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Kate Whitley is the Kettle’s Yard New Music Programmer for 2015

This is a welcome return for Kate Whitley who programmed the Kettle’s Yard student lunchtime concert series while studying in Cambridge. Kate Whitley is a composer, pianist and founder of The Multi-Story Orchestra. Kate’s work in bringing classical music out of the concert hall and into new contexts has been hailed as part of “the most exciting development in classical music for decades, if not centuries”, The Times. She received a Sky Arts/Ideas Tap Futures Fund Bursary in 2013 and a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Special Award in 2014.

Pianist Tom Poster said that ‘There is something about spaces that lead you to think about music in a different way, I think, and certainly the light in Kettle’s Yard does allow me to find more light in my playing’. Do you think there’s something special about performing at Kettle’s Yard?

Kettle’s Yard has always been a really important place to me – it provided an escape from the world of the University when I was studying at Cambridge, and I have gathered many significant memories of making music there. It’s a wonderful place to perform because the audience members are so close to you; the atmosphere and layout of the space is different from traditional concert halls, which gives performances a feeling of spontaneity and freshness.

I also find the space inspiring as a curator as it can be used in many different ways. When I ran the Cambridge New Music Ensemble we staged a John Cage Music Circus in Kettle’s Yard, which spread performers all around the space – ranging from someone feeding hay to the grand piano, to a full gypsy band in the upstairs rooms, to someone whistling in the toilet. It’s a great space because it is somewhere in between a gallery, a performance space, and a house.

What inspired you to start the Multi-Story Orchestra?

I’ve always been interested in finding new spaces for classical music, motivated by the desire to enable new audiences to come into contact with something they might not have experienced otherwise. I played with this idea in various different guises when I lived in Cambridge, which included putting on classical music nights in bars, clubs and warehouses. When I moved to London I discovered the Car Park in Peckham where Multi-Story is now based. It is a huge, neutral space that everyone is used to using for practical purposes, so using it for classical music enables you to escape the cultural associations of traditional performance spaces.

The New Music series features international stars as well as emerging young composers and musicians – which new names are you particularly excited to see?

I’m looking forward to Shiva Feshareki’s Portrait Concert because she is a unique musician who takes a really brave approach to her work. Shiva’s music is incredibly distinctive and relished by musicians, who can see that there is intention and guts behind the notes she writes. Her Portrait Concert is completely unique to this series: we have brought together a group of musicians specifically for this performance, and commissioned a new work from Shiva in response to Kettle’s Yard’s Ian Hamilton-Finlay exhibition. You won’t hear this concert anywhere else!

New for 2015 will be concerts which respond to gallery exhibitions. Tell us about your new composition & collaboration with Malgorzata Dzierzon inspired by New Rhythms: Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Art, Dance and Movement 1911–1915.

I invited Gosia Dzierzon to collaborate with me on this project because she is an incredible choreographer who has done a huge amount of site-specific dance work with her own company New Movement Collective. We love working together, and come from similar backgrounds in terms of being involved in curating and producing as well as choreographing and composing. Our new work for New Rhythms is being created as a short film for the exhibition as well as for live performance in the New Music Series. We have been inspired by Gaudier-Brzeska’s wrestlers, and are working with two fantastic dancers Thomasin Gulgec and Estella Merlos, ex-members of Rambert Dance Company (where Gosia worked until last year and where I was Music Fellow in 2013-4), and two brilliant musicians, Asher Zaccardelli (viola) and Eloisa Fleur-Thom (violin).