Wednesday, June 5, 2019

John Malveaux: Seattle Times: “The Spark Catchers” has its U.S. premiere

Composer Hannah Kendall’s “The Spark Catchers” has its U.S. premiere with the Seattle Symphony this week. (Chris Alexander)

John Malveaux of 

Seattle Symphony spotlights diversity

The Seattle Times 

June 4, 2019

These days, a title such as “The Spark Catchers” might sound like a trilogy of young-adult fantasy novels, soon to be adapted into a series of movies coming to a theater near you.

In reality, “The Spark Catchers” is far less fanciful: a 2012 poem by British writer Lemn Sissay, commemorating the mostly Irish-immigrant women who went on strike over safety conditions at an East London match factory in 1888. The title is a lyrical reference to keen-eyed workers at the factory who caught and crushed flying sparks before the building was set ablaze.

Which brings us to the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. This week sees the U.S. premiere of composer Hannah Kendall’s orchestral work “The Spark Catchers,” which had its world premiere in London’s Royal Albert Hall during the 2017 BBC Proms. It was performed by the four-year-old Chineke! Orchestra, made up of young black and minority ethnic classical musicians from the U.K. and Europe.

Kendall, who will be at Benaroya Hall for three performances of “The Spark Catchers,” will stay another day for an “In the Spotlight: Hannah Kendall” event on Monday, June 10, in Seattle Symphony’s new Octave 9 performance space.

During a phone interview, Londoner Kendall, 35, says her 10-minute “The Spark Catchers” is not a programmatic piece (i.e., it’s not an instrumental retelling of Sissay’s specific narrative). Instead it’s a flowering of the collective identity many Londoners experienced at the onset of the 2012 Summer Olympics, which were held in that city. That match factory, long vanished, had been built on one of the edges of what became Olympic Park, hub for the games.

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