New BSO commission to chronicle historical moment

Posted on: 12 May 2020

We're excited to announce that we've commissioned a new work to mark our 60th anniversary partnering two radical figures in modern British music: composer Shirley J. Thompson and disabled-led ensemble BSO Resound.

It is anticipated the new work will reference modern British life as the nation looks inward during a chapter of compassion and care. Reflecting on 60 years of the Independent Living Movement, the work will explore the pioneering spirit of the Movement while the performers of BSO Resound epitomise how far the independent living for disabled people has progressed over six decades. The new piece is due to be performed by BSO Resound later in the year.

A visionary artist and cultural activist, Shirley J. Thompson’s music is often described as ‘beautiful and powerful’ (Le Figaro). Fusing musical elements representative of modern Britain, Thompson’s work has featured in numerous national events, with highlights including the powerful 2018 anthem, Psalm to Windrush: to the Brave & Ingenious, to mark the Windrush 70th Anniversary at Westminster Abbey, and a symphony for 200 instrumental and choral performers to celebrate London’s 1,000-year history as part of the 2002 Golden Jubilee. Thompson’s music has been performed by orchestras including the Royal Philharmonic, BBC Concert Principals, and the Philharmonia at venues such as the Southbank Centre, Sydney Opera House, and Mariinsky Theatre. Always driven by the belief in the transformative power of music to affect social, cultural and political change, she has also composed extensively for opera, contemporary dance, TV and film.

Composer Shirley J. Thompson, said of the partnership, “I am very excited about the commission to highlight the great and historic work of the Independent Living Movement. It is an honour to be chosen by BSO Resound to commemorate how far society has come in terms of its attitudes to disabled people. I am looking forward to exploring the instrumental sonorities offered by the wonderful performers of BSO Resound in this year of the 60th Anniversary of Allianz Musical Insurance. It’s a fascinating moment in time and a real opportunity to chronicle the changes that we see around us.”

BSO Resound is known for spearheading change: it is the world’s first professional disabled-led ensemble and is a core part of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. In 2019, the six-piece chamber group won the Royal Philharmonic Society Impact Award for its part in improving opportunities for disabled musicians. It also made a high-profile debut at the 2018 BBC Proms as the first disabled-led group to perform at the festival’s illustrious 125-year history.

Dougie Scarfe, Chief Executive of Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, said of the news, “The BSO has played a key part in bringing contemporary music to the fore since its inception and we’re really excited that Shirley has agreed to write for BSO Resound. As the country looks at the way it cares for the most vulnerable in society, we are certain Shirley’s music will empower and inspire.”

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