Academy Inégales: Purcell reimagined by Joanna Lawrence

“I’ve played lots of Purcell as a baroque violinist with Academy of Ancient Music and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. I’ve explored baroque music through composition and improvisation in education projects. But combining these two strands in the reworking of King Arthur with Club Inégales was, dare I say it, ideal for me! I was playing music I love with the most awesome musicians and, even better, being free with it and making it our own although the true voice of Purcell was never far away. I loved the balancing act between interpreting music from 350 years ago and creating new in the same breath.
There is a Club Inégales sound; or perhaps more accurately, an acute awareness of sonority and balance amongst the players. It never stops still, everyone is inventing all the time. Peter shapes the pieces in the moment, continually composing on the spot by directing the ensemble to vary texture, structure and form. He always seems to sense the fine balance between all those elements by allowing and letting.

However, I had a slight ‘arghh’ moment when Martin asked me, ‘How’s your singing voice? Will you sing the Cupid recit?’ I felt trusted and enabled and somehow it came out! I loved Sam Lee’s rendition of Fairest Isle followed by a freer section. I loved Inégales’ take on the Grand Dance Chaconne, looping, extending certain sections, ending with suitably weird sounds from Joel’s guitar; the alchemy of Purcell.

It was a very different experience working with Club Inégales on the Sound and Music, Embedded project. Two talented composers, Chris Corcoran and Alex Roth, approached working with Inegales very differently. As part of the creative process, I felt the challenge of grasping then questioning the intricacies of the composition. I was aware of the big question: does a composer or collaborator really get the Inégales approach? Primarily this is about allowing the players creative freedom in some way within a composition. ‘Using’ the players as improvisers in addition to interpreters. So it seems to me that to compose for or to direct an Inegales performance, that is a primary concern. How to enable and facilitate a performance to make it unique and original every time. In my opinion, this is live performance as it should be!

Academy Inégales is a project of exploration and creativity in a very free sense. It seems to be a safe place in which to explore how I am as a musician and to develop as a player and improviser. As a ‘composer’, I feel I want input from others, so working collaboratively within Inegales suits me.
It is a breath of fresh air to get to know the others in the group from such different backgrounds and experiences. Sometimes, we find common ground, other times, enjoy the juxtapositions of style. I’m asking myself questions about how I communicate with other musicians. How can I enable and support? How can I show or ask what I need? How can we best work collaboratively? Making a piece with Rishie, tabla player, raised those questions. He is incredibly adaptable and an amazing player, but, for example, we approached rhythm very differently. However, we adapted to each other and I think the piece was more interesting.
There are rules in all genres of music. Improvisation is freedom of course, but whether it’s French baroque or jazz, there are still rules. Whether spoken, unspoken and assumed, maybe Inegales can throw them further up in the air.
Just thinking back to when I played with Les Arts Florissants. Yes, unequal notes and ornamentation, but inegalité is more than that for Bill Christie. For him, it is about natural feel; uncontrived organic expression. Interpreting and exploring the written music with freshness, as though for the first time. It is an attitude, an approach. For me, whether I’m playing with a baroque ensemble or with Inegales, it is about the fluidity of live performance. No two performances will ever be the same; growing, changing, maturing.”



Jo sketchJo’s musical passion lies within both early and contemporary music. Her fascination with historical performance has led her to play with most London period bands. She is a member of Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Academy of Ancient Music and has toured worldwide and recording extensively. She is violinist with L’Aventura London, who have made a recently acclaimed recording of 17th century Portuguese Love Songs. She spent 5 years playing with Les Arts Florissants and Bill Christie in Paris.
She worked with Icebreaker (keyboard and electric violin) until 2002, including recording Andriessen, Waganaar, Michael Gordon for Decca and playing at Bang on a Can, New York. She played with The Homemade Orchestra including Inside Covers recording and tour, Tides with Tim Whitehead and Colin Riley and Science Fictions with Claron McFadden. She played in the UK Premier of Arvo Part’s Tabula Rasa and Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Violin, Cello and Gamelan. She has played with Opus 20 and Ensemble Exposé, including chamber pieces by Ferneyhough.

She has devised many duo projects with Clare Whistler, dancer, including performance for an Antony Caro exhibition. She recently formed a duo with clarinettist Katherine Spencer, using electronics to play their own compositions, e.g. at the Whitechapel Art Gallery and as part of ‘Response to Syria’ installation in Hampstead. She works with David Gordon, jazz pianist and harpsichordist, in 21st Century Baroque, when two worlds of old and new meet.

She has a great interest in all indigenous music and spent time learning Irish folk and worked with musicians of different cultures. She is frequently involved in  free improvisation projects with people living with dementia through Music For Life, a charity based at Wigmore Hall. She runs 3 bands for kids, facilitating their creative input and leads workshops for OAE. She is a pianist for ‘Bach to Baby’ and baroque violin tutor at Hull University.