Our project

Mad about Messiaen

In February 2015, a group of young student musicians came together to perform a programme of Olivier Messiaen works for voice and piano in the Byre Theatre, St Andrews. The concert formed part of a day dedicated to Messiaen, organised by the University of St Andrews Music Centre and showcasing some of his most magical pieces, including La Nativité du Seigneur for organ and the Quatour pour le fin du temps.

The vocal concert was met with great acclaim, so much so that a recording was proposed! Olivia Clark, Mairi Grewar, Jakub Gutkowski, Chris Huggon, Maebh Martin, Jenny Stewart and Caroline Taylor now form Mad about Messiaen: a project to record the works performed in the 2015 concert and to promote and celebrate the music of this brilliant composer. Our CD recording will feature the following repertoire:

  • “Vocalise-Étude” for soprano and piano
  • La Mort du Nombre for soprano, tenor, violin and piano
  • Thème et variations for violin and piano
  • Chants de Terre et de Ciel for soprano and piano

In July 2016, Mad about Messiaen met in the Byre to record the first half of the programme. We are now delighted to announce that recording of the second half, featuring Chants de Terre et de Ciel, will take place in summer 2017.

We couldn’t be more excited to complete our recording and then to distribute our Mad about Messiaen CD – but we need your help! In order to finance distribution, we need to raise a total of £7000 by March 2018. Our plans for fund-raising include a series of recitals and galas over the coming months, in addition to grant and fund applications, however we would also love to hear from those who might be interested in making individual donations. For more information about donating and what this will mean for you, please visit our How you can help page!

Mad about Messiaen’s aim is to celebrate Messiaen’s repertoire in every way and to bring it to new audiences around the UK and around the world. We all feel a personal connection to the music we’ve recorded and feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to make this CD. Many thanks for visiting our site and now: please spread the word about our project, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, like us on Facebook and find us under the hashtag #madaboutmessiaen!

Timeline

  • February 2015: Olivier Messiaen Day in St Andrews and first performance
  • July 2016: Recording of first half of programme in Byre Theatre, St Andrews

(we are here!)

  • Summer 2017: Recording of second half of programme
  • March 2018: Deadline for fund-raising
  • Post-August 2018: Release date for Mad about Messiaen

A word from our musicians!

“In all honesty I never thought I could ever enjoy singing Messiaen. Nevertheless, my love of 20th century French poetry, kindled almost exclusively by the intoxicating enthusiasm of one of my tutors, afforded me a greater understanding of the sound world created by Messiaen, which led me to enjoy (almost) every minute of this project both musically and academically. This project further demonstrated how all art is inexorably linked and can both reflect and question contemporary reality, something I now witness daily in my work. Particularly striking for me in La Mort du Nombre is its timelessness: the depiction of struggle and torment giving way to an overwhelming harmony will never age, and importantly will always give hope, something I think we’re all in need of right now. It was an absolute joy to work with such talented friends, and hopefully this will be the start of more musical adventures.” (Olivia Clark, soprano)

La Mort du Nombre was my first introduction to playing the music of Olivier Messiaen and its unique harmonic and rhythmic language instantly captivated me. Messaien was truly an innovator and composed independently of musical tastes of the time, which, coupled with the fact he wrote the words for his songs, makes his music incredibly special and unique.” (Mairi Grewar, piano)

“Studying, rehearsing and recording Chants de Terre et de Ciel provided a wonderful insight into Messiaen’s musical language. His ability to create different textures is amazing; each movement of Chants is full of surprises for all concerned – the singer, the pianist and the listener! Even though it is 80 years old, this cycle is thoroughly modern in its concept, and deserves a far greater exposure!” (Jakub Gutkowski, piano)

“It was a joy and an incredible journey to put together Olivier Messiaen’s La Mort du Nombre, a work which, even today, reaches far ahead of much modern music. I was amazed to discover such a relatively unperformed piece that sits so well on the violin and makes use of every fibre of the instrument, not to mention challenges its pianist in equally virtuosic measure; the result is a questioning quagmire of sound and emotion which resonates with both player and listener long after its final notes.” (Maebh Martin, violin)

“Having previously only recorded choral music, this disc was not only an amazing opportunity to record as a soloist, but also to showcase the music of this unique composer. The ‘Vocalise-Étude’ is unusual in many aspects, not least because of its lack of text and the fact it is one of the more melodic and lesser-known pieces written by Messiaen. The project was enhanced by the fact we all have experience of working together musically, and all had the same focus: to learn more about and share our knowledge of Messiaen’s music.” (Jenny Stewart, soprano)