The Bays and The Heritage Orchestra at Kings Place this Saturday

Photos © Tom Oldham
Photos © Tom Oldham

One of the most remarkable uses of Sibelius I have ever heard of is the collaboration between The Bays, The Heritage Orchestra, and composer/improvisers Simon Hale and John Metcalfe.

The Bays are a fascinating band: they haven’t released any records, because the only way to experience their music is to attend one of their concerts live. In a similar way to how a DJ responds to a live crowd, The Bays shape their sets based on interactions with the live audience, and create an audiovisual experience to which an audio recording cannot do justice.

Simon Hale and John Metcalfe are equally fascinating folks; both are composers/arrangers who specialise in writing for strings. Simon Hale has this year alone worked with artists including Gary Go, Chris Rea, Just Jack, and many others. John Metcalfe does a lot of composing for TV and radio, and is the viola player in The Duke Quartet, which specialises in playing contemporary works.

The Heritage Orchestra, meanwhile, brings together some of London’s finest classical and jazz musicians under the direction of Jules Buckley. And it’s a big ensemble too: they always perform with at least 40 musicians on stage (the initial line-up was twelve string players, an eight-piece rhythm section, six brass, a woodwind section of six, and three vocalists, but this has since been expanded).

All of these fine musicians teamed up to stage a concert in the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool in January 2008. The idea was simple: The Bays and The Heritage Orchestra would be on stage, and Hale and Metcalfe would write the music in real time during the performance using Sibelius: the music would then be projected up onto huge screens on the stage for the conductor to read, and The Bays would jam along while Buckley decided when players in the orchestra — who each have individual LCD displays to read from — should start and stop playing, and which lines they should play.

You can get a flavour of this concert from this YouTube video:

The initial concert in January 2008 was a huge success, and the experience was repeated in the autumn of 2008 with a UK tour. Now the ensemble is returning to London for a concert this Saturday night, 10 October, at Kings Place. It’s a completely remarkable and unique concept, and if you can beg, borrow or steal a ticket, you should be there.

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