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The Fidelio Trio - international piano trio playing a diverse repertoire of contemporary music …a bold and powerful recording…
International Record Review

Beyond Borders - Summer/Autumn 2016


“…Up by the Roots… bristled with an imaginative scenario that fused music, poetry and a whiff of operatic indulgence into a most unusual creation.
Basically it involved Fidelio, English composer Piers Hellawell and Belfast poet Sinéad Morrissey in a presentation in which text, read by Morrissey, became the dominating factor. The poem, depicting primeval migration to different and dangerous lands, resonated strongly with the refugee crisis today.”

Sunday Business Post, June 2016

Up By The Roots was commissioned as part of a PRS for Music Foundation ‘Beyond Borders’ award to Fidelio Trio, Sinéad Morrissey and composer Piers Hellawell; the collaboration was initiated by Fidelio Trio, who have been shortlisted for the prestigious 2016 Royal Philharmonic Society Ensemble Award, following a long collaborative relationship with Piers Hellawell. In particular it seemed appropriate that, within the ‘Beyond Borders’ theme, the Irish musicians of Fidelio Trio based in London should collaborate with an English composer working in Belfast; the catalyst proved the involvement of Belfast poet, Sinéad Morrissey, whose words provide a meditation on migration itself.

This collaboration approaches the relation of music and text in a new way; the interaction of chamber music for trio and poetic texts respects, though it also later dissolves, the bounds between these separate territories. Three pieces for piano trio are interleaved with a sequence of three poems, delivered in performance by the author; however, such is the volatile chemistry of music and poetry that this seemly alternation later takes a more subversive turn. As music seeps into poem and poetry becomes sound, the latter stages of this spoken chamber music lie closer to an operatic scena…the three-part poetic sequence on the theme of migration and borders takes as its starting point the poetic transfiguration of a woman’s life in the metaphorical forest of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night) - but re-locates it in a modern context. The migrants make landfall only to find that the forest sanctuary offers resistance - first human but then mythical, as the witch Baba Yaga, awoken from forest sleep by the tumult of social upheaval, threatens a mythological transfiguration of all the human forest-dwellers, old and new. The piece ends with their own transfigured night.



"It was a delight for me to work on this project, liberated as I was from the constraint of having to write language which can be sung, and concentrating instead on words for the spoken voice (my own), placed in a context of music but not entirely meshed with it. However, the points at which music and poetry connected most closely quickly became the most exciting moments of the piece, as geographical, social, and generic breakdown (between the realistic and mythical modes) developed into the complex cross-contamination of language and sound. Form mirrors content as multiple borders are ruptured."
Sinéad Morrissey


The process of composing music around emergent poetic text, rather than setting it for voices, is unsettling and definitely comes without a manual. As our separate compositions of music and words unfolded, it became harder to compose without first knowing the latest turn of the poetry; what began as a distant civility to the poetry, an image of beached landings in my mind as I composed the opening piece, became positively claustrophobic in the later stages as music and poetry converged. Finally I found my head full of the expletives of Baba Yaga as I feverishly furnished them with their musical surround.
Piers Hellawell

Sinead and Piers

3rd May, 7.30pm
Sheffield University International Concerts Series
Chausson Piano Trio in G minor, Op.3
Hellawell/Morrissey Up By The Roots (world premiere)
Schoenberg (arr. Steuermann) Verklärte Nacht

12th June, 12 noon
Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin
Fauré Piano Trio in D minor, Op.120
Hellawell/Morrissey Up By The Roots
Schoenberg (arr. Steuermann) Verklärte Nacht

13th June
Belfast Book Festival
Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
Beethoven Piano Trio in D major, Op.70 No.1 ‘Ghost’
Hellawell/Morrissey Up By The Roots
Schoenberg (arr. Steuermann) Verklärte Nacht

25th June, 7.30pm
Gregynog Festival, Wales
The Music Room, Gregynog Festival
Hellawell/Morrissey Up By The Roots
Donnacha Dennehy Bulb
Sam Perkins Fron-goch (world premiere)
Ernest Moeran Piano Trio

15th July, 7.30pm Cheltenham Music Festival
Pitville Pump Room, Cheltenham
Michael Zev Gordon In the Middle of Things
Satie (arr. John White) Le piège de Méduse
Hellawell/Morrissey Up By The Roots
Hunter Coblentz New work (world premiere)
Schoenberg (arr. Steuermann) Verklärte Nacht

21st October, 7.30pm Sound Scotland
Phoenix Hall, Newton Dee
Beethoven Piano Trio in D major Op.70 No.1 ‘Ghost’
Joe Cutler McNulty (Fidelio Trio commission, World Premiere)
Luke Bedford Chiaroscuro
Alasdair Nicolson Half-Told Tales

22nd October, 12.00 Noon Sound Scotland
St Andrew’s Cathedral, Aberdeen
Zack Browning Blockhouse (UK premiere)
Donnacha Dennehy Bulb
Piers Hellawell/Sinéad Morrissey Up By The Roots


Piers Hellawell’s work has been commissioned and performed around the world. Leading artists among those involved in many collaborations include LSO/Sir Colin Davis, Schubert Ensemble, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Hilliard Ensemble, Fidelio Trio, Andy Sheppard and the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Large projects since his 1999 Proms debut (Inside Story) have included Cors de chasse, a double concerto commissioned for Håkan Hardenberger (trumpet) and Jonas Bylund (trombone) by the Philharmonia Orchestra and Dogs and Wolves, a commission for the BBC Scottish SO’s first series in City Halls, premiered in 2006 and recorded, on the CD of the same name. Syzygy, for the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Stockholm Chamber Brass, appeared in 2013 - conducted by Paul Watkins, the same week as he premiered atria for cello and piano with his brother Huw Watkins.

Hellawell’s works are represented on CD on the ECM New Series, NMC and Metier labels, as well as on three critically acclaimed discs from the Metronome label; May 2012 saw the issue of ‘Airs, Waters’, on the Delphian label, hailed by ‘The Independent’ as "… a large-scale palette applied with the most delicate of brushwork", and by ‘The Scotsman’ as "gorgeously impassioned work… a rich kaleidoscope of inspired creativity". A PRS Foundation ‘Beyond Borders’ award in 2014 has led to the collaboration Up By The Roots with Irish poet Sinéad Morrissey and Fidelio Piano Trio, with whom Hellawell has a long association; Fidelio Trio have also championed Etruscan Games (2007), which also appears on the disc ‘Airs Waters’ with solo piano works – while the new work with live poetry is premiered during a U.K. tour in 2016. Piers Hellawell’s 60th birthday year also features a new work Wild Flow at the BBC Proms this August, a commission for the 50th season of the Ulster Orchestra; Hellawell is featured composer at the Great Lakes Festival, Detroit USA during June 2016.

Piers Hellawell is Professor of Composition at the Queen’s University of Belfast; his music is published by Edition Peters (London) Ltd. Piers Hellawell was Gresham Professor of Music in the City of London from 2000 to 2003.


Sinéad Morrissey, from Belfast in Northern Ireland, has published five collections of poetry: There Was Fire in Vancouver (1996), Between Here and There (2002), The State of the Prisons (2005), Through the Square Window (2009) and Parallax (2013). Parallax and Selected Poems was published by Farrar Straus and Geroux, New York, in 2015. She has  won the Irish Times Poetry Prize twice (2009, 2013) and in 2013 Parallax was awarded the T S Eliot Prize. Her other awards include first prize in the UK National Poetry Competition and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. Parallax and Selected Poems was a National Book Circle Critics’ Award finalist. Sinéad Morrissey is the 2016 recipient of the E M Forster Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is Professor of Creative Writing at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, Queen’s University, Belfast. 


Beyond Borders Partners