The new album launch performance by Nitin Sawhney, one of the most influential and versatile creative musicians alive today, is to include a new work to be performed on the Hall’s grand 140 year old organ. A small section of Sawhney’s pipe organ creation will form part of his brand new album ‘Last Days of Meaning’ which he has chosen to launch at a special one-off concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday, 6 May 2011.

“Last Days of Meaning” is Sawhney’s ninth studio album. Played by the legendary actor John Hurt, the album’s main character – Donald Meaning – is an embittered old man, fearful of immigrants, terrorists and the outside world. He sits in a room raging against childhood memories, society, himself and a small tape recorder sent to him by his ex-wife. The cassette-recorder contains the songs of the album …. A message of reflection, shared memory, empathy and ultimately hope. Featuring an array of brilliant performances by singers and musicians alike, the new album is a response to the fear, dogmatism and entrenchment that we sometimes acquire with age.

At the concert, Sawhney will perform tracks from the new album, along with a retrospective of his studio work to date. The included 15 minute organ commission will be performed in three parts at the concert by his childhood friend and arguably the UK’s foremost and most prominent Hammond organist, James Taylor of the James Taylor Quartet.

Sawhney’s appointment is the first in a series of potential partnerships between the Royal Albert Hall and contemporary musicians for the Hall’s organ. This is a commission like the Hall has never seen before and further highlights the Hall’s own innovative programming and artistic vision in taking on more of their own promotes and encouraging new and younger audiences into the building.

A latter day renaissance man, Nitin Sawhney is firmly established as a world-class producer, songwriter, DJ, multi-instrumentalist, orchestral composer and cultural pioneer. His previous albums have garnered critical acclaim, receiving no less than 15 major national awards.

As teenagers, Sawhney and Taylor decided to form a band and went together to a music shop to buy a Casio keyboard. Bringing it back to Sawhney’s house they sat around working out various melodies and ideas for their new project. Thirty-three years later they sat together at the Grand Organ of the Royal Albert Hall trying to figure out how this 140 year old monster works. Despite not being a dedicated organist, this is something that Nitin will undoubtedly be able to put his unique and distinctive stamp on.

One of the largest pipe organs in the UK, the Grand Organ has 9,999 pipes, 147 stops, weighs 150 tons, and at its loudest sounds like a jet taking off. The £5m newly refurbished organ was built in 1871 for Queen Victoria by Henry Willis with the aim of making it one of the largest and most extravagant organs in the world.

On 6 May 2011, Sawhney will be joined on stage by a string quintet and key members of his band including Martyn Kaine on drums, Aref Durvesh on Tabla and Dholak, Ashwin Srinivasan on flute and vocals, Ian Burdge on cello, Tina Grace, Nicki Wells and Lucita Jules on vocal with further guests to be announced.

Nitin Sawhney said: “I am very excited to be launching my new album at the Royal Albert Hall. As for the special commission, standing in front of the Royal Albert Hall organ and thinking about the power it has is inspiring. I feel like a boy who’s got a science kit for Christmas and I’m intent to see what great explosions of noise and celebration I can create. James and I are very excited and are already experimenting with the sounds and rhythms we can create. It’s a great opportunity and a real privilege to work with such an old and valuable instrument.”

Jasper Hope, Chief Operating Officer said: “The Royal Albert Hall is committed to innovative programming and to creating new experiences and memories for as wide a range of music lovers as possible. Nitin’s commission heralds the start of a series of new commissions for the organ, enabling contemporary musicians to work with this extraordinary and historic instrument, creating new and exciting works to challenge the modern audiences of the Hall.

The organ sits at the heart of the Hall, its imposing size and full sound create a truly memorable experience for the artists who grace our stage and, of course, for our audiences. We are delighted that Nitin is the first artist we’re working with in this way, his ability to cross genres with such skill and musicality is a perfect reflection of our own aims. We are also thrilled that Nitin has also chosen to launch his new album here which I’m sure will lead to a very memorable concert”

Listing information is below. There will be a free pre-show talk for ticket-holders on Friday 6 May with Nitin Sawhney and James Taylor.

Photo – (c) Andy Paradise

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