AVA / Burgess / Schaefer

Union Chapel, London

5 October 2019

Union chapel is a stunning building and a beautiful setting for a concert, as long as you can cope with sitting on a church pew for a couple of hours.

By coincidence, the last time I saw Anna Phoebe was almost exactly a year ago in the same venue, playing with Anathema. Now she's back in a duo with Aisling Brouwer, playing their own compositions for violin and piano (augmented by pre-recorded sounds and percussion). An unexpected highlight is when Aisling Brouwer plays the chapel's organ for one piece. The sound is just glorious.

Well, that's why I came to this concert, and though it was a short set, it was highly enjoyable. But there was more to come, and it actually got even better.

The next performer was Joby Burgess, a percussionist, and I had honestly never heard of him before today, but he's really impressive. He started with a piece for solo vibraphone by Rebecca Dale. And then played the absolute highlight of the day, a long piece for solo bass drum by John Luther Adams. A magnificent piece of music, sonically and visually mesmerising. It was worth coming to London just for this.

The third and final performer is Janek Schaefer, and I have mixed feelings about his work. He manipulates sound to create purely electronic compositions, and while it looks and sounds clever it didn't always work for me. I loved his first piece, involving the repetition and manipulation of a single spoken word transmitted to speakers around the hall. It's hypnotic and immersive, and makes use of the space with a sense of the sound wrapping around you. His next two pieces used broadly similar ideas of space and repetition, but for reasons I can't explain they didn't connect with me in the same way.

But overall the concert was a success and all of it was worth listening to.