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Solem Quartet announced awardee of Live Work Fund

The Solem Quartet has been announced as an awardee of the Live Work Fund, one of 33 artists selected from more than 1200 applicants.

The Live Work Fund is a new initiative launched in collaboration by Jerwood Arts, The Wolfson Foundation, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Linbury Trust, which aims to support exceptional artists whose work relies on live performance, following the impact of Covid-19. They have selected 33 young artists to receive awards of £20,000 over 12 months to help them adapt their approach to making and sharing live work.

The Solem Quartet takes its place amongst some of the UK’s brightest artistic voices, with award recipients spread across practices including music, theatre, opera, circus, dance, live art and performance, as well as those who work in the gaps between these disciplines.

The Live Work Fund aims to help prevent exceptional talent of all backgrounds from abandoning the development of their artistic practice due to the impact of Covid-19. At a time when the pandemic makes it hard for many to imagine a positive future in the arts, the funders strongly believe that creatives hold the key to discovering and forging new ways forward. They are committed to a vibrant future for live work and to ensuring that right across the country outstanding artists, creatives and producers are able to transform and develop their practice to survive and thrive.

The support of the Live Work Fund will help the Solem Quartet to develop their Solem Lates strand, a groundbreaking series of self-produced and co-produced events aiming to breathe new life into the chamber music world. They have just launched their newest Solem Lates project Beethoven Bartók Now, an ambitious six-part series bringing together the late quartets of Beethoven and the quartets of Béla Bartók, uniquely reimagined with music from composers of today. As well as live performances, Beethoven Bartók Now features a wealth of digital content and educational activity, providing an access point for new audiences. An example of this work is their recent Unpacking BBN video, “Night Music”:


As part of a new, rich resource for composers, the Solem Quartet recently ran the first of their digital ‘Writing for Quartet’ workshops. Attended by 116 composers from all over the world, 17 pieces of pre-submitted music were performed live by the Solem Quartet as part of the interactive session hosted on Zoom. After playing extracts from each composer’s submitted work, the Quartet were able to offer feedback on their experience of the music, including detailed discussion of scores and notation, which often became a springboard for wider discussion of string techniques. Composers were also invited to pose questions directly to the players, helping them to clear up any queries and uncertainties about their compositions. Lessons were learnt by all, especially when a dramatically snapping string demonstrated an extended technique that should be avoided!

The session reached composers from a huge variety of musical backgrounds, ranging from school music students through to undergraduates, postgraduates and doctorate-holding composers, as well as some with no formal musical training. Participants’ ages spread from teenage composers through to over 65s, and most attendees felt that the workshop had sparked new ideas and offered them unique insights to which they do not currently have access elsewhere. In the post-workshop survey, all the respondents thought that attending more workshops like these would help them to feel part of a community of composers, and many had further positive words about their experience of the workshop:

“Just excellent stuff! Thanks so much for doing this. It was incredibly valuable for a composer like myself without a lot of experience writing for real life string ensembles.”

“It was great! Keep doing this kind of activities as us composers really need to work closely with instrumentalists more often.”

“As a teacher of composition within KS 4 and 5 stages, I found this opportunity immensely useful, in order to expose my students to the real timbre of a string quartet (as opposed to computer-generated sound) but, perhaps more importantly, to the reality (and beauty) of ensemble music-making. The interaction between parts and motifs is also interaction between the musicians and this workshop will, undoubtedly, mark an important turn in young composers’ development.”

“Super interesting, really well paced and great variation in piece selection. Really useful to be able to see the scores and all the feedback was very thoughtful and constructive.”

The Live Work Fund will provide the Quartet with substantial support throughout 2021, not just financially, but also through contact with Jerwood Arts’ expert staff and established mentors. The award package will help the Quartet to build on their reputation for re-imagining traditional concert experiences, creating new audiences, commissioning new music and working with young people.

Lilli Geissendorfer, Director, Jerwood Arts, says on behalf of the four funders:

The Live Work Fund clearly demonstrates both the huge financial need experienced by freelance artists across the UK whose careers have been put in limbo by Covid-19, and the significance of flexible funding for individuals. By being bold and entrusting substantial amounts of funding, we are delighted that the Live Work Fund is able to offer 33 visionary artists the time and space to develop their practices with fewer financial concerns. Covid-19 has highlighted how valuable collaboration between different funders can be to create new ways to support the arts ecology. We look forward to seeing the awardees play their part in the future of the arts.

Read the Live Work Fund press release.

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