Commissioning Fund – Clare Connors’ “Carla Bley” project

A Women in Music Commissioning Fund 2003 award winner

At first glance Clare Connors’ winning idea to create new music for string quartet, using as inspiration the big band music of Carla Bley, may seem a bit of an odd one. However it all starts to make sense in the context of Clare’s career so far and her beliefs.

During eight years with the internationally successful Balanescu Quartet, she notably set Kraftwerk music for string quartet. “I think that contemporary classical music has had an alienating effect on people ­ and music is about communication for me. It’s good to play something that is an easy way in, and then maybe throw in other things that might be more challenging later.”

More recently, Clare is enjoying interaction with her local community. “It started even before I was a mother. When I was with the Balanescu, all our work was abroad. It felt slightly mad – to go to work we got on an aeroplane! Even then I was trying to set up local projects for us to be involved with.” She now works teaching music in her daughter’s school and has set up her own string quartet, Red Angel, made up of London-based musicians. Red Angel have even recently played in Clare’s local park, with support from London Arts. “I really love the whole idea of playing in the park. It really does draw in people who would never go down to the South Bank ­ never go to a concert.”

Winning the Women in Music award means a lot to her. “I feel really honoured. It’s the first award or anything I’ve been for, so I am really delighted.” She is also pleased to be in contact with Carla Bley herself. “Carla Bley is an inspiring female role model. She has clearly found her place and is doing something quite striking. She’s sent me some scores as a starting point. I love her music’s quirkyness, it’s humour and harmonic strength. What I think we both have is our own voice and element of surprise. “

Audiences will no doubt be surprised as well as delighted by the resulting music, when it premieres at the London Jazz Festival on Sunday 16 November.

Suzanne Chawner
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