Violinist brings unique musical composition featuring extinct birdsong to Lauderdale House

Francesca Barritt, 27, and her chamber group Ensemble Matisse, is holding a premiere performance of Extinct Birds this evening at Lauderdale House.

The project, a collaboration with composer and environmentalist David Holyoake – whom she met on Twitter – highlights the endangered species in a musical performance which features live birdsong from now extinct varieties.

“The whole idea started about a year ago and we’ve been preparing since then, so the first concert is really a culmination of a year or more of preparation, thought and ideas,” said Francesca.

“The composition of the piece has taken six months of us collaborating with the composer, finding different sounds and seeing what works on the instruments.”

Francesca, who has lived in Cromwell Road, Highgate, for four years, formed Ensemble Matisse in 2010 with three other musicians – a pianist, a clarinet player and a cellist – while studying at the Royal Academy of Music.


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“The first piece we played together was Quartet for the End Of Time, a very famous Olivier Messiaen piece. It’s full of birdsong and we really got into that.”

She added: “We were kind of inspired by the fact that birds were making music long before humans were and how important that is.

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“Then we came into contact with David Holyoake who has a real interest in environmental conservation as well as being a professional composer, and realised we had a common interest and it all went from there.”

The concert will also feature South African baritone singer Njabulo Madlala, who will perform in Zulu and English. “There’s a link there with the tribal language of Zulu and the idea of traditional ways of life that may be going extinct as well,” said Francesca.

The daughter of professional musicians, Miss Barritt began learning the violin at the age of nine. She had no real interest in playing until she attended the Royal Academy’s junior section at the age of 15 where she started to improve and develop.

As well as her chamber music, the Masters graduate is also a freelance orchestral player, performs solos, recitals and concertos and teaches private pupils. “It’s a four part career encompassing all these things, but with Ensemble Matisse, I’m one of the main directors of what we do, that takes up a lot of my time and creatively. It’s my main priority,” said Francesca.

“I hope those who come to the concert really become aware of what we’re trying to convey. These are sounds that people will never be able to hear again.”

The premiere will feature representatives from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

* Doors and bar open at 7pm. Visit www.davidholyoake.com/extinct_birds or www.ensemblematisse.com. The final performance will be at The Forge in Delancey Street, Camden Town, on February 23.

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