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Nicky Schrire: Permission to Be Yourself

Seton Hawkins By

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AAJ: You bring up Ariella Caira, and since your return to Cape Town, you and her have continued that collaboration. Recently you've been working with her in the Come As You Are Trio, which features some really fascinating arrangements that you've been posting. Can you talk about how that group came into being?

NS: When I moved back to Cape Town, I just wanted to play with friends, and it's so easy and joyous working with Ariella because we've known each other for over twenty years and speak the same musical language. In the past three years, we've performed countless duo shows. If the venues are bigger, we've added our friend Kevin Gibson on drums, or have used bassists to bulk up the sound. The format might expand, but the two of us are at the core and we always duet as part of the setlist even if we're playing with a full band. I even asked her to guest on cello when I performed a "Jazz" set at the 2018 Cape Town International Jazz Festival! She's my work wife and dearest friend.

We've both known violinist and composer Matthijs van Dijk for decades because we were young Classical musicians at the same time, attending chamber music workshops and camps. When I moved back to SA, I became more aware of the work Matthijs was doing with his string quartet the Shh...Art Ensemble and also his involvement in growing a contemporary classical scene in Cape Town. Matthijs is very influenced by a lot of the American contemporary classical composers like Caroline Shaw, Missy Mazzoli, and Judd Greenstein, and that was a world that I'd learned about when I lived in New York. I've really enjoyed singing classically in the past and wanted to swim in that water more, because it feels like the most honest way for me to sing at the moment. I don't have to apologize for my soprano voice, I can use ample amounts of straight tone, and I can use my entire range with curiosity and excitement.

I started composing a contemporary classical suite of music, setting Ingird Jonker's poetry to music arranged for string quartet back when I lived in London. So I was already moving into this genre, clumsily but happily! I made contact with Matthijs and he initiated things by inviting Ariella and me to play with him in a trio. It seemed to be fun for everyone, so I organized the next gig and the rest is recent history. We perform pop songs reimagined as well as original material. The name comes from Matthijs' brilliant arrangement of the Nirvana hit.

AAJ: You've referenced two paths here. There is the suite of Ingrid Jonker's poetry that you composed, and then with the trio, you've taken a second route of arranging pop music for this setting. Can you talk about the plans for this ensemble and for these projects?

NS: We performed Escape: The Ingrid Jonker Suite last year for the first time. Since then we've performed it at the 2018 Suidoosterfees and at the 2018 Franschoek Literary Festival. It's been wonderful interacting with the local literary scene and sharing the work with Afrikaans and English audiences. As a lover of words, it's been such a thrill. I'm excited to say that we are going to record it next month and then hopefully we'll perform the suite again at some point. In the interim, the trio is a smaller vessel and so easier to perform with. There aren't any major plans there, aside from continuing to enjoy playing together and exploring new repertoire. As is my way, I have no idea what I'm doing but it's never dull, and I get to figure everything out while keeping the company of extraordinarily talented friends.

Selected Discography:
Nicky Schrire, Freedom Flight, (Self Released, 2012)
Nicky Schrire, Space and Time, (Self Released, 2013)
Nicky Schrire, To the Spring, (Self Released, 2014)
Nicky Schrire, An Education, (Wild Sound Recordings, 2015)

Photo Credit: Shervin Lainez


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