WALKING HOME: STEP INTO OPERA NORTH’S NEW SERIES OF
SOUND JOURNEYS FOR LOCKDOWN
Following the recent easing of regulations on exercise and time spent outdoors in the UK, Opera
North has announced Walking Home: Sound Journeys for Lockdown, its commission for
BBC Arts and Arts Council England’s Culture in Quarantine programme.
Building on the Leeds-based company’s history of award-winning and innovative sound walks and
installations, five artists will write and record new works specifically to be listened to whilst
walking. Crossing folk, jazz, Middle Eastern and African traditions, classical and contemporary
music, with a tendency to experiment and to break the confines of genre, the contributors are
cellist and composer Abel Selaocoe; qanun virtuoso Maya Youssef; oud player and composer
Khyam Allami, vocalist, violinist and songwriter Alice Zawadski; and accordionist and
experimentalist Martin Green of the folk trio Lau.
One of 25 new commissions for Culture in Quarantine, Walking Home is a vibrant cross-section
of music-making in Britain today, made by musicians under lockdown for audiences in the same
predicament. The series engages with our new context for walking and solitary activity, and each
15-minute piece offers an opportunity to renew our imaginative connections with our environment.
“The spark for the Walking Home commissions came from the strange alchemy we found between
walker, place and music that was powerfully evident in the past sound journey commissions we
have made for the Humber Bridge and River Tyne”, comments Opera North’s Head of Projects Jo
“While these five new walking commissions are on a much more intimate scale, and meant for
wherever you are, all five respond to the dynamic of walking, listening through headphones and
taking in your surroundings to produce an experience as much created by the listener as by the
artists. They might offer a soundtrack to a daily escape from lockdown; intensify the sensations
experienced on their chosen route; or conjure up something altogether harder to define.
“We are delighted to be working with five such brilliant and varied composer/musicians on this
project, each of whom innovates way beyond the boundaries of genre. Together they will form a
collection of music that is refreshing, unexpected and individual.”
Best known as one third of the visionary folk trio Lau, Martin Green’s reputation as a composer
in his own right was cemented by an Ivor Award for his Opera North commission for the Great
Exhibition of the North in 2018. Evolving over the course of a half-hour walk along the banks of the
River Tyne, Aeons was an epic sound work featuring the Orchestra and Chorus of Opera North and
Becky Unthank. His contribution to the series has a dawn or early morning walk in mind.
Syrian-born Iraqi oud player Khyam Allami’s haunting installation Requiem for the 21st Century
was an Opera North commission for the 2019 PRS New Music Biennale, combining microtonal
tuning, ancient Arabic musical modes and generative software to produce ever-changing melodic
sequences from speakers fitted within an array of decaying ouds. Allami will be writing and
recording his sound walk from his current base in Berlin, taking a cinematic approach to the
disconcerting atmosphere of urban areas under lockdown.
Born in South Africa and now based in Manchester, cellist and composer Abel Selaocoe moves
seamlessly from collaborations with world musicians and beatboxers to concerto performances and
solo classical recitals. He spent a recent Opera North Resonance residency working on a new body
of solo music for the cello influenced by traditional African instruments. His sound journey will
acknowledge the beneficial effects that he has felt from walking over the past weeks.
Born and raised in Damascus, Maya Youssef is a virtuoso of the qanun, the distinctive Arabic
form of the zither with a history dating back to the nineteenth century BC. She has made her home
in the UK following recognition from the Government’s Exceptional Talent programme for her
intense and thoughtful music, rooted in the Arabic classical tradition but taking inspiration from
Western classical music and jazz.
With a background that takes in classical violin, gospel, jazz and folk, Alice Zawadzki’s output as
soloist and collaborator is prodigious and eclectic. Her second solo album, last year’s Within You is
a World of Spring, showcased her mastery of an extraordinary range of styles in an inspired
collection of songs.
The artists are currently writing and recording their pieces in home studios across the UK and
Europe. Along with the other commissions, Walking Home will be available through broadcast
slots across BBC Radio and Television, through podcasts on BBC Sounds, and via the BBC Arts
website, continuing with the Culture in Quarantine mission to bring the arts to UK homes despite
arts venue closures, social distancing, and UK-wide lockdowns.