Daylight Music 342

After a successful Crowdfunding campaign, Daylight Music returned to St John’s in Leytonstone for the first session of their new season. Future sessions in the season will swap between here and St John on Bethnal Green.

Today was Piano Day at Daylight Music. Some of the strongest Daylight sessions have been their Piano Day events. They have introduced me to many great pianists and composers. One of those artists is Xenia Pestova-Bennett who has played several Daylight Music Piano Days. Xenia is not only a very talented pianist, but an artist who composes pieces that push the envelope of the piano. Returning with a Piano Day involving Xenia was always going to set a high bar for the rest of the season.

I was photographing today’s session and arrived early for soundchecks. On arrival the church looked beautiful with the star of the day, the piano, standing proudly as the early spring sun streamed into the church.

St John in Leytonstone

Starting the season was Jo Johnson and Hilary Robinson with a piece they had never performed together before. Written during lockdown and marrying electronic music and field recordings with beautiful minimalist piano music. The piece was really beautiful.

Next up was another returnee to Daylight Music, Sarah Angliss. This time bringing along two singers, Melanie Pappenheim and Sarah Gabriel. Sarah always does something different when she plays Daylight. Whether it is using a robotic ventriloquist dummy, or bringing unusual instruments. Today she used early keyboard instruments and combined them with haunting and beautiful vocals of Melenie and Sarah who explored texts from the moon landings and old English poetry. It was a stunning performance.

Closing the session was Xenia and Austrian composer Karlheinz Essl with their take on a core piece of the piano repertoire, Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Gold.Berg.Werk uses the framework of Bach’s seminal piece and interweaves Essl’s own take on variations, using recordings of other instruments and electronica which Karzheinz sends to different speakers around the church.

I have to admit. I have never got on with the Goldberg Variations. I find it a bit wearing and plodding and have never felt the need to see it performed live. But Essl’s electronics wizardry transformed the piece for me. He helped create space between each of Xenia’s exquisite variation as he filled the church with the sounds of ghostly strings and electronica. It was almost as if the Church was alive and answering the piano. At times flirting with the piano, with quick stabs of violins that sounded like bells ringing at a wedding. Other times, almost reacting with sadness, as if Xenia’s piano brought back a trauma. It was a thoroughly fascinating take on such a well known piece.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon. What a great way to welcome back the new season. A high bar has been set.