We went to see The Multi Story Orchestra play Vivaldi's Four Seasons, as re-imagined by modern German-born British composer Max Richter. True to their name, they performed the piece in Peckham's multi-storey car park. Here's what we discovered during this unique musical event.
- The Multi Story Orchestra is a collective of young, exciting professional musicians, who perform in car parks (and some more traditional venues) across the UK
- Max Richter, a German-born British composer, is famed for his contemporary classical work, including soundtracks for film and TV
- Bold Tendencies, Peckham is an innovative arts venue located on the top floors of Peckham's multi-storey car park
A Car Park in Peckham
Isn't it amazing what you can get up to in a car park in Peckham? The neighbourhood is growing upwards. Across the way is the Rooftop Film Club at the Bussey Building. And right here on the rooftop of the Peckham Multi Story Car Park is Bold Tendencies. A not-for-profit arts organisation, Bold Tendencies put on a full programme of live music, opera, dance and literature across the top few floors of the car park. Since 2007, they've commissioned artworks and architecture which sit atop the car park, constantly evolving the site with sculptures and installations. There’s a bar and restaurant, Frank’s Cafe, that’s been open since 2009. And they’ve got something of a house band. Well, a house orchestra
. Scratch that. They’ve got a car park orchestra
. No! They’ve got something of a multi-storey car park orchestra
. And they’re called The Multi Story Orchestra
The Multi Story Orchestra
The Multi Story Orchestra are an exciting, progressively-minded orchestra, a collection of young freelance professional musicians who aim to increase accessibility to classical music through their annual program of live performances usually, but not always, held in car parks across the UK. They also put on a number of events in school halls and playgrounds, and run choir projects that bring school students in to perform alongside the orchestra. Under the artistic direction of composer and pianist Kate Whitley and conductor Christopher Stark, The Multi Story Orchestra have been bringing classical music to unlikely venues across the country, reaching out to those who might otherwise have shied away from such music. Their progressively-structured ticket pricing and inclusive social outreach initiatives are complemented by their thoughtfully curated program of performed pieces. They’ve put on renditions of chamber music favourites by the likes of Debussy, Wagner and Bach; many orchestral masterpieces, including works by Schumann, Stravinsky and Haydn; and world premieres of contemporary pieces, including some of Whitley’s original compositions. They also put on daring modern reimaginings of centuries-old pieces, which is what we were treated to on our first visit to Bold Tendencies, seeing The Multi Story Orchestra in their penultimate 2019 performance at Bold Tendencies, performing Max Richter’s radical recomposition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
Max Richter is an ideal composer for The Multi Story Orchestra to work with. His contributions to contemporary classical music chime with the aims of the orchestra. They both reimagine classical music forms, and encourage the flow of classic music into new spaces, to new audiences. His works suggest a vision of harmony between classical and popular music, and play in the friction created. While often still operating on an orchestral scale, his works seem aimed towards headphones and streaming apps. His monumental 2015 piece Sleep is over eight hours long. Structured to accompany the listener’s sleep cycles it’s designed to be taken into bed with you. It’s designed to run on and on, uninterrupted by CD changes or the flipping of sheet music, on that most unclassical of devices: your phone. And here his work is performed in that most unclassical of places: a multi-storey car park in Peckham.
Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons
Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons came out in 2012. An analog remix of Vivaldi’s original, it propels you on a new route through The Four Seasons and the four seasons
. It’s propulsive from the beginning here in the multi-storey car park. The synthesiser pedal points that start Spring provide a forward motion for the bird chip violin shapes of the original. Together they run into shimmering clouds of ambience provided by the ‘looped’ string ensemble. Summer starts with uninterrupted quotations of Vivaldi’s original, leading into pulsing orchestral loops and breaks of bass-heavy ambience. Both find a fitting home on this late summer evening in the austere environment of the car park. The close of Summer sees soloist Francesca Baritt’s virtuosic violin ride a pulsing, atmospheric wave into Autumn. Autumn, a season of change, requires perhaps the most dexterity from the orchestra. Richter finds the shift of the season in polyrhythms and melodic lines that puncture themselves on the rhythmic spikes, before recomposing themselves through the final sections of Autumn. It’s impressive stuff to witness live and to witness here. The final act sees more unrestrained, fearless soloing from Baritt, accompanied at times by overground trains leaving Peckham Rye. They’ve been doing that throughout. By the final act they are just another member of the ensemble, playing the ambience to at least Grade 8. The middle section of Winter is glacially slow and frosty in its arrangement, strongly reminiscent of the scores Richter has composed for TV and film. Finally, the last piece of Winter sees the ensemble falling down in steps, closing the cycle, shutting the door, turning their backs on the cold. When the whole piece closes, summer has truly been laid to rest in a multi-storey car park in Peckham.
The Multi Story Orchestra have their home. They have their young, exciting, committed players. And with Whitley and Stark, they clearly have a pair of artistic directors who know how to get the most from each.
This arts venue and its bar/restaurant are open until 11pm, Tuesday to Sunday from the end of May until the end of September each year. Just a skip away from Peckham Rye station, they’re located at the top of the multi-storey car park that rises up above the Peckhamplex Cinema. Head to the right of the main Peckhamplex entrance, then head up the stairs into the main building. As you enter, a very pink staircase greets you. It's an artwork in itself. Follow the stairs up to the top. Step free access is available using elevators on the ground floor, but it’s best to arrange it in advance by emailing [email protected]
Keep an eye on the Bold Tendencies
website for what they’ve got coming up next year. And head to the Multi Story Orchestra
website for upcoming events. So that was our trip to see the Multi Story Orchestra at Bold Tendencies, Peckham. And if you've got some tips for unusual gigs in London, let us know in the comments below. If you're looking for more tips, here's another we enjoyed