Angels’ Share

An evening “navigated” by Nicola Hümpel that is peppered with British humour and a little snobbery – musical duels fought out between high culture and the alehouse.

Angels’ Share

 

Staged concert

 

»Angels’ Share« is the term used by whisky distillers to describe part of the whisky which evaporates during the aging process and is so, for the angels. The eponymous staged concert guides the audience, with help from the Urban Strings ensemble supported by performers and a singer, through the musically bizarre journey from the noble courtly culture of Henry Purcell’s London into the pubs where the still thriving fiddle culture of the Highlands of Scotland is to be found. 

An evening of music ‘navigated’ by Nicola Hümpel, peppered with British humour and a touch of snobbism – A musical duel between Aristocracy and Ale house, between melancholy, intoxication and the lust for life…

A zeitfenster, Nico and the Navigators and Radialsystem V co-production. Angels’ Share is part of the series of staged concerts KlangZuGang, for which Nico and the Navigators are the beneficiaries of a three-year sponsorship from Berlin’s Fonds Darstellende Künste (Performing Arts Fund). The ensemble is also the recipient of a grant accorded by the state of Berlin.

Dates

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Press reviews

Jan Brachmann / Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

…a performance that told of approachability and aloofness, of the mutual understanding between social spheres and their different kinds of music. An evening full of wit and emotion…

Jan Brachmann / Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

It was a performance that told of approachability and aloofness, of the mutual understanding between social spheres and their different kinds of music. An evening full of wit and emotion. Held in Berlin's Radialsystem and devised by the Academy for Ancient Music Berlin and the theatre troupe Nico and the Navigators, the show really does end with whisky for everyone. “Dance, people”, cries Gillott over the Scottish fiddle music. The poetry of the evening, dreamt up by Nicola Hümpel, descends into revelry. You really have to see for yourself the way Gillott fashions himself a set of bagpipes out of an enormous air cushion together with a hose and organ pipe, then throws himself on the cushion just like “Goethe in the Roman Campagna” in Tischbein's painting, opens the valve and thereupon releases the whistling sound of Henry Purcell's “Fantasia Upon One Note”. Then there is his hilarious declamation, in an imperious teacher's tone, of the text from Handel's “Esther” as Gioanna Pessi is tuning her harp: “Tune your harps to cheerful strains, moulder idols into dust.” Zeitfenster, the biennial for Ancient Music, put on by the Konzerthaus Berlin, could hardly have chosen a better way to finish.

Thomas Heinold / Nürnberger Zeitung

Whisky in the Tafelhalle – and that at the ION, how does that go together? Very well, as the performance of the music performers Nico and the Navigators and the instrumental ensemble Urban Strings showed. In a staged concert, both took the audience to the Scottish Highlands, merging the courtly music of Henry Purcell, Nicola Matteis, Francesco Corbetta and Thomas Mace with the folk music of the Scottish fiddler culture still cultivated today – including that of the famous Niel Gow.

Thomas Heinold / Nürnberger Zeitung

Whisky in the Tafelhalle - and that at the ION, how does that go together? Very well, as the performance of the music performers Nico and the Navigators and the instrumental ensemble Urban Strings showed. In a staged concert, both took the audience to the Scottish Highlands, merging the courtly music of Henry Purcell, Nicola Matteis, Francesco Corbetta and Thomas Mace with the folk music of the Scottish fiddler culture still cultivated today - including that of the famous Niel Gow. Common solvent: the Highland whisky, which Christian monks once invented there and whose so spiritual we fleeting nature was captured aptly in the concert title. Angels' Share is the portion of the whiskey that evaporates during storage. It is said to belong to the angels, perhaps that is why the dancer Nadine Milzner, who seems as aloof as she is fragile, had incorporated a large fan into her gold dress, which she could spread out like an angel's wing. Artistic director Nicola Hümpel embedded her gracefully hesitant poetry of movement in a frame story enriched with situation comedy à la Christoph Marthaler. A Scottish fiddler (Georg Kallweit), who plays by ear with a portable record player, and a baroque ensemble first clash, but in the end let the tiresome division between "serious" and "entertaining" music become obsolete when they make music together. A lanky and talkative young Englishman (Adrian Gillott) traces his Scottish heart, and flirts awkwardly with the charming singer Julla von Landsberg. The idea behind it: New ION Cher Folkert Uhde wants to break up the rigid rituals of a conventional concert in the performance first shown at Radialsystem V in Berlin. The tongue-in-cheek mixture of comedy and poetry in the play scenes is intended to sharpen concentration and create a more emotional approach to the music. This works very well: for example when von Landsberg, with her wonderfully softly timbrated baroque soprano, devotedly sings Purcell's "Music for a while" while being reverently embraced by Gillott. Or when three violinists approach Landsberg as menacing shadowy figures during the frost staccato of Cold Song. This physical quality also makes the playing of the baroque ensemble seem more vivid; violinist Mayumi Hirasaki is outstanding in her presence and bowing. Meanwhile, Gillott eagerly spreads out maps and Highland poetry, quotes Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser, makes fun of Celtic clichés and connects an organ pipe to a huge air-filled seat cushion, thus building an absurdly funny bridge between the bagpipe sound and the central instrument of the ION. At the end, there is whisky for everyone, including the audience, which - purists may forgive it - as a kind of communion has a more physical and intense effect than many a conventional sacred concert. The driving rhythm of the pub music carries everyone away.

Shirley Apthorp / Financial Times

An evening of fine musicianship, playful absurdity – and whisky-drinking

Shirley Apthorp / Financial Times

December 22, 2013 9:02 pm by Shirley Apthorp An evening of fine musicianship, playful absurdity – and whisky-drinking 'Angels' Share' Audience seated, lights dimmed, performers enter, applause. Music, applause, interval, music, applause, exit. In a world where almost everything else is changing, the format of the art-music concert has remained stubbornly fixed for the past century. It was not always so. In the Baroque, the audience ate oranges and played at politics or love in private boxes at the opera. In Beethoven’s day, single movements were applauded and sometimes even repeated. We owe the idea of reverential darkness to Richard Wagner; today’s concert habits remain resolutely 19th-century. Or do they? Nico and the Navigators, founded a decade and a half ago in Dessau and now resident in Berlin, is a group dedicated to rethinking the way music is presented. It is a goal shared by many, from Zurich’s club-based Ynights to Deutsche Grammophon’s hip Yellow Lounge. But until now, one critical element has been missing. With Angels’ Share, live interactive whisky-drinking has found its way into the world of art music. At last. The “angels’ share” is a term used by whisky distillers to explain the portion that evaporates during the time the drink is in the cask. By the time cast and musicians begin pouring and distributing whisky to the audience, it already feels as if we have been viewing the baroque era through the bottom of a tumbler. British and Scottish baroque music are married with folk traditions, clowning, dance and song in this evening of fine musicianship and playful absurdity. The narrative, such as it is, sees Henry Purcell journey from England to Scotland, where he hears some rollicking pub music and samples the local firewater. The rest is hard to recall. The evening lives through the superb playing of the Urban Strings, a scratch band assembled for the show from a handful of the most oddball of Europe’s baroque instrumental elite, as willing to dance a reel in tartan socks as to improvise around a ground bass. Julla von Landsberg adds her pretty soprano to the mix, Nadine Milzner dances a grim-faced spoof of Mary, Queen of Scots, Georg Kallweit manages to fiddle and act at the same time, while Adrian Gillott keeps the pace fast with his clever patter and clowning. Angels’ Share leaves audience members with a warm feeling in the pits of their stomachs. It may have had something to do with the hooch; it can only be hoped that more concert organisers will implement this enlightened practice.

Ulrich Amling / Der Tagesspiegel

…They play Purcell and fiddle tunes from the Highlands, and wonder at each other with the greatest of affection…

Ulrich Amling / Der Tagesspiegel

The theatre troupe Nico and the Navigators has been busy crafting a series of staged concerts. The Zeitfenster festival gives a rather elusive but tender and exhilarating taste of their work with “Angel's Share”. The “Angel's Share” is the amount of whisky that is lost from the barrels during storage. This staged concert in the Radialsystem leads us to Scotland, the land of tipsy messengers from heaven and of devil's fiddlers on earth, a land that stretches along an endless horizon right up to the roaring Atlantic. Accompanying us on this journey are a tousled Englishman (Adrian Gillott), whose heart beats for Scotland, a dancer (Nadine Milzner), who looks a little like Cate Blanchett in her role as Queen Elizabeth, a wonderfully alert soprano (Julla von Landsberg) and the plucky Urban Strings, drawn from the ranks of the Academy for Ancient Music. They play Purcell and fiddle tunes from the Highlands, a mixture of courtly ceremony and the pub – and wonder at each other with the greatest of affection. Maps are unfolded, slides are looked at, glasses are stacked, before ultimately having whisky poured into them - whisky for all!

Clemens Goldberg / Kulturradio

…In an altogether endearing manner, Nico and the Navigators look into just what it is that makes English music what it is: fantasy, irony, humour, ardency…

Clemens Goldberg / Kulturradio

In an altogether endearing manner, Nico and the Navigators look into just what it is that makes English music what it is: fantasy, irony, humour, ardency... Adrian Gillott as the narrator keeps on interrupting the action and the various concert rituals. The borders between art music and beer taverns become blurred in the improvisations and the extreme counterpoint in Purcell's music... In the foreground lies the pleasure of improvisation, including with objects, which here are extremely light and playful, as conceived by Nicola Hümpel. Maps, fans, ruffs, everything can be transformed into something else. Nadine Milzner gives us a quintessential representation of the British stiff upper lip and the all too serious art industry. The musicians of the Academy for Ancient Music may have given themselves a fashionable name, but the ensemble they are drawn from is ever recognizable in the relish with which they play. Julla von Landsberg's performance suggests to us that art music lives on elitist refinement which only suggests naturalness. At the end of the show the Angel's Share of whisky is given out to the audience and everything unravels into having fun...

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