INTERVIEW WITH JUSTIN GROUNDS & VESPERTINE QUINTET

tweety stuff @ronanfromcork

first published in @The Evening Echo 2015-1-22

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Text below photo of article

Vespertine Quartet
While some bands will claim they started to become famous, The Vespertine Quintet had a much more earthy attitude, “we began last winter as an idea I had to get some string playing friends together and play some wintery music over dinner – just as a way to get through the winter!” is how Justin Grounds, one of their members describes their formation.

The Quintet quickly moved from their own homes to others, “we got some scores by Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds and Estonian Arvo Pärt and did a series of house concerts where people invited their friends to bring warm food and wine and we played for everyone. The response we got was really lovely, it was new music performed in a new way and people really seemed to resonate with it.”

Word of mouth about their music quickly spread as Justin continued, “we started to get a lot of invites, and in the summer we were invited to play concerts at Skibbereen Arts Festival and Ballydehob Arts and Culture Festival. Also De Barras in Clonakilty have given us a residency, Ray is really supportive of new music there. We’ve called it ‘Night of Winter’, we play on the last Sunday of every month through the winter and we have a different guest artist each month who we collaborate with.”

While that residency is only a few months old they have already created some amazing musical memories, “the first collaboration was with Clodagh Simonds and Michael Begg of the band ‘Fovea Hex’. Since then we’ve worked with UK band ‘Farewell JR’, which we also brought to Coughlans in Cork. Our most recent one was in December with Adrian Crowley, I had worked with Adrian before at the East Cork Early Music Festival in collaboration with him and cellist Ilse de Ziah on strings. Adrian is really comfortable re-imagining his songs in new live settings, and I could tell he loved having the strings so.”

The Verspertine Quintet show no signs of lessening their workload, as Justin laid out their plans for 2015, “this month we are excited to be collaborating with Liam ó Maonlaí, best known for his work in The Hothouse Flowers but also a fantastic solo artist, in our De Barra’s show on 25th January. We also have collaboration shows with Idiot Songs, Camilla Griehsel and Maurice Seezer, and Maria Doyle Kennedy coming up.”

Justin and the rest of the Quintet really are inspired with the live aspect of their work, “I have definitely been feeling over the last few years that with so much recorded music everywhere, we’re all sort of losing our connection to real sounds being made by humans on instruments in rooms. We’ve all played quite a bit of chamber music and we wanted to re-discover ‘chamber’ music; bring music into people’s houses so we can all experience it in a new and more intimate way. It’s been really fun for us and really great to see people falling in love with music again.”

Their choice of music is quite specific too, “we began by playing the lush modern minimalist music coming from Iceland and Estonia. We like a lot of space in our music. We also play some music from the 1500s, renaissance and baroque music. Anything between 1750 and 1950 we leave alone, that was all ‘mainstream’. It’s nice to rediscover the old music and use it to influence how we play new music.”

The group have more than one composer within their ranks which means they have plenty of new material to be working with, Justin ran through the personnel involved ‘I am a violinist and composer and have done a lot of work as an electronic producer. I play viola in the Quintet though, as there aren’t any Viola players around! I do some electronic bits too. Jo Perry plays violin and is also a composer, she has written some beautiful pieces for us to perform. Jessie Kennedy plays violin too, and is a great songwriter in her own right, so we have made arrangements of some of her songs. Herself and Jo sometimes sing with us too. Tess Leak plays cello, she’s also an artist and she writes brilliant haikus. Susan McManamon plays piano, she’s studying a masters in music and is learning the sitar as well.”

Justin is quite happy with how the Quintet works, “it’s sort of like being in a band, with just 5 players, it isn’t really a problem not having a conductor.  There is a lot of eye contact and movement involved. We rehearse every Sunday too so we spend a lot of time making sure the pieces work ok.”

Vespertine Quintet play

De Barras on Sunday 25 January with special guest Liam O’Maonlai. Tickets €10, doors 9pm.  – www.facebook.com/events/1423288211295476

and Monday 26 January in Coughlans on Douglas Street.Tickets €10, doors 9pm. – www.facebook.com/events/1517762075151162
To hear their music go to www.facebook.com/vespertinequintet

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