Where are you?
I am an aficionado of BBC Radio 3, anywhere. But my best listening is in concerts! It’s the live experience that matters to me the most so that’s where I do my best listening: it’s the visceral encounter with new music being made right there that
makes it so special for me, and for all of us sharing the gig.
What are you doing?
Stopping everything. Kinda helps, especially when you’re in a concert … It’s the most energising and creative space and state to be in that I know.
What are you looking at?
In concerts, mostly the musicians: the interplay between what you’re seeing and what you’re hearing is part of the way this music is communicated. Mind you, I can close my eyes occasionally. Not to sleep, obviously.
What’s the gear?
My life-worn, long-loved, much-experienced ears!
What’s cued up?
Nothing. Whatever the amazingly imaginative programmers and composers and performers have put on the concert. Or, if it’s a CoMA event, I may have had a hand in the line-up too. A recent week: Fidelio Trio’s Joe Cutler Portrait Concert at No Frontiers Festival, Birmingham Conservatoire; Lore Lixenberg and Bartosz Głowacki playing Purcell, Cage, Bach and Frédéric Acquaviva at St Mary’s Church, Stoke Newington; EXAUDI’s 15th Anniversary Concert at Wigmore Hall; and the New York Philharmonic and Yo-Yo Ma playing Esa-Pekka Salonen and John Adams at the Barbican.
Which recording do you always return to?
At the moment, I’m obsessed with Bach’s Goldberg Variations, performed by the Amati String Trio (Columns Classics).
What’s on the to-listen pile?
Long overdue, Isserlis’s much acclaimed Bach Cello Suites (Hyperion). I’m an amateur cellist, practising the Suites at speeds of Butoh-like slowness – but even then they’re still wonderful.
Name a fantasy recording (real or imagined) that you haven’t heard yet?
Many of the incredible pieces that have been written for CoMA since 1993: they’re part of the repertories of ensembles all over the world, but I’d love recordings of particular favourites such as Phil Cashian’s Forest of Clocks, Tansy Davies’s Sounds, and Sweet Airs, Hannah Kendall’s Into Pieces and Per Nørgård’s Aspects of Leaving. More people need to hear this wonderful music.
Chris Shurety is director of CoMA (Contemporary Music for All); he was originally a research biologist and later worked in community development and environmental policy. Founder of the East London Late Starters’ Orchestra he is also a practising visual artist, amateur cellist, sailor, mountaineer and family man.
The CoMA Summer School will take place in Orkney from 22–30 July. Chris is also currently organising the next UK-wide Festival of Contemporary Music for All, 2–4 March 2018, and preparing to mark CoMA’s 25th Anniversary year with musical celebrations in Shoreditch and at Kings Place over the weekend of 21–23 September 2018.