My blogging new year proper kicks off with news of a new contemporary chamber ensemble set to make their debut in London later this year. They’re called Radius and are led by composer Tim Benjamin and Ian Vine, along with six other outstanding young soloists. Their first gig is, impressively, at the Wigmore Hall on 20th April, where they will be playing works by Tim and Ian alongside Cage, Gilbert, Carter and Andriessen. Tim was kind enough to answer some questions about the group for me:
What’s the back story to Radius – how did you all come together?
I’ve had the idea for ages to set up a top-notch chamber group dedicated to contemporary music. Only last summer did things start to come together, when I was chatting with my friend Daniel Rowland at the Proms – he had just led the BBC Symphony Orchestra under John Adams. I asked whether he was up for doing some new chamber music, and was, very much so. I had recently had similar conversations with Adrian Spillett, our percussionist, Jen George, our flautist, and Olly Coates, our cellist, so it all seemed to come together very quickly.
Our inspiration for the group came from the great “Fires of London” – the band started by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies in the 60s. We even talked to his people about calling our group “The New Fires of London”! In the end, we (very democratically) selected the name “Radius”.
Radius does not receive any public funding – indeed, I’m somewhat against public funding of the arts – instead we receive some money from several generous people I’ve met in the past. I’m also contributing personally, courtesy of some good days business-wise during the years of dot-com madness.
The Wigmore Hall is a pretty special venue for a debut – how did that come about?
It was partly luck and coincidence – they had just had a cancellation when I approached them, looking for a first-rate venue for our debut in London. Of course I had to pitch the group, and it certainly helped that most of our players have performed at the Wigmore before, and were well-known to the management. They’ve certainly taken us with quite a bit of faith and no proof of our ability as an ensemble other than our personal reputations, and we certainly want to repay that trust with a performance from the top drawer on April 20th.
With yourself and Ian Vine, there are two composers already involved with the ensemble; any plans to work closely with others in future?
I go back a long way with Ian – we studied together as undergraduates with Anthony Gilbert at the RNCM – and we’re great friends. Indeed I’ve been talking with Ian for years about the need for an ensemble like Radius, so it was natural he’d be involved. There is another Vine connection – our flautist, Jen, is married to Ian!
In terms of working with other composers: this is certainly a strong possibility. We’ve got a plan in the pipe-line to set up a residential masterclass for composers, and we’ll want to work with a “big name” on that. We’ve also approached a few other younger composers whose work we admire. Of course, as we’re performing lots of pieces by well-known living composers, we like to ask them for their ideas and assistance in delivering their work – for example, Anthony Gilbert (our former mentor!) has been helping Olly and Adrian with his piece “Moonfaring”, which we’re performing on April 20th at Wigmore Hall.
And what does the future hold for Radius?
Fame, riches, and world domination, of course! But more immediately – we’ve got many exciting projects coming up. We’re working with a major national festival to put on a very interesting music theatre collaboration in the Autumn, and I’ve mentioned our planned residential masterclass already. We’re also putting together some proposals for a music-and-film project with a national broadcaster. We’ve had some invitations to do some education projects and further concert dates, and finally, we’re planning to return to Wigmore Hall again next Spring – so hopefully that world domination won’t be far off!