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Psappha Contemporary Music Ensemble

Psappha Contemporary Music Ensemble is an internationally acclaimed contemporary music ensemble. It has a particular focus on touring and commissioning. Our funding is to support core and programme costs.

Funding awards

  • 2012-2013: £60,000
  • 2013-2014: £61,380
  • 2014-2015: £64,000

Video feed

Thomas Jarvis (b. 1991) - I Lost My Way in Dixieland (world premiere)

I Lost My Way in Dixieland explores all the elements of the popular 1910s/20s Dixieland Jazz style - a genre which I am very familiar with and fond of - rejigged into a modern idiom and inspired by works such as Stravinsky's Ragtime for Eleven Instruments, Ebony Concerto and L'Histoire du Soldat. About the composer: Thomas Jarvis Thomas Jarvis graduated from the University of Manchester in 2012 with a First Class Honours degree in Music, and was awarded a McMynn Bursary from the university to continue his studies to postgraduate level. He was recently commissioned to write a piece, Fanfare, Variations and Theme on Happy Birthday, for the 80th Birthday of Sheffield City Hall performed last year by the City of Sheffield Youth Orchestra in the City Hall. This is not the first time he has worked with Psappha - he was chosen as an undergraduate to write for them, and has also conducted Psappha musicians in another postgraduate premiere.

Sayyid Shafiee (born 1987) - Sempadan (world premiere)

Sayyid Shafiee (b. 1987) Sempadan (world premiere) Sempadan was constructed to symbolise the idea of two different cultures which complement each other. Using different styles and approaches to treating the instruments, Sempadan strives to create unique proximal sound-structures using off-stage brass instruments and explore different manners of musical performance. About the composer: Sayyid Shafiee Sayyid Shafiee was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1987. He started playing the saxophone at age 13, joined the Malysian music community shortly afterward, and later obtained his Bachelor's Degree in Music at UiTM. He has taken part in wide variety of ensemble and had perform and compete all around Europe and South East Asia, as well as participating in the popular music scenes in Malaysia, and is now under the tutelage of Dr. Kevin Malone at The University of Manchester.

Psappha Live at Islington Mill - 24th March 2013

A short trailer of the performance, combining film and music, we gave at Islington Mill in Salford. Join our Emailing list at to find out when our next performances take place at the Mill.

Joshua Brown (Born 1989) - Sextet (world premiere)

Sextet is a musical representation of someone sleeping, at first a dreamless sleep that gradually becomes more disturbed and eventually menacing as a number of short visions interrupt the calm. About the composer: Joshua Brown Joshua Brown lives in Bacup, a small mill town in east Lancashire. His musical life began in the local brass band, followed by studying trumpet at Leeds College of Music; Joshua is currently a postgraduate composition student at The University of Manchester.

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Chia-Ying Lin (b. 1990) - 2Q13 (world premiere)

This piece starts with a lot of energy, analogous to the entropy of the big bang, which gradually subsides so that the work ends with a fading fragmentary texture. ABOUT THE COMPOSER: Chia-Ying Lin Chia-Ying Lin was born in Keelung, Taiwan in 1990. Having completed her Bachelor's degree in Composition at the Taipei National University of the Arts, where she studied with Professor Tsung-Hsien Yang, Chia-Ying is currently a Master's student at the University of Manchester supervised by Professor Philip Grange.

Emma Wilde (Born 1991) - Janus

Emma Wilde (born 1991) Janus (world premiere) In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past. In this work, the instruments are representative of two distinctive characters; the cello representing the musical language of the 'past' contrasting with the violin's language of the present or 'future'. These characters are pitted against each other in a structure resembling an argument or 'dialogue' until both instruments decide to explore the language of each other. © Emma Wilde About the composer: Emma Wilde Emma has just begun a Masters degree in composition at the university, studying with Camden Reeves after completing her undergraduate Music degree at Manchester last year. She is an active composer in the Manchester area. Works have recently been performed in Estival at the University, the New Music North West Festival, the Just So Festival in Cheshire, Night and Day, and the Manchester Food and Drink Festival.

David Wishart (born 1991) - Soft Rain [...eyes shut] (world premiere)

Soft Rain [...eyes shut] (world premiere) Soft Rain [...eyes shut] is a short piece for solo violin, in which the opening pointillistic and extremely soft sounds are gradually affected by more expressive melodic passages. About the composer: David Wishart David Wishart is currently studying towards a Masters in Composition with Camden Reeves at Manchester University, having completed his undergraduate music studies here in summer. His compositions have been performed in events including the New Music North West Festival 2012, the North Highlands Connections Creativity week 2012, as well as in concert by the University's new music ensemble Vaganza. As well as composing, David leads a busy life performing (tuba, piano and conducting) and teaching - for more information please visit

Sebastian Huckle (born 1990) - The Glass (world premiere)

The Glass is a piece about the fine line between action and inaction, optimism and pessimism, focus and distraction. Large, driving gestures seek to burst through chaotic textures as those textures seek to disrupt development. About the composer: Sebastian Huckle Sebastian Huckle is a third year music student at the University of Manchester studying composition under Dr Richard Whalley. His compositions have been performed by the university's new music ensemble Vaganza and he is looking forward to studying a Masters in the discipline at Manchester next year.

Timothy Langston (born 1990) - Ménage à trois (world premiere)

Ménage à trois is the French term used to describe a domestic living situation between three people, somehow connected by romantic relationship. It is not as many believe a term to describe a sex act or a love triangle. The work investigates the balance or imbalance of power that would surely occur in such a situation. By creating 'characters' for each instrument in the trio, defined by use of harmony and modality, the work presents a broken relationship with a chaotic opening, then proceeds to display the turn of events that resulted in the breakdown. About the composer: Timothy Langston Timothy is reading music in his final year at the University of Manchester. He is an active performer as a tenor and bass player in and around Manchester, and will be continuing his studies next year with a Masters in Vocal Performance at music college. As a composer, Timothy has written an eclectic range of works, from humorous works for solo instruments to more serious works for larger ensembles.

Leo Geyer (Born 1992) - Secrets in the Oak (world premiere)

The great trees stand tall and wise, competing in the timeless race to reach the sky. The wide trunks covered in dark moss paint the forest green. Straying from the path seduced by the thickening of the trees, to find a place of eerie stillness, with an uneasy mystery hanging in the air. About the composer: Leo Geyer Leo Geyer is on his second year on the Joint Course, studying Composition with Dr. David Horne. Leo has been awarded the SCYM Young Composer 2009, DSO Young Composer Award 2009, Junior Trinity Prize for Composition 2009 and 2010, Finalist of The Friends of the Music of St Giles Cathedral Composition Competition 10, Serenata Winds Composition Competition 2011 and the RNCM Gold Medal Award for Composition 2011. Earlier this year Leo collaborated with the poet Martin Kratz and they were awarded the Rosamund prize for their collaboration. After their success they decided to work together again and have just completed writing a chamber opera - The Mermaid of Zennor, which Leo conducted in the premiere performance at the RNCM on the 10th of December. Leo currently studies conducting with Mark Heron and conducts Manchester University's Orchestras and ensembles. Leo also co-founded the London based student ensemble - the Constella Orchestra and will continue to conduct them in their new year concert.

Thomas Jarvis (Born 1991) - Matryoshka

Matryoshka is the Russian for what is commonly known as a "Russian Doll" or "Babushka," a popular children's toy dating from 1890. This piece is based on the Matryoshka doll, whose primary characteristic is that of nesting, "one thing coming out of another," getting smaller and smaller each time. The piece is in two large sections, the first split into five, each of these clearly defined in character and musical content. The fifth section is based on the Russian folk song The Little Birch Tree (also heard in Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony). This sits at the core of the piece, towards which all other melodies lead, and from which we begin the second half, reintroducing all previous themes, until we hear the culmination of all five towards the end. About the composer: Thomas Jarvis Currently in the third year of his music degree at Manchester University, Thomas Jarvis is studying trumpet with Tracey Redfern of Manchester Camerata and Psappha, and conducting with Mark Heron at the Royal Northern College of Music. As a trumpeter, Thomas has worked for semi-professional ensembles such as the South Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra and Keith Peters Big Band. As a conductor he has gained experience through the City of Sheffield Youth Orchestra under Chris Gayford, and the University of Manchester Symphony Orchestra under Mark Heron. He has recently been appointed Ensemble Director and Conductor of the High Peak Wind Band (part of the Peak District Music Centres), Assistant Musical Director of the Manchester University Gilbert and Sullivan Society, and he also directs the Manchester University Barbershop Chorus.

Steven Calver - Luminae (world premiere)

Refraction is the bending of light through a substance. Different substances bend light at different angles. Each colour has a different wavelength, and bends at a different angle. This is the same effect that produces rainbows in the atmosphere. Light changes speed as it moves from one medium to another (for example, from air into the glass of a prism). This speed change causes the light to be refracted and to enter the new medium at a different angle (Huygens principle). The degree of bending of the light's path depends on the angle that the incident beam of light makes with the surface, and on the ratio between the refractive indices of the two media (Snell's law). 'There are two kinds of light - the glow that illumines, and the glare that obscures.' James Thurber 'Colour is all. Colour is everything, colour is vibration like music; everything is vibration.' Marc Chagall ©Steven Calver About the composer Steven Calver Steven Calver was born in Suffolk, started playing the cello at the age of eleven and started composing at the age of thirteen after hearing Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. He completed his Bmus in 2005 and MusM in 2006, both at the University of Manchester. His music has been performed by various artists and ensembles, including Ensemble 10/10, Quatour Danel, Keith McAlister, and members of the BBC Philharmonic. Steven is currently studying towards his PhD , supervised by Professor Philip Grange. so that each sound has an individual 'lifetime' (analogous to that of us human beings). The instrumentation of the ensemble version is due to the development of the musical material: from full, lively colourful to merely pale and single-note and lonely instrumentation.

Jae Hong Lee (b.1973) - Nocturne (world premiere)

Upon hearing Mahler's Symphony No. 7, which is often referred to as "night music", I found within it optimistic and pessimistic elements. I feel it is in a romantic mood, like nocturnes by Chopin, and that it talks about fear and despair when one is enveloped in darkness. My nocturne focuses on the second idea. When I was a child, I did not like walk alone far from my home at night because I felt that there were ghosts or bad people around dark corners. I sensed the tiny sounds that cold winds and cats made behind me and the beating of my heart was increased by the fear. My nocturne is divided into two sections. In the first part, a solo viola presents the fear of the young child. Overall, metallic sounds from the tam-tam and gongs conjure up the image of cold atmosphere and winds at night. In the second part, new materials are added as the flute becomes the main character, with reminiscent music recurring from the first part. ABOUT THE COMPOSER: JAE HONG LEE Jae Hong Lee was born in Seoul, Korea. He earned his Masters of Arts degree from Queens College of City University of New York and Bachelor's degree from Seoul National University. He is currently in his third year in the PhD programme with Professor Philip Grange at the University of Manchester.

Soojung Park (b.1983) - Coexistence (world premiere).mov

"The coexistence of one thing with another is the fact that they exist together at the same time or in the same place." When I was thinking of a title for this piece, there was tragic news in South Korea about attacks by North Korea. This music is not composed for protesting about political problems pertaining to wars in between countries such as Korea. However, it is true that the relationships between the musical instruments are presented in similarly conflicting atmospheres experienced by countries embroiled in tension with others. This music, simply structured as A, B, A', aims firstly to present progress, based on 'serial modes' in which all instruments start from a high A and finally return to it via contrapuntal isorhythmic and heterophonic textures, and secondly to produce colourful sounds as each instrument's unique timbre is mixed or contrasted with others. In Section A, all instruments struggle at the high A, eventually being stretched to other pitches and lower range. While all instruments except the viola freely sound all modal pitches, the viola only follows a serial mode's pitches emphasised by flute, guitar and vibraphone during their iso-rhythm process. Section B has contrasted tempo and rhythm from A, and A' is presented as a mirrored development of A. ©Soojung Park About the composer: Soojung Park Soojung Park was born in Seoul, Korea and began to study contemporary music composition during the first degree at Hanyang University, Seoul. She decided to do further study in the U.K. when she listened to music by a Korean composer studying in England. Soojung has composed for various ensembles, solo instrument and orchestra music for the past decade. She usually takes initial ideas for compositions from sounds and motions of materials such as ambulance sirens, sounds of walking and voices and the Christian Bible. Also she is very interested in music illustrating colour or presenting a narrative. Music by Park has been influenced by many various contemporary composers including her supervisors in both Korea and the U.K. Not restricting herself to a single concept for her music, she is journeying to create an assimilated, personal musical style. She was awarded an MA in Composition from the University of York and is supervised by Dr Kevin Malone at the Manchester University for PhD.

Jae Hong Lee - Argument (world premiere)

Argument for violin, cello, and piano was written between 2009 and 2010. In this work, the three instruments represent three characters. At the start of the work the dialogue between the instruments depicts conflict. Towards the end of the work there is peace between the instruments and a sense of reconciliation . Jae Hong Lee was born in Seoul, Korea. He earned his Masters of Arts Degree from Queens College of City University of New York and Bachelor's degree from Seoul National University. He is currently in his third year of a PhD with Professor Philip Grange at The University of Manchester. Recently, he is working on both a Concerto for Orchestra and a piece of chamber music.

Marc Tweedie (born 1986)- Gréasaîn

Gréasaín (English: Webs) was written in during November and December 2008, and premiered by the Lawson Trio at Queen's University, Belfast in May 2009. The title refers to a poem by acclaimed Irish language poet, Cathal Ó Searcaigh, which served as the initial impetus for the work. Based loosely on Rondo form, the piece consists of a recurring 'theme' surrounded by various distinctly separate but inextricably linked passages, akin to the construction of a spider web with its various separate threads providing different areas of support which are interwoven to create a strong, unified structure.

Josh Kopecek - the warrior fallen (world premiere)

The Warrior Fallen A study of the last moments of a warrior's life, as he reflects on his achievements and failures. It is divided into seven movements, each a different tableau of a particular moment or a remembered scene. Three of the movements are differently structured each time they are performed, even though this will only be performed once. We may experience something once, but each time it is remembered it is different. Josh Kopeček studied at the University of Manchester, completed his Masters at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and is now a research student at The University of Manchester. His music touches on improvisation, interaction between musicians and relationship to electroacoustic sounds.

Yvonne Eccles - Multiple Infection (world premiere)

Multiple Infection opens with a chaotic, bold and energetic musical gesture played by the full ensemble. This idea recurs twice in the piece and each time presents signs of being infected. The subjects of the infection are the two contrasting expressive gestures that you will hear; one for cello, piano and percussion and the other for clarinet, piano and percussion. Characteristic traits from these contrasting gestures cause the opening one to take on a different guise each time you hear it. It retains its chaotic nature for the most part, but begins to exhibit traits from the other gestures and so is never quite the same again! Yvonne Eccles was born in Lancashire in 1983. She began studying composition seriously in her late teens with Michelle Gorrell, a local composer. Her passion for composition then led her to London to study with several high profile composers including Diana Burrell at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She has since studied with Geoff Poole at the University of Bristol and John Casken at the University of Manchester where she gained a first class BA hons degree, (Bristol) and a MusM degree, (Manchester). Yvonne has had several compositional successes to date including commissions from the London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, the Philharmonia Orchestra, (for their Music of Today project), and she has also written a piece for Ensemble 10:10. Yvonne recently returned to the University of Manchester to undertake her PhD studies with Dr Kevin Malone.

Chris Swithinbank - Wegen & Waldstille (world premiere)

Wegen & Waldstille This translates (very poorly) as Pathways and Forest Stillness. Some interesting books on silence, stillness and creation are Sara Maitlands A Book of Silence and Jerzy Pietrkiewiczs Other Side of Silence: the poet at the limits of language. Chris Swithinbank graduated last year with a First-Class Honours Degree in Music from the University of Manchester where he is currently studying for a Masters in Composition supervised by Ricardo Climent, generously supported by a Harry Clough Bursary. He is interested in a mixture of compositional media and has recently had works performed at Wrexham Arts Festival, MANTIS Festival and New Music North West. He is a co-founder of Raise Your Voice, a contemporary music collective whose next performance is Friday 14 May in the Northern Quarter as part of the FutureEverything Festival.

Soojung Park - Looking over the Land (world premiere)

I have got inspiration for Looking over the Land from the Chapter 2, Joshua of the Bible. This chapter shows that two spies for the Israel sneaked into the land of the enemy and they knock the door of one of houses for asking their help in the dark night. I imagine that two spies had to be feeling nervous and repeatedly stop and go to the house. To represent their stepping I imagined, contrast of dynamics and a pattern of short unison were used as a motive. Soojung Park studied composition at Hanyang University in Seoul, South Korea. She subsequently completed her MA in composition with Nicola LeFanu at the University of York, and has been doing PhD with Dr. Kevin Malone at the University of Manchester. She had written contemporary music for various ensembles with inspiration from her own experience and story books. Last February and March, she participated in workshops by the Camerata and Quator Danel.

Mauricio Pauly - La Prisa Educable

La Prisa Educable for clarinet, cello, piano and pre-recorded sounds. La Prisa Educable was written in 2005 and premiered by the Ikarus Chamber Players at the Juilliard School of Music's Paul Hall in New York that same year. Mauricio Pauly (b. Costa Rica) was recently awarded the Staubach Hon¬or¬aria com¬mis¬sion for a new work to be premiered by Oslo-based ensemble Asamisi¬masa at the 45th International Summer Course for New Music in Darmstadt, Germany, in 2010. His new string quartet was premiered in New York by the JACK Quartet in February 2010. His latest piece, a collaboration with Sam Salem written for cello and difussed audio, will be featured in this year's International Computer Music Conference in Stony Brook, NY.

Ailis Ni Riain - 2 Steep 4 Sheep (some hills are)

This piece, which is for harpsichord and pre-recorded CD, was composed in 2006. I was inspired by my move to the hilly countryside of the South Pennines. Sheep seemed to be precariously balanced on every surrounding hill as far as the eye could see. Then, one by one, they began to tumble down the hillside to their deaths. A pastoral nightmare...

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