Holland Festival Proms:
Tribute to Blackstar

David Bowie, s t a r g a z e, Anna Calvi, Soap&Skin, Laetitia Sadier

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Tribute to Blackstar is a homage to David Bowie, the legendary pop star who died in 2016. Together with singers Anna Calvi, Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab) and Anja Plaschg (Soap&Skin) the musical collective stargaze will perform Bowie’s critically acclaimed final album Blackstar. Exciting new arrangements by composers, such as Aart Strootman, Jherek Bischoff, André de Ridder, and Josephine Stephenson, have been specially written to explore the emotional
depths of Bowie’s music. The composers work with the adventurous ensemble’s possibilities, resulting in completely new versions of songs like Lazarus, I Can’t Give Everything Away and Blackstar.

background information

In 2016, after the death of British rock star David Bowie, the German conductor André de Ridder directed and curated Tribute to Blackstar, a performance in memory of Bowie, 

inspired and partly based on his last album Blackstar, released on 8th January 2016, just two days before Bowie’s death. The concert was performed at the BBC Proms and featured his Amsterdam-Berlin musical collective stargaze and the singers Anna Calvi, Laetitia Sadier and Anja Plaschg (Soap&Skin). Bass guitarist Jherek Bischoff and organist James McVinnie were also part of the line-up for this concert. 

For more than forty years David Bowie set his stamp on the world of pop music, as style icon and as musical chameleon, astonishing the world with his ground-breaking artistry. With twenty-five studio albums to his name and record sales of over 140 million albums, he was one of the most successful artists of recent decades. This was certainly one of the reasons why De Ridder and his fellow musicians wanted to pay tribute to him. 

André de Ridder was first smitten by Bowie’s work when as a teenager he saw the single Let’s Dance on MTV. Then in 1987 when De Ridder saw Bowie’s Glass Spider Tour performance in front of the Berlin Reichstag, he found this an amazing and unsurpassable rock experience. In Tribute to Blackstar De Ridder wants the harmonic and chamber music qualities of Bowie’s songs to emerge. 

Bowie is also a major source of inspiration for singer Anna Calvi. When she was only ten she formed a band, The Rock Spiders, inspired by Bowie’s band The Spiders from Mars. ‘You can really see the music,’ she says. ‘It’s very visual. I’m very much in for trying to create music that you can see as well as hear’. 

The first version of Tribute was premiered at the Royal Albert Hall during the 2016 BBC Proms, with an impressive line-up of guest artists including Michel van der Aa, Jherek Bischoff, John Cale, David Lang, Anna Meredith, Gren Saunier and Josephine Stephenson. A new version of this tribute will receive its world premiere on 1st May 2018 in the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie and will then be performed at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw during the Holland Festival. An unusual feature of this tribute is that three female singers interpret Bowie and his songs: Anna Calvi, Laetitia Sadier and Anja Plaschg. The arrangements are by De Ridder himself, but there are also contributions by other composers, including Jherek Bischoff, Josephine Stephenson and Aart Strootman. The rhythms, melodies and emotional depths of Bowie’s music are explored and accentuated, an approach made possible by the adventurous work of the stargaze ensemble. This has created completely new versions of Lazarus, Lady Grinning Soul, I Can’t Give Everything Away and Blackstar.

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biography

The British singer, songwriter, producer and actor David Bowie (1947-2016) was renowned for his innovative music and stylish presentation. He was interested in music from a young age 

and found great inspiration in Elvis Presley. Fats Domino and Little Richard were also great favourites of his. Bowie was a multi-faceted and creative individual who grew up in Brixton, London, forming his first band when he was only fifteen. Bowie was more than a musician: he painted, was a dancer, and performed in various kinds of theatrical shows. He was also an art collector, owning pieces by Francis Picabia, Damien Hirst and Henry Moore among others. His work was experimental and pushed at the boundaries of musical genre. In 1969 he released Space Oddity, a recording which brought him his first real taste of fame. Among his greatest successes was the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, based on one of Bowie’s alter egos. This album made Bowie a superstar and was followed by other releases, including Aladdin Sane (1973), Pin Ups (1973), Diamond Dogs (1974), Young Americans (1975), Station to Station (1976) and Low (1977). In 1980 Bowie made his Broadway debut in The Elephant Man. His most important collaborators were Brian Eno and Tony Visconti. As a stage personality he was ‘larger than life’, his flamboyant costumes and androgynous appearance becoming an iconic element of his image. His last album, Blackstar, was released on 8th January 2016. Bowie passed away just two days later. 

The Berlin-Amsterdam orchestral collective s t a r g a z e was founded in 2013 by André de Ridder. The ensemble performs a wide range of projects in contemporary pop, electronic and classical music, and has worked with The Magnetic North, Jherek Bischoff, Shara Nova, Owen Pallett, Villagers, The Dodos and many others. stargaze has appeared at the Holland Festival, the Eight Bridges Festival, Cologne, Into The Great Wide Open, Wonderfeel, the Kilkenny Arts Festival and the Ruhrtriennale, and has had guest appearances at the Amsterdam Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ, the Barbican Centre, London and the Volksbühne, Berlin. stargaze is ensemble in residence at the Haldern Pop Festival, Germany. In 2013 the ensemble commissioned various artists to create their own version of Terry Riley’s renowned composition In C. In 2015 stargaze performed the piece with Riley himself for the opening of the Amsterdam-based World Minimal Music Festival. stargaze’s repertoire includes string quartets by Sufjan Stevens and  Bryce Dessner, David Lang’s Death Speaks and music by Bartók and Ligeti. The ensemble recently performed Mica Levi’s music for the film Under the Skin. They also recently created an adaptation of Bach’s cantata Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich. In 2015 the musicians released their first EP Deerhoof Chamber Variations with the Transgressive Records label. 

Anna Calvi (1980) is an English singer-songwriter and guitarist known for her intense and romantic style which combines influences from alternative rock, sixties pop and the twentieth century classical music of composers such as Steve Reich and Olivier Messiaen. After a long period of uncertainty about her voice, during which she trained herself by singing along for hours to records of Édith Piaf and Nina Simone, she released her debut album Anna Calvi in 2011 at the age of thirty. The album was a Europe-wide success and gained Calvi a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize. The following year she was invited to be on the jury for the same prize, and in 2013 her second album One Breath received a Mercury Music Prize nomination. Calvi’s fans include fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, and ambient musician and producer Brian Eno. Eno has described her as ‘the biggest thing since Patti Smith’ and also performed on her debut album. David Byrne made two guest contributions to Calvi’s recent release, the EP Strange Weather, on which Calvi covers five of her favourite songs. Calvi herself has made guest appearances on albums by Noah And The Whale and Marianne Faithfull. In 2015 she was on stage with Eva-Maria Westbroek and the Dutch Metropole Orkest for the first ever Holland Festival Proms. In 2017 she announced that she had written the music for the 2017 opera The Sandman, based on a short story by E.T.A. Hoffmann and directed by Robert Wilson. 

The singer/-songwriter Anja Plaschg, who uses the artistic name Soap&Skin for her experimental projects, grew up in Poppendorf, Austria. She started to play the piano at the age of six and became interested in electronic music when she was fourteen. She later studied music at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. She is greatly inspired by musicians and composers such as Björk, Aphex Twin, Rachmaninov and Arvo Pärt. Plaschg’s first album, Lovetune for Vacuum, was released in 2009 and received excellent reviews. In 2009 she also won the Alternative/Rock category in the Amadeus Austrian Music Awards, and in 2010 received a European Border Breakers Award for her international successes. In the same year her song Mr. Gaunt Pt 1000 was used by Ford for a television advertisement and her song The Sun was played during the credits of the French film Mes chères etudes (Student Services). Her second album, Narrow, came out in 2012. In 2012 Plaschg also made her debut as an actress in the Austrian film Stilleben (Still Life) by director Sebastian Meise. She has recently contributed to the title music of the Netflix series Dark, released in 2017.

The French singer Laetitia Sadier, who also plays guitar, keyboard and trombone, was born in 1968. She was a founding member of the avant-pop band Stereolab, together with her former partner the guitarist Tim Gane. She was also instrumental in forming Monade, a post-rock band, active until 2009. She has collaborated with various groups on a wide range of projects, contributing to recordings made by The High Llamas and for Blur’s top twenty hit To the End. She recorded the song Bonnie and Clyde with Luna and sang the lead vocals in Haiku One on the Sigmatropics album Sixteen Haiku & Other Stories, based on the poetry of the Greek poet Giorgos Seferis. Sadier has also collaborated with the German electronica group Mouse on Mars, writing songs and touring with them. In 2010 Sadier released her first solo album: The Trip. This was followed by Silencio, Something Shines and Find me Finding You. She appeared on the Deerhoof album Mountain Moves in 2017 with the song Come Down Here and Say That.

Jherek Bischoff is a Los Angeles-based composer, arranger, producer and multi-instrumentalist. He has performed at venues and festivals all over the world, including the Royal Albert Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Radio City Music Hall. His list of collaborations includes work with the Kronos Quartet — for whom he has composed commissioned works — Bang on a Can, David Byrne, Robert Wilson and Neil Gaiman, among others, and his work has also been performed by the Seattle Symphony, the Adelaide Art Orchestra and Stargaze. His critically acclaimed albums include Cistern and Composed, and the co-release Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute. In August 2016, Bischoff was the artist in residence for Times Square’s Midnight Moment, which included a nightly broadcast of his video for “Cistern” on Times Square's electronic billboards and culminated in two live performances in the middle of Times Square. Bischoff’s composition and performance credits in film and television include his work on Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, and his theatre work includes The Sandman, a collaboration with Robert Wilson for the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, Das Fliegende Klassenzimmer, for Theater Basel, and Johnny Breitwieser, for the Schauspielhaus in Vienna. 

James McVinnie is a British organist with a boundless passion for music which has led him to collaborations with the world’s best composers and musicians. Many contemporary composers have written music especially for him, including Nico Muhly, Martin Creed, Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire, Shara Nova, David Lang and Bryce Dessner. Between 2008 and 2011 McVinnie was Assistant Organist at Westminster Abbey, where he also directed the choir. He has played on many state occasions which were broadcast live on television, including the 2011 Royal Wedding. Prior to his appointment at Westminster Abbey, he held similar positions at St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, St. Alban’s Cathedral and Clare College, Cambridge. In 2014 McVinnie made his debut at the Royal Festival Hall, London with one of the six re-opening recitals on the recently restored 1954 Harrison & Harrison organ. In the summer of 2009 McVinnie made his solo debut at the Salzburg Festival performing with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra under Ivor Bolton. McVinnie records with the Icelandic label Bedroom Community. His debut release for this label was Cycles, written for him by Nico Muhly. This appeared in 2013. He was a guest performer at the Holland Festival in 2014, playing works by Nico Muhly in two different concerts. In 2017 he performed again at the Holland Festival, in the Festival Proms, in collaboration with Tom Jenkinson aka Squarepusher. In the same year he also performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Reykjavik Festival, in the Barbican Centre, London and at the Philharmonie de Paris. In 2018 he will return to Glyndebourne in Barrie Kosky’s production of Handel’s Saul.

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Credits

muziek
David Bowie
arrangement
Jherek Bischoff,
André de Ridder,
Josephine Stephenson,
Aart Strootman e.a.
concept en muzikale coördinatie
André de Ridder
zang
Anna Calvi, Soap&Skin, Laetitia Sadier
uitvoering
s t a r g a z e
gasten
James McVinnie, piano, orgel
Jherek Bischoff, e-bas

This performance was made possible with support by