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By Inge Kjemtrup | From the July-August 2021 issue of Strings magazine

The rooftop of St. John’s Smith Square may seem like a strange place for violist Lawrence Power to perform, but that’s exactly the location he chose for the first video in his Lockdown Sessions series—a project, like Jennifer Koh’s Alone Together and Inbal Segev’s 20 for 2020, that commissioned contemporary composers during lockdown. COVID-19 restrictions meant playing inside the venerable London venue was out of the question. “The lovely person who runs the hall said, ‘You might be able to open the doors and look inside.’ Then we said, ‘Well, what about the roof?’” Power recalls. “And the roof was OK.”

Lockdown Commission #1 – Rooftops – ‘Power’ by Huw Watkins.

The Lockdown Sessions were funded by Power’s own Viola Commissioning Circle. “The brief was basically just to write a short piece that I would film in an empty venue and explore that idea of these empty venues,” Power says. “There was just an incredibly strange sort of pathos about those empty spaces when we didn’t know when they would open, and if they’d open again.”


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Over the course of several beautifully filmed videos, Power’s commanding performances of new solo works bring life to venues such as the Royal Festival Hall and Wigmore Hall in London, and Snape Maltings Concert Hall in Suffolk. At Ulster Hall in Edinburgh, he performs Esa-Pekka Salonen’s “Objets Trouvés,” which has a drone throughout. Power explains the composer’s idea: “The premise for the piece came from his electric toothbrush, which emits a natural C. Every evening when he’s brushing his teeth, he imagines wild improvisations.”

Stepping onto the turn-of-the-century jewel box that is the London Coliseum, home of the English National Opera, Power plays a piece by Martyn Brabbins, best known as a conductor. “Matchless Space” opens with a quotation from Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, which was being performed at the venue before lockdown.

When completed, the Lockdown Sessions will be stitched together into a film. The series helped realize Power’s ambition to provide visually appealing music videos. “I was just really keen to do something that had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Hopefully this June will be an end and there will be some live performances. I guess I feel very, very lucky to have had something that had a thread running through the
last year.”