Bascule Chamber Concerts, 4 Stars

Bascule Chamber Concerts
Totally Thames
st – 30th September 2017
Bascule Chambers

“Annual celebration of the River Thames returns with a creative and diverse programme that inspires, connects and enthral”

Review by Mark Banfield, 4 Stars

Following last year’s sell out concert series inside Tower Bridge’s Bascule Chamber, composer Iain Chambers returns to fill this atmospheric subterranean space with a new programme of music.

And if venturing into the Bascule Chambers whets your appetite for all things Tower Bridge, don’t forget that you can complement your experience with a visit to Tower Bridge Exhibition. Step inside to explore its iconic structure; marvel at the spectacular glass floor and sweeping panoramic views; and discover the hidden wonders of the Engine Rooms.

This season sees he premier of Langham Research Centre Handel on the Thames to mark 300 years since Handels famous piece premiered on the Thames, explores how the water music might sound in contemporary London. Field recordings from across the capital are manipulated to interact with the contours of the original composition, interspersed with street cries and live audio from microphones beneath the surface of the river and mounted on Tower Bridge itself. Every performance is therefore unique dependant on the live sounds audible at street level. This piece is indeed unique in its handling of its well known source, what intrigues the most is the resonant tones that are drawn out and then looped and interjected with bawlings of market stall vendors, buses and rumbling taxis  to produce a hypnotic yet disjointed visceral experience. The hypens play in and out but in a decaying maligned manner that ensures you are aware that this is a time gone by yet still persists and conjures haunting images of the boudoir of Miss Havisham. Interestingly the two sound technicians who have the demeanour of a demented Beaker and Bunsen remain anonymous and just as the sounds are absorbed into the void of the space so do they retreat.

Kayo Chingonyi’s first full length collection of poetry, Kumukanda, was published din June 2017 by Chanto & Windus. He describes is technique as a way of mapping his hybrid sensibility in poems exploring racial classification, literary tradition, the trials and errors of love, bereavement and the history of Garage music. His Guy’s & St Thomas; A Body of Water are poems of flux and transit influenced by the various kinds of traffic that pass through that stretch of the river. You cannot but help fall slightly in love with Kayo, his broad white smile and easy presence informs you this will be a no gimmicks affair even in the glare of eerrie uplighting that is doing its best to transform him into a ghoul but fails as what your your presented with instead is a rather tall  tartan glad elf and here  on in  you will be given the truth. He introduces us to his mother and her words of advice to her young son, to air on the side of caution in his dealings with women and his subsequent rejection of them in persuit of his own truth all set against the context of the Aquarium and town hall that feature along that stretch of the the river which makes up is historical recollections of a vivid and tumultuous 1990’s.

“One of the most versatile musicians of her generation; Kate Romano has given over 70 premieres. performing at major UK venues and recording for NMC, Metier and Minabel. As a producer, she has created touring operas and music theatre works. Her performance of Music for the clarinet in a resonant chamber inspired by the quasi-electronic sounds a clarinet can produce, produces a piece that plays with the ambiguity of whether its sounds are being generated electronically,  or acoustically by the clarinet. Extended techniques available on the the instrument are explored, from percussive clicks and breath noises, to multiphonics, didgeridoo and flute like tones, and the sound of gulls. But at the heart of the piece is a deceptively simple Handel – like melody, which develops and recurs. This is undoubtedly the centre piece of the performance and as Kates haunting echoes reverberate and merge with the synthesised embers you find your mind  or rather your eyes moving back and forth as you attempt to discern their origin, but alas to no avail as they are absorbed into the damp cool walls of the chamber. Interestingly in moments throughout the disjointed drip emanating from the south corner of the chamber only added to the overall effect of the all absorbing unrelenting void into which we were assigned. I like to think that this is a deliberate act as I am sure a strategically placed cloth would have rendered it mute.

Steve Reichs New York Counterpoint sees Kate pre recorded and live realisation in a piece scored for one live performer playing against a dozen pre recorded parts . The three movements : fast , slow , fast , are played one after the other without pause. Producing a canonic interplay in the composition creating multiple layers of sounds akin to Reich’s earlier phase pieces. Almost  mathematical in execution the repetition , melody and rhythm combine  transcending  to what lies at the heart  of this dynamic and shifting depiction of a city in all its vibrancy. Reich could have easily achieved  this with the eponymous saxophone but  in his treatment of the clarinet produces far  more nuanced and detailed vignettes.

Finally and literally on exit, award winning  Franco – Cameroonian singer Coco Mbassi presents his improvisation of If the Sea Could Speak, with a core foundation but improvisation on the double bass and the lead vocals telling a different and unique story every time. Combining with the rumble of the traffic overhead the Mbassi deep tones creates a rich and textured sound that emanates from within the piston chamber and reverberates around this circular room caressing and polishing the bodies of all caught in its wake momentarily drawing you down to just on the point of breathlessness only to regurgitate you and throw its claims back out from its belly and onto the shore which happily i in this instance is the footpath back on ground albeit bridge level.

Bascule is a pioneering and directional production that  demonstrates what technical, artistic and practical skills when applied thoughtfully can achieve and what they have achieved will continue to draw and engage with audiences as diverse and discerning as the programme itself.

No performance as the whole programme of the night are the same As what it sure to be the highlight of this year’s Totally Thames festival, don’t miss out on this rare opportunity to experience live music deep inside the most famous bridge in the world. This September, you too can experience the chamber’s unique acoustics through performances of a specially-commissioned new work performed by the award-winning poe Kayo Chingonyi and clarinetist Kate Romano. This event is an unmissable and atmospheric concert, providing a unique way to experience a great feat of Victorian engineering.

Photo Credit Gabor Gergely Photography

The River Thames travels over 210 miles, starting as a small trickle in the Cotswolds, right into the centre of London and out into the North Sea. And yet, many Londoners have never engaged with the river. Through Totally Thames’ annual season of over 150 events on, beneath and beside the River Thames, Londoners can take part in an exciting programme of arts, cultural, archaeological and active river events including concerts, film screenings, exhibitions, installations, performances, walks, a boat party and even a wild swim!

This year’s programme is curated around the timely issue of plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans, Handel’s 300th Anniversary of Water Music, and stories of the river.

Plastic Pollution, River litter This timely, global environmental issue affects the Thames, waterways and oceans. The World Economic Forum has predicted there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by weight by 2050. This is highlighted in Future Dust, an installation by artist Maria Arceo (throughout September); for the last year, Arceo has been collecting plastic from over 40 beaches along the tidal Thames down to the Estuary. By beachcombing, handpicking, identifying, and colour-coding found plastic debris, she will create a large-scale artwork that responds to the sheer scale of plastic litter that is being deposited into the Thames. The installation will tour to different riverside locations across London and will be illuminated at dusk by Dutch interactive light artist Tim Scheffer. The Plastic Ocean Festival runs over the month with screenings of film A Plastic Ocean, which David Attenborough has described as one of the most important films of our time, environmental talks, paddle boarding and river clean-ups to encourage direct action.

300th Anniversary of Handel’s Water Music

Composer Iain Chambers returns with his third edition of the Bascule Chamber Concerts (22nd – 24th September) inside the cavernous bascule chamber of Tower Bridge. The programme of new works includes a response to the 300th anniversary of Water Music from Langham Research Centre that uses live recordings of the bridge’s river and road sounds. The intimate concerts will also feature performances from clarinettist Kate Romano, spoken work artist Kayo Chingonyi plus award-winning Franco-Cameroonian singer Coco Mbassi will perform a new work imagining the conversations happening onboard boats carrying immigrants. On the shore, Kid’s Choir (17th September) sees 400 Primary School children from across London come together at The Scoop to perform an array of songs including a contemporary response to Handel’s Water Music by Hunter Cobblentz.

Stories of the River The River Thames has a rich history as a working river which has affected its heritage and the communities and cultures that adorn it. Working River: London’s Boatyards (throughout September) will bring the living history of the boatyards on the Tidal Thames alive through oral history, film and photography in a series of exhibitions. While Boat Poets (6th, 25th and 28th September) places four young emerging spoken word artists on tidal residencies. Artists will explore life on the river through time spent in the wheel houses of river boats, barges and tugs central to industry on the Thames. The Boat Poets will perform at the National Poetry Library and the Tongue Fu Boat Party and will be popping up on MBNA Thames Clippers for National Poetry Day.

Other key projects include Thames Festival Trust’s Rivers of the World, an international arts education programme that has worked in 20 countries. Rivers of the World artworks will be on display at City Hall and along the Thames Pathway. Plus, The Great River Race (9th September) – London’s 21.6 mile River Marathon with over 300 crews from all over the globe. A rare opportunity to get wet and wild in the Thames with an invigorating Tidal Swim (2nd September) around Chiswick Eyot.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said This festival celebrates one of our city’s major assets, bringing its history to life through a fantastic variety of free activities including concerts, exhibitions, installations and performances. From learning about environmental issues facing the river to hearing about those who live on it, there’s something for everyone to get involved in this September.

Adrian Evans, Director of Totally Thames, comments, For this, our 20th birthday edition, we are exploring the working river and the history of Thames boatyards through spoken word and oral history; through photography and film. We are deploring marine plastic pollution via Maria Arceo’s thought-provoking installation Future Dust. We are responding to the 300th anniversary Page | 3

of Handel’s Water Music with massed choir and contemporary compositions. And, we are celebrating our beautiful River Thames with boat races, barge pulls, rallies, stand up paddle boarding and even a river swim. Enjoy!

Totally Thames 2017
1st – 30th September 2017

Twitter @TotallyThames

Tickets Tickets can be purchased online at
or call 020 7928 8998.

Locations The festival takes places at locations across London, up and down the 42- mile stretch of the Thames. Most events are free but some may require booking.
The full programme is available on or call 020 7928 8998.

Thames Festival Trust

Totally Thames is an annual season of surprising, diverse and accessible arts and culture throughout the month of September on, beneath and along the River Thames curated and managed by the Thames Festival Trust.

Totally Thames forms part of the artistic programme delivered by the Thames Festival Trust that was set up in 1997 by Adrian Evans to increase the appreciation of rivers and their importance to us all through creating and promoting river and river-related art, education and heritage programmes.

Supported by Arts Council England and the Mayor of London, Totally Thames also gratefully acknowledges the support of Tideway, Thames Water, British Council, City of London, Heritage Lottery Fund, Garfield Weston, Trinity Buoy Wharf, WaterAid, M&G Investments, Bennetts Barges, London Communications Agency, Team London Bridge, Port of London Authority, MBNA Thames Clippers, City Cruises and D’Oyly Cart Foundation.