JAMES have announced that they will be touring the UK’s most beautiful and premier classical venues later this year – with an orchestra and choir in tow. The Manchester band who’ve sold more than 20 million albums worldwide and sold 35000 live tickets in a matter of hours when they announced their comeback in 2007, will be performing songs from their extensive back catalogue – interpreted for these unique shows by the 22 piece Orchestra Of The Swan and 16 piece choir from the Manchester Consort each conducted by classical composer/conductor Joe Duddell. Duddell studied composition at The Royal Academy of Music under Steve Martland, the only composer to be exclusively signed to Factory Records (as were James at the start their career) and first worked with James at the Manchester Verses Cancer charity gig in 2009. The collaboration was a huge success but James lead protagonist Tim Booth points out that it is Duddell’s connection to Manchester that has proved most hard to resist. He enthuses, “it’s a a bit more gritty than you would expect from a classical collaboration and it has a northern edge!” Duddell adds: “I bought Hymn From A Village on Factory in 1985 after reading about it in the Manchester Evening News and I have always loved indie music – but when you are a composer you realize it is all part of a big picture.”
Joe Duddell’s “indie-rock” credentials are impressive – in an earlier incarnation his band Pullover released a record on Fierce Panda and in 2008 he was commissioned by Manchester International Festival to orchestrate a collaboration between Elbow & The Hallé Orchestra / Youth Choir. The two celebrated performances took place in July 2009 at The Bridgewater Hall and received widespread critical acclaim. Later that same year Duddell collaborated with James at Manchester Verses Cancer where they performed two Joy Division songs – Atmosphere and Transmission – with Peter Hook and it was a sense of unfinished business that has led to the most recent collaboration. The concerts will see James back catalogue re-imagined for orchestra and choir and the band playing many songs they haven’t performed for years. Booth suggests that “the arrangements are really different, our songs are open-ended which is anathema to an orchestra” and Duddell agrees. “I work in both worlds”, he says, “but it’s all about translation. James talk about middle eights and verses and choruses but orchestras don’t.” He adds:“James hardly ever play the same song twice so the orchestra has had to adjust.” They both agree that what makes it work is that James have become part of the orchestra itself.
The Orchestra Of The Swan is a major champion of new music and has previously commissioned work from Joe Cutler, Tansy Davies, Alexander Goehr, John Joubert, Joanna Lee, Roxanna Panufnik, Paul Patterson, Joseph Phibbs, Julian Philips, Dobrinka Tabakova, Param Vir, Errollyn Wallen, Shu Wang, John Woolrich and many others. Recent releases include chamber versions of Mahler’s Symphony no4 and the world premiere recording of David Mathews’ arrangement of Berlioz’ Nuits d’été.
The Manchester Consort will be chorally trained by its co-founder and Principal Conductor Gregory Batsleer. Batsleer currently holds various other posts including Chorus Master with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Director of the Hallé Youth Choir and his recent collaborations have included performances and projects with Damon Albarn and Elbow with whom he worked on ‘Build a Rocket Boys’. The Manchester Consort’s recent successes have included Handel’s Saul and Mozart’s Requiem at the RNCM, the Manchester premiere of Arvo Part’s Miserere in Manchester Cathedral, as well as two extremely successful productions of Amahl and the Night Visitors, and West Side Story.