Skibbereen plays host to Icelandic composer

Valgeir Sigurdsson is an Icelandic composer-musician and the founder of the Bedroom Community label and collective. He is set to bring a haunting, spare set to Skibbereen Arts Festival on Aug 4.

The concert will feature work from his last album, Architecture of Loss, as well as other material and may, he says, include some music from the 16th century. “I like to get a sense of the place and the people before finalising the programme,” says Sigurdsson.

He will be joined by Irish violist Liam Byrne, a professor at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama who recently worked with pop star Damon Albarn on his new opera Dr Dee.

“I’d wanted to collaborate with Liam for a while, since we got to know each other through totally non-musical channels a few years back, and this seemed like a good platform to see what that collaboration would give,” Sigurdsson says. “Liam is a real virtuoso on this incredible and ancient instrument, the viola da gamba, which I’m fascinated with.”

For the concert Byrne will travel with a seven-string bass viol made by John Pringle. “I like the challenge of marrying the modern and the ancient, and Liam is very responsive and open to exploring that, to bring his instrument out of what is almost exclusively performing very old music. Liam and I have now worked up some new pieces and that stuff is hopefully going to develop further. We’ll be performing some of this work-in-progress in Co Cork.”

While his music is electronics-based, Sigurdsson says he’s trying to avoid new technology at the moment. “I embrace new technology the in the most possible big way, but the problem is increasingly that it mostly causes distraction and is 100% disposable. At the moment I’m not in that headspace,” he says. He regards his music as in constant development. “Soon I’d like to make an album that appeals primarily to the lower part of the body. ‘Music Below The Waist’, or something.

“As for releases, there is hardly a month that goes by without something that I’ve stuck my finger in getting released. I like to keep busy and aside from my own composing work there is certainly enough exciting music around me as producer and collaborator on various projects.”

The Skibbereen concert takes place in the atmospheric Abbeystrewry Church, not an unusual venue for Sigurdsson. “I admit that I do love playing in churches, and I tend to play in churches relatively often,” he says. “But even if I declared that I’d like only to play in churches it’s not really a choice you’re given, you’re at the mercy of the local promoter and you just have to hope that they have a good sense of what might be best suited for the music that you’re making and the audience they are trying to attract to the shows.”

Sigurdsson is no stranger to the Irish music scene. “I seem to have a growing relationship with Irish musicians. I’m about to write a piece for chamber ensemble and electronics for the Crash Ensemble in Dublin and I’ve recently been working with a great Irish songwriter, Rhob Cunningham.

“In fact, I was just put the finishing touches on his first album a couple of days ago, everyone should look out for that. Ireland is a magical place for music.”


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