ClipperMusic: Manchester Collective (Shades) (2022)

Classical: The two string quartets are ‘focused and fragile investigations of sound… live in the shadows, slowly shifting, finding form, and melting away.’

01 May 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News


Manchester Collective


Manchester Collective is a new kind of arts organisation, built for a fresh and diverse musical world. We create intimate and intense human experiences inspired by the music that we love, for everyone.

We are the true believers. We passionately believe in the power of music to move us and to excite us. It doesn’t matter to us if you’re a seasoned concert-goer, or if it’s your first time. All are welcome.

From the concert hall to the factory, from the recital room to the mill, the only thing we ask of you is that you open your ears and let yourself listen. Really listen. 

And in return, we will create something extraordinary.

In ‘Shades’, we explore the next chapter of our ongoing collaboration with the British composer Edmund Finnis.

The two string quartets presented here are focused and fragile investigations of sound. Ed’s writing frequently pushes our players to the very limit of what is possible – his music here is softer, more intimate, more bare. This material lives in the shadows, slowly shifting, finding form, and melting away.

The first quartet (presented second on this recording) is the more ghostlike of the two.

String Quartet No. 2: I

The quiet haiku of the first movement melts into the gossamer of the second, delicate trills endlessly spiralling, catching the light. In the third movement short musical threads are deftly woven together, but this sense of momentum is quickly halted by the fourth – a hymn, composed after material by William Byrd.

This music is some of Ed’s most beautiful, heart-breaking, and honest. Finally, the quartet gathers pace in the final, fifth movement, wheeling higher and higher, ecstatic and virtuosic.

Genre-defying cellist Abel Selaocoe is joined by his band Chesaba and the Manchester Collective string players in this electrifying take on a traditional South African song. Its title, ‘Ka Bohaleng’ (On The Sharp Side) references a common saying that “a woman holds a knife on the sharp end”. The song is a dedication to all mothers, and the women who take care of us through times of hardship. (2019)

TThe second quartet, this one commissioned by the Collective, is no less mysterious than the first. The outer movements were inspired by an unexpected act of discovery: in 2020, during a house move, Finnis uncovered a set of old minidiscs containing rough demo recordings that he had made nearly two decades earlier. Something of those forgotten songs lies at the heart of this quartet – the past, made real again.

There can be no doubt that there is biography in this music. In his own notes, Ed writes: “I think of these two quartets as some of the most personal and intimate pieces I have written. They are outcomes of my enduring need to communicate something that I’m incapable of fully expressing with words. I would if I could. I know that it has something to do with love.”


released March 18, 2022

Artist: Manchester Collective
Record Label: Bedroom Community

Rakhi Singh – Music Director, Violin
Adam Szabo – Producer
Brendan Williams – Production, Recording/Mix Engineer
Declan Kennedy – Additional Production
Edmund Finnis – Additional Production
Valgeir Sigurðsson – Mastering
Helenskià Collett – Album Artwork
Edmund Finnis – Composer
Donald Grant, Caroline Pether, Rakhi Singh – Violin
Hélène Clement, Ruth Gibson – Viola
Nick Trygstad – Cello


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