The Nu Civilisation Orchestra is thrilled to be working on an exciting collaboration with the wonderful Clod Ensemble – an organisation described by The Guardian as ‘one of those innovative and anarchic companies thrusting its way through traditional boundaries of drama,’ and whose ‘winning combination of music and experimental physical theatre has made them pioneers of contemporary music theatre’ (Total Theatre).

We asked the orchestra’s Musical Director, Peter Edwards to tell us what they’ve been getting up to:

“In November 2013 the Nu Civilisation Orchestra performed Charles Mingus’ Black Saint And The Sinner Lady at the Purcell Room as part of the London Jazz Festival. In the the audience were Suzy Willson and Paul Clark, artistic directors of the Clod Ensemble.

“Just a few days later, Suzy and Paul got in touch with me and our artistic director, Gary Crosby to discuss the possibility of creating a unique performance of Black Saint that would fuse the music with dance. As Mingus originally wrote this for dance, this was an opportunity we were keen to explore. So, in August this year, we set up a week of workshops with musicians and dancers at Shoreditch Town Hall.

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“The Clod Ensemble made a call out to dancers and selected a small group to participate in the workshop. The dancers were from many different disciplines (physical theatre, ballet, tap, tango, jazz, hip hop, street dance) and all were interested in improvisation.

“We invited a group of Tomorrow’s Warriors to play in each session with the dancers.  We also had a recording of the live performance at the Purcell Room to work with.

“We listened to the live performance and spent some time mapping out the structure of the work with Suzy, Paul and the dancers. Then we began brainstorming ideas and tried out a few scenarios, including creating exercises in which the dancers interpreted the improvisations  of the live musicians and vice versa. It was fascinating to see the dancers embody the music in the moment.

“By the end of the week we had enough structure in place to host a sharing session to invited guests. We put together a full live band to perform alongside the dance group to perform the first prototype version of Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. It was a truly exhilarating performance and a great way to end a very successful week.

CLOD DUET NU CIVVIES 3 OCT“Last month we had another workshop session with Clod Ensemble. This time it was just the dancers working to the recording and  developing the choreography further. At the end of the week we brought back the full band to perform extracts of Black Saint with the dancers for another sharing with invited guests. It was an exhilarating session, and we received lots of positive feedback from the guests and performers alike.

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“It’s very exciting to see this collaboration come together and to collaborate with Clod Ensemble. We look forward very much to performing the finished work with Clod Ensemble in 2015!”

Nu Civilisation Orchestra – ‘better than the original Mingus recording’

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WOW! What an extraordinary, awesome gig we had last Friday – The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady. Thank you to everyone who came to our SOLD OUT show in the Purcell Room at Southbank Centre. We knew it was going to be an enthralling show – we could feel the buzz building before the show even started – but, according to the audience feedback, our performance blew everyone away!  It was hugely fun, a really fantastic gig. The after-party was pretty special too, with loads of musicians and well-wishers joining us for a celebratory drink as we toasted our musical director, Peter Edwards for his skill and artistry in bringing this amazing piece of music to life; and our visionary Artistic Director and bassist, Gary Crosby for putting Black Saint on the programme in 2013.

Tell me you made a recording! Friday night’s performance sounded better than Mingus’s record itself. It was beguiling. Congratulations!

What a terrific performance tonight by the Nu Civilisation Orchestra. One of the [London Jazz] Festival’s standouts….

All the instrumentalists were fantastic – amazing solos, great personalities and such joy in their music – the encore was incredible and really showed off what a great team they all are. I can’t wait to see them again, and I also thought that the arrangement is crying out for a recording to be made. I think that it would make Mingus very happy.

Journalist Jon Turney  was gushing in his praise in his review that appears on the London Jazz News Blog:

[The Nu Civilisation Orchestra] rose to the challenge superbly. The ensemble was flawless. Read the full review…

Nu Civilisation OrchestraOpening the evening with a short but superbly entertaining set were Gary Crosby, Dave Green and Peter Ind who each played a solo piece, followed by an ensemble piece. Towards the end of the piece, Gary Crosby invited Tomorrow’s Warriors bassist, Inga Eichler to the stage and seamlessly handed over his bass to her, symbolically passing on a legacy as, with evident pride, he watched her finish the piece with his fellow Lords. Wonderful, and very powerful.

It’s all about sex at NCO’s orgy of great Mingus in London Jazz Festival

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On Friday 22 November, the Nu Civilisation Orchestra will be in the Purcell Room at Southbank Centre as part of the 2013 London Jazz Festival, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the release of what is widely regarded as Charles Mingus’ finest work and one of the best albums of all time: The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady. (Book tickets)

Described in The Guardian by music writer, Richard Williams as ‘…one of his most enthralling works. The album (with liner notes shared between Mingus and his psychiatrist) modifies the traditional blues and folk materials of jazz by bold, rhythmic variations, stark contrasts between dense, low-end harmonies and […] soaring alto sax, collective improvisation, and dissonances swept up into soulful resolutions.’

Reading the liner notes for this album, Artistic Director Gary Crosby has always had a strong sense of a proverbial elephant in the room, so he invited Naomi Selig – a clinical psychologist – to take a quick peek and give us her view.


The liner notes for Charlie Mingus’ album, The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady were written by his clinical psychologist, Edmund Pollock, who declared to his patient that, while competent enough as a psychologist, he had only the average person’s interest in music and no technical knowledge. I am similarly qualified – a Jewish clinical psychologist like Dr Pollock, but utterly incompetent when it comes to commenting on music.

However when Gary Crosby approached me to comment on the liner notes for this album, he asked me to focus on the question of why Dr Pollock failed to mention what seems obvious to most listeners of this fabulous suite.

To a large extent the music reflects its title – The Black Saint and The Sinner Lady – and track subtitles, such as Hearts’ Beat and Shades in Physical Embraces, Of Love and Pain and Passioned Revolt. Surely any self-respecting New York psychologist knows that what is being referred to here is sex. But psychologists like to interpret – psychoanalysts may regard sex as implicit in much of our thoughts and actions (although even Freud said a cigar is sometimes just a cigar). But here Mingus is being explicit.

As Stephen J. Chandler comments in Highbrow Magazine, “the album’s opening movement [Solo Dancer] begins tentatively, slinks forward like a curious cat before mews and howls of ecstasy and agony are let loose”. Referring to Hearts’ Beat and Physical Embraces, Chandler says the music is “teetering the line between anticipation and climax – not quite sexuality, there’s a dangerous sensuality” pervading this music. But surely the music is profoundly sexuaI? In Hearts’ Beat and Physical Embraces you can hear the rhythmic pounding of the tuba, starting slow and getting faster, pounding away until the climax. Perhaps not?

I think the answer to why Dr Pollock did not refer to this aspect of the music can be found in a therapy session cited in Mingus’ book, Beneath The Underdog when he says:

“Don’t bulls**t me. You’re a good man Charles, but there’s a lot of fabrication and fantasy in what you say. For instance, no man could have as much intercourse in one night as you claim to have had”

“The hell he couldn’t…”

“You’re changing the subject my friend. I was asking about the Mexican girls. Why are you so obsessed with proving you are a man? Is it because you cry?”

“I am more of a man than any dirty white c**ksucker! I did f*** twenty-three girls in one night including the boss’s wife. I didn’t dig it – I did it because I wanted to die and I hoped it would kill me…..”

It seems to me Pollock understands that Mingus’ voracious sexual appetite or sexual  fantasy life belies a terrible sadness and death wish which they are exploring together in therapy. Perhaps for Pollock it would be an over-simplification, reductive, collusive and an unhelpful indulgence to make much of this in the public arena of liner notes.

Naomi Selig
BA Hons, MSc. CPsychol., AFBPsS


BOOK TICKETS to see Nu Civilisation Orchestra perform 
The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady
Friday 22 November at 7.45pm in the Purcell Room @ Southbank Centre, London

Have a listen to The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady on Last FM

Take a look:

Beneath The Underdog by Charles Mingus 

Richard Williams article on Mingus/Black Saint in The Guardian 

Stephen Chandler article http://highbrowmagazine.com/2274-many-moods-charles-mingus

Edwin Faust article http://www.stylusmagazine.com/articles/on_second_thought/charles-mingus-the-black-saint-and-the-sinner-lady.htm

Nu Civilisation Orchestra premieres Peter Edwards’ WHERE DREAMS LEAD at Southbank Centre

A fantastic world premiere of Peter Edwards’ new piece, Where Dreams Lead on Saturday in tribute to Dr Martin Luther King Jr. The work was commissioned by the Lively Up! Festival as part of their programme to mark the 50th Anniversary of Dr King’s ‘March For Jobs’ (more commonly known as his ‘I Have A Dream’) speech.

Conducted by the orchestra’s music director, Peter Edwards, the musicians gave a stunning account of themselves in the Clore Ballroom at Royal Festival Hall, London in front of a jam-packed audience. Between each movement, Peter spoke of the inspiration for each part of the suite which covered different aspects of Dr King’s life.

Where Dreams Lead is an outstanding piece of work and we hope very much to be able to tour this work extensively in the future.

Nu Civilisation Orchestra to premiere new Peter Edwards tribute to Martin Luther King

NCO_WDL_A3_1_600pxWe’re taking part in the 2013 Lively Up! Festival which this year marks another significant anniversary: 50 years since civil rights activist, Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s historic I Have A Dream oration in which he and fellow leaders in the US Civil Rights Movement called for freedom, justice and equality for ALL people.

The Nu Civilisation Orchestra is proud to be premiering a new piece by its musical director, Peter Edwards entitled Where Dreams Lead, commissioned by the Lively Up! Festival.

Where Dreams Lead will premiere on Saturday 26 October at Southbank Centre in the Clore Ballroom. Check the Lively Up! Festival website for more details.

Nu Civilisation Orchestra joins BBC Concert Orchestra/Radio 3 for Ellington’s HARLEM at Southbank Centre

Nu Civilisation Orchestra & BBC Concert OrchestraThe Nu Civilisation Orchestra joins the BBC Concert Orchestra for Hidden Voices - a fantastic concert programme for BBC Radio 3 shining a light on the voices of those fighting for black emancipation in the USA in the early 20th Century, Sunday 24 March at 7.30pmQueen Elizabeth Hall at Southbank CentreLondon Tel: +44 (0)20 7960 4200

The programme will feature the BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by Keith Lockhart performingWilliam Grant Still’s Symphony No 1 (Afro-American – the first by a black American composer to be played by a major orchestraand Henry Gilbert’s The Dance Place in Congo, while the Nu Civilisation Orchestra conducted by Musical Director, Peter Edwards will perform a medley ofDuke Ellington’s work, featuring music from the Cotton Club era (1927-31): Black and Tan FantasyThe Mooche, and Mood Indigo. Their set will also feature Harlem Airshaft  – where, according to Ellington, “You get the full essence of Harlem in an airshaft. You hear fights, you smell dinner, you hear people making love.” – and one of his most famous works, Caravan.   

The evening will climax with a collaborative performance of Ellington’s Harlem (A Tone Parallel To Harlem) by members of both orchestras conducted by Keith Lockhart.  The concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Afternoon On 3’ at 2.00pm on Wednesday 17 April.

A little earlier, at 6.00pm in the Front Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall, Tomorrow’s Warriors – represented by alto sax star, Nathaniel Faceyand rising stars Charlie Stacey [piano] and Cherise Adams-Burnett [voice] – provide musical illustrations for a FREE pre-concert talk byCatherine Tackley (Senior Lecturer, Music Department, Open Universityabout the blues and how it has influenced orchestral and ensemble works. 

Says Peter Edwards, “We’re very excited to be performing this arrangement of Duke Ellington’sHarlem Suite with the BBC Concert Orchestra. From the very first note, literally, you feel you’ve landed in a city bursting with creative energy, truly a time of renaissance. The work is typical Ellington: graceful, elegant and of course it’s swinging. It’s a master work that deserves to be better known.”  

Founded by Artistic Director, Gary Crosby OBEthe Nu Civilisation Orchestra is no stranger to the work of Duke Ellington, having launched the orchestra in 2008/09 with a tour of the legendary composer’s rarely performed work, The Queen’s Suite, composed in honour of HM Queen Elizabeth II. 

Hidden Voices is part of the Southbank Centre’s The Rest Is Noise Festival, a yearlong series of events that explores how sex, race, war and politics shaped the most important music of the last century.

(Further reading:  read about some of the intrigue surrounding Harlem)

All well worth checking out!

PREVIEW: Nu Civilisation Orchestra – PARALLEL: Tribute To Joe Harriott – 17 November

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Here’s an excellent preview by Jon Turney for the London Jazz Blog of the forthcoming London premiere on 17 November of the Nu Civilisation Orchestra‘s outstanding programme, Parallel: A Tribute To Joe Harriott – Where Music Meets Art at the Purcell Room, SouthbankCentre, home of Tomorrow’s Warriors and the Nu Civilisation OrchestraWe’ll also be displaying the art of the wonderful artist, Emma Godebska as part of the show.

Originally commissioned by the Lively Up! Festival to mark 50 Years of Jamaican Independence, Parallel is presented here as part of the London Jazz Festival.

Turney describes this concert as ‘well worth the effort’ and ‘exactly the kind of thing jazz festivals are about’. See video excerpts from the concert in Bristol here.

Meantime, here’s the preview of the show:

Zeitgeist moves in mysterious ways. Science sees more simultaneous discoveries than can be easily explained. Music, too, finds players striving for similar goals even though they haven’t discussed them.

The titles of the coruscating Jamaican alto saxophonist Joe Harriott’s key recordings, Free Form (1960) and Abstract (1962) declared his determination to get beyond be-bop to something freer from ready-made structure. Read on…