The CoMA associate ensemble Fresk! (a Cornish word meaning ‘fresh’) was set up as a result of a workshop run by Patrick Bailey as part of CoMA’s 2018 nationwide festival. Since then it has met for single workshops and a short run of rehearsals leading to a concert. Following another successful workshop event as part of this year’s CoMA Festival, the group reconvened at the end of April via zoom, for its first rehearsal in lockdown.
Patrick writes ”Initially we kept the numbers very limited – seven in total. Within three weeks we decided to open this out to a larger group and currently 15 of us are meeting on a weekly basis. All are amateur musicians who live in Cornwall.
The pattern of the weekly sessions has settled into a regular pattern. I introduce two pieces for the week. The most successful pieces are short – only a few minutes long, maybe 5 minutes max. The players have the parts/score in front of them and I talk through the piece – coaching everyone on interpretation, shape, sound etc. There are no instruments. After this, the players have about 5 days to record their part. I then edit these together and distribute the results. We listen and the next session starts with a discussion about that.
We have tried a range of pieces. To start with, we used a graphic score by Deborah Pritchard which had 5 very clear sections. We scored each section into a chamber group of 2 or 3 players and set a time limit (c30 seconds). We had discussed the possible interpretations and I spoke about Deborah’s intentions. Other than that, each player improvised their own short piece. The result can be heard here.
Another piece that felt very successful was a piece that I composed. It requires a little direction OR the use of a stopwatch by each player. Our group felt that the directed version was easier so I filmed myself giving conductor’s cues and each player watched the film and played their part. The piece has no strong pulse – each cue releases a short phrase of material that can be played independently by the player. It is in two parts – treble and bass – and I made a hybrid part for the horn player. Despite many limitations (none more so than my own ability as a composer!) we enjoyed it and the result is here. If anyone would like the score, you would be welcome to it, please contact me and I will send it over.
We finally ventured into the world of pulse two weeks ago. When we had met back in March we had played Kate Whitley’s COMA commission Three Movements. We decided to revisit the first of these. In order to co-ordinate the parts we had Simon, our pianist, record the piano part first. I then filmed myself directing the piece to his piano part and all the other players followed this. Of course, this meant they needed to have two devices – the audio in their headphone and the recording being made on a separate device. This did present problems to a couple of players. Here is the result. Like the previous film, I apologise for the over-exposure of the conductor – I would like to edit with more of the printed music or pictures of the players in but I simply ran out of time. You are welcome to listen with the video off!
Fresk! are continuing this way for at least the next four weeks. One of our members is writing a piece for us and there are several other works that I would like us to have a go at. We feel very positive about this experience and about having created a little library of small pieces. When we are able to meet in person, we will give them their live premieres.”
Patrick can be contacted at email@example.com