Encounters of a Musical Kind


In doing his research for our concert programmes, Martin Bull is always on the look-out for connections between the choir and the composers whose music we are going to perform. On the 8th of July, LCS marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály, and also sings works by the Pole Henryk Górecki and the Estonian Arvo Pärt.

Martin found that the choir’s frequent collaborators, the Forest Philharmonic Orchestra, had appointed Kodály as its first President back in the early 1960s, and Martin briefly met both Górecki and Pärt at concerts in London in the 1980s: Górecki was guest of honour at a weekend of his own music, including the first UK performance of his Totus tuus, a piece we are singing in July.

But these connections and encounters quickly fade into insignificance compared to the long-standing link between Arvo Pärt and LCS Soprano Catherine Peters. Catherine writes:
“In 1998, I was privileged to produce a number of films as part of an evening of experimental programming for Channel 4. These included Modern Minimalists, a short documentary presented by Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk.

Alongside Finnish techno musicians and a Scottish glass harmonica player, Björk was very keen to explore the music of Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt, so I arranged for her to meet and interview Arvo in London. Both artists joined us in the edit suite and helped shape the content.

This opportunity to work alongside two such captivating musicians and minds was an unforgettable and truly inspirational experience. I had long been a Björk fan, but my introduction to Pärt, both his music and the man himself, was transformative. His humour and humanity, his sheer humility and profundity, shone through at every moment. He stirred and shared; he seemed to search his own soul whilst always reaching out to the rest of us as we made the film.

A rare insight and a preciously comical memory was provided by the moment Björk and I met Arvo outside our edit suite in Chelsea Harbour. As he emerged from his taxi, Pärt was covering his head with his overcoat so he could surprise us when he peeped out! This playfulness and mutual respect between Björk and Pärt are just as evident in the resulting documentary (link below).

Since making the film, I have been reunited with Arvo Pärt a couple of times: once in 2003 at the performance of his specially commissioned LamenTate beneath Anish Kapoor’s Marsyas sculpture at Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall; and along with his family at the UK première of Pärt’s 4th symphony, Los Angeles, at the Royal Albert Hall during the 2010 Proms Season. On that occasion he too remembered fondly the experience of making the film with Björk.

That UK première was just one event in a series of concerts and conferences across the world to mark Pärt’s 75th birthday. At the beginning of that same year – 2010 – my son was born. I named him Arvo after the composer whose music had made a mark on my life, and which continues to mean so much to me.”

Catherine also adds that when she moved to Lewisham in 2012, she was delighted to see that LCS had programmed a number of Pärt’s works into their forthcoming concerts; and so she promptly joined the choir!

And with this wonderful story, we hope you are inspired to come and hear us sing music by all three composers at Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square! Head to our event page for more details!

– – –

You can watch the Pärt section of the documentary on YouTube:

 Increase text size  Decrease text size