Chanson Irresponsable
The New Westbrook Orchestra

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Sedge warbler by Kate Westbrook Matt Sharp voice Kate Westbrook voice

Peter Whyman
bass clarinet & alto saxophone

Chris Biscoe
alto clarinet & alto saxophone

David Bitelli
baritone saxophone & clarinet

Karen Street
accordion & tenor saxophone

Stuart Brooks
trumpet Jane Hanna French horn Neil McTaggart violin

Mark Wilson
violin David Lasserson viola Chris Allan cello

Tim Harries
bass Sebastian Rochford percussion

Mike Westbrook
piano & m.d.

This innovative, exciting and highly original new piece finds Mike and Kate working at the their creative peaks and defiantly unafraid to risk everything in their pursuit of new musical forms. Working with a stunning mix of jazz and classical musicians of all ages, the Westbrooks have once again come up with a major ninety-minute work of contemporary music that is as startlingly original and uncategorisable as anything in their combined creative history. Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 Chanson was performed, recorded and broadcast in 2002. This was also accompanied by a four-part Radio 3 programme about the music of the Westbrook partnership. Enterprising Promoters and Festival Directors are to be encouraged to consider booking this piece as a programme centrepiece or finale now.

Chanson Irresponsable takes as its starting point the anarchic and eclectic nature of the song of the sedge warbler.

Kate Westbrook's texts, in English, are translated into French, German and Italian. While not anthropomorphic, the texts capture moments in the life of the migrant bird – territorial rivalry, courtship, death. Each language version has a different musical interpretation, sometimes formally set, sometimes free-form.

The instrumentation of the Orchestra, which combines jazz and classical players, is chosen to give the maximum range of tonal possibilities within a small ensemble.

Two vocalists and two clarinet/saxophonists are the principal protagonists at the heart of the Orchestra. This quartet plays out the music/drama of the piece against a variety of Orchestral 'events' – improvisations, textures and against structures which are often derived from popular song and jazz forms.

The Sedge-Warbler advertises its presence with a varied and erratic song. Intentionally or unintentionally it copies other sounds. Whether melodious or harsh, high or low, doesn’t matter. When stirred by nuptial fervour it sings on the wing. At night its richer notes may be mistaken for the Nightingale. Explosive, scolding and harsh notes are so intermingled with its song that the psychological meaning of its varied utterance is obscure—after T. A. Coward

Cet oiseau, a, sans nul doute, le sens de l’humour—Wilhelm Busch

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