Birmingham Contemporary Music Group at CBSO Centre
Jun 9 2008 By Christopher Morley
The Integra 2008 Festival - an event so vibrant and important in its assembling of so many contemporary music groups and technologists in Birmingham that it shouldn't have kept its light so blushingly under a bushel - was preceded by a crass musical commentary on a live BBC4 News broadcast.
That self-regarding farrago should go and crawl under a stone in the light of the awe-inspiring work which ended Integra 2008 on Saturday night, a compassionate and totally involving creation based on footage of child soldiers in DR Congo.
Rolf Wallin's Strange News, Josse De Pauw directing the visual and textual elements, could so easily have wallowed in voyeuristic sensationalism, but it avoided that trap.
Instead its graphic, gripping musical commentary created a War Requiem for the modern day, one which, despite a technical gremlin requiring a restart, held the audience stunned - until the standing ovation at the end.
The commitment of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group players under Pierre-Andre Valade's clear, decisive conducting was an obvious factor in the success of this Integra 2008 premiere, and George Alagiah generously gave his services as the appalled newscaster.
But even more memorable was the performance of the young Ugandan actor Arthur Kisenyi, delivering a monologue of astonishing power and immediacy in this 35-minute work, and all from memory.
Plaudits too to Birmingham Conservatoire graduate Jonathan Green, masterminding the important electronics contribution.
Green also played a major part in a highly successful account of Jonathan Harvey's Wheel of Emptiness, where disparate "objects" are deconstructed and re-assembled (sometimes with remarkably Romantic gestures), and in Tansy Davies' deliciously sleazy Grand Show Electric, its live foreground and electronic background conveying an almost visual panorama.