A new album on GB Records Mercy and Grand is released on April 23 2012. This is one of the projects that Gavin Bryars has worked on with Opera North, through the director of Opera North Projects Dominic Gray, and JIm Holmes – who conducted Gavin’s second opera Doctor Ox’s Experiment at English National Opera and who was, until recently, Head of Music at Opera North.
Prior to this project they worked together on Nothing like the Sun – settings of Shakespeare sonnets – and working on the music of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan was a natural extension. Here, while the focus is on the Waits/Brennan songs, other music is set alongside it – Kurt Weill, folk music, fairground ballads, tangos, circus music – to place it in context.
The arrangements were chiefly done by Gavin (for Waits), Jim (for Weill) and violinist Joe Townsend (for the folk material) with other pieces being put together collectively by the band. We have a fine mix of creatively eclectic musicians, and a great singer in Jess Walker – femaile, English and classically trained, who delivers all the songs with insight and passion.