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Scene Norway 2 at King's Place

John Kelman By

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Scene Norway 2
Artist-in-Residence: Nils Petter Molvær
King's Place,
London, UK
November 15-17, 2013

Walking into King's Place, in London, England, is an experience in itself. A building opened in 2008 near King's Cross station in downtown London, it was built with the kind of foresight that is rare these days. Above ground is office space, largely occupied by The Guardian newspaper, along with two restaurants and a large, welcoming open space with plenty of comfortable seating for people to meet, work and socialize together.

But it's the below-ground space that has garnered the building its greater reputation. Home to an art gallery, a beautiful box-in-a-box theater that seats approximately 450 people, a second space that seats about 250 and other rooms usable as rehearsal spaces or for conferences, King's Place CEO Peter Millican—also the man responsible for its original concept and actual construction—has been responsible for placing the venue on the international map in the relatively short space of five years. Regular series are hosted, including Not So Silent Movies, where a group of musicians create in-the-moment soundtracks to films that they've not only not seen, but which they are unaware of until concert time, Folk Union, dedicated to folk and world music; and Out Hear, which provides a space for more left-of-center interests.

Millican is understandably proud of what he's built. He describes the genesis of King's Place:



Millican goes on to explain the cost of building King's Place, its overall organizational structure with respect to its artistic programming, and some of the programs that have been offered there, including this year's Bach Unwrapped:



King's Place ha s hosted a number of one-time special events. Scene Norway—the 10-day event curated by host of BBC Radio 3's Late Junction, Fiona Talkington, was its very first—brought some of that country's best music to London under a single umbrella, including a three-day Punkt Festival that mirrored the annual live remix event in Kristiansand, Norway that will be hitting its 10th anniversary in 2014. Scene Norway was, in fact, King's Place's opening event, and was so successful that it was only a matter of time before a follow-up was planned. Scene Norway 2 took place between November 15 and 17, 2013 and, while the impact of the economy in Britain meant it was a smaller affair of just three days, it provided Talkington with the opportunity to apply a much more specific focus.

Millian discusses his love of Norwegian music, and how the two Scene Norway events came about:



Fiona Talkington picks up the story:



But with only three days and a relative handful of shows to program, how to find a connective thread that would tie everything together? One obvious idea was to select a specific musician as Artist-in-Residence—and Talkington would have been hard-pressed to find anyone more suitable than Nils Petter Molvaer. Emerging in the 1980s in Masqualero (along with Tore Brunborg, Jon Balke, Arild Andersen and Jon Christensen), the trumpeter/composer truly shook the world with his debut as a leader, Khmer (ECM, 1997). But with an exhibition already planned at King's place to celebrate, beginning at the same time, the artwork of Norwegian painter Ørnulf Opdahl, another thread appeared. Both Opdahl and Molvær come from Ålesund, along the country's west coast, which includes the trumpeter's birthplace, Sula, an island at the nexus of a number of fjords.

Talkington explains her reasons for choosing Molvær:



With Molvær, Opdahl and Ålesund as starting points, Talkington went on to program the rest of her series, which included intrepid experimental vocalist Sidsel Endresen, collaborating with British turntable sound sculptor Philip Jeck; Spin Marvel, the Anglo-Norwegian group started by drummer Martin France that occasionally features Molvær as a guest; Norwegian singer/songwriter (and, also hailing from Ålesund) Hilde Marie Kjersem; Ålesund-born Hardanger fiddler Annbjørg Lien, in collaboration with Swedish guitarist Roger Tallroth; King's Place's Not So Silent Movies series, with guests Molvær and Jan Bang (one-half of the team that, along with Erik Honore, created and continues to curate the Punkt Festival); and, finally, a Saturday afternoon family event featuring another Ålesunder, Maria Parr, author of the award-winning Norwegian children's book Waffle Hearts (Walker, 2013), recently translated into English by Guy Puzey, with Parr reading an excerpt in Norwegian and Talkington a section in English, all with the occasional improvised musical backing of Molvær, in collaboration with fellow trumpeter Alex Bonney and bassist/electronics artist Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, two members of Britain's esteemed Loop Collective:


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