynysoedd)" work performed in it's entirety for the first time in the UK - a piece created through our Collaborative Compositions programme, the second round of which is open now.
Four days into his residency with the South Iceland Chamber Choir Jack White's been gathering inspiration from the landscape of the "Golden Circle". The tourist route through the national park takes in Gullfoss - one of Iceland's biggest waterfalls, Geysir - the first geyser ever mentioned in print, and Þingvellir - the home of the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world as well as the meeting point of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
Yesterday he headed further inland to meet up with artist and musician Páll Guðmundsson in Húsafell - the artist behind the Tavener portrait he's kindly allowed us to use for the concert and the inventor of the Steinharpa (Stone Harp) which Páll has played for Sigur Ros and an instrument that may make an appearance in Jack's piece for the choir...we shall have to wait and see...
You can hear the Stone Harp in an earlier post to the blog.
Following our own positive experiences of residencies at the end of 2011 we started experimenting with a view to developing a Curated Place residency programme for artists wanting to work in the UK. Developing relationships with both venue and creative partners in Manchester we sought to introduce international talents to the North of England to both contribute to and learn from the strong arts sector here.
The Supercritical Mass projects of Australian artists Luke Jaaniste and Julian Day was a real highlight. Developed over two residency periods we initially hosted SuperCritical Mass for a mini-residency in November 2011. Working closely with the music department at the University of Salford and with the artists communities in Islington Mill we delivered a masterclass and artists talk to students before devising and delivering two performances in the University and in the nearby Peel Park.
This short 5 day residency was inspired by innovation development models of quick hit, low cost, managed risk projects and intended as a proof of concept performance. We very deliberately developed the format to develop the profile of the project for participants and funders alike. It worked.
Creating high quality documentation of the pilot which we could distribute widely and being able to very clearly state how we would scale the project up we received significant funding from Sound and Music to develop the second phase of the residency programme - hosting the artists for two weeks as part of the FutureEverything festival 2012 to deliver one of the most ambitious Supercritical Mass projects to date - a vocal performance at Manchester Cathedral.
A huge success for artists, participants and audiences alike we were able to learn a lot about how high-quality residency programmes can be delivered in the UK and we're now in a position to expand our own residency programme to become a more formal international artist exchange - but with a twist. Rather than simply inviting artists to work in a creative vacuum we'll be insisting that visiting artists work in collaboration with local participants who will then make a reciprocal residency visit to our international partners to develop the projects on an international platform.
Tomorrow we'll be formally launching the new Curated Place site which will outline the programme and how it will work. If you're a mid-career artist, with experience of exhibitions and commissions in the UK and interested in participating sign up to our Facebook and Twitter feeds for the latest and for ways to apply when we launch.