Douglas Finch co-founded The Continuum Ensemble in 1994 with conductor Philip Headlam, premiering over 40 new works and recording for Avie and NMC (music by Errollyn Wallen and Roger Smalley).
Their most recent CD, 'A Land So Luminous - Music by Kenneth Hesketh and Richard Causton' was released on the Prima Facie label in 2016.
- "brilliantly played" - Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times
- "doubly worthwhile" - Fiona Maddocks, The Observer
- "most rewarding and enjoyable" - Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer
The group's 'Swept Away Festival' took place at King's Place, London, 19-21 June 2015. This celebrated the work of composers exiled from Berlin and Austria in the 1920s and 1930s, including Toch, Weill, Schulhoff, Wolpe, Krenek, Spoliansky and Hollander. Introduced by Ernst Toch's grandson, Lawrence Weschler, the three-day festival included five concerts, and five pre-concert talks/literary readings. There were 11 UK premieres, and the event featured on BBC Radio 3.
Reviews for Swept Away
- "Astonishingly ambitious" - Ivan Hewett, 5* review, The Telegraph, 19 June 2015
- "I sat tightly gripped; you might almost say swept away" - Geoff Brown, 4* review, The Times, 21 June 2015
- "Top honours" - Gavin Dixon, theartsdesk.com, 21 June 2015
- "Toch's inventiveness, hardly for the first time during the weekend, had me spellbound" - Paul Driver, The Sunday Times, 28 June 2015
- "the excellent Continuum Ensemble's committed, virtuosic playing under conductor Philip Headlam." - Hugo Shirley, FT.com, 21 June 2015
- "The Continuum Ensemble mounted an enterprising weekend of 'music of a lost generation'" - Michael Tanner, The Specator, 27 June 2015
- "An especially worthwhile series" - John-Pierre Joyce, 4* review, MusicOMH, 20 June 2015
- "A joy to hear...'Swept Away' shone a bright beam into those dimly-lit corners of music’s past" - Adam Fergler, Blog, 25 June 2015
Review for The Continuum Ensemble
"Acclaimed for their recording of Errollyn Wallen’s music (Avie, 7/02), The Continuum Ensemble prove equally adept here, with Douglas Finch in command of writing whose demands are a reminder that Smalley is himself no mean pianist."
- Richard Whitehouse, Gramophone, September 2004
Douglas Finch and Lizzi Kew-Ross were the artistic directors of the improvisation festival, 'In the MOMENT', at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Find out more below.
- In the MOMENT Programme (pdf)
- A 90-minute 'In the MOMENT' DVD is available from Douglas Finch
- "a magical festival" - Linda Hirst
- "All of this just proves what is possible when inspired and determined individuals with a shared vision get together!!" - Charlotte Darbyshire
- "I would do it all again tomorrow!" - Dominic Murcott
- "absolutely mind-blowing" - Tau Wey
- "a fascinating idea" - Charles Gordon-Graham
- "Everyone I talked to was buzzing with excitement. I loved it!" - Steve Montague
- "a theatrical and musical success, ambitious beyond expectations" - Peter Grahame-Wolff
Read the full review on the Musical Pointers Web site.
Conceived by Douglas Finch, in partnership with the Artist in Residence at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, Ian Pace, this festival was the biggest Frederic Rzewski retrospective ever created. It took place from 8-20 May 2006. It featured a world premiere of Rzewski's 'The Road' (lasting 10 hours). Click below for a photo taken during the festival:
Read the full review on the Musical Pointers Web site.
With Douglas Finch as Artistic Director, the Trinity Laban New Lights Festival has earned a reputation for showcasing music of the avant-garde in all its multifarious incarnations. Building on the success of the New Lights Festival 2019, students, staff and alumni took the Festival online in 2020 with a diverse range of composed and improvised contemporary music performed and recorded in homes across the world. Offering tasters of what’s to come when the Festival returns to its full live format in 2021, this 'Prelude to New Lights Festival 2021' presents seven days of exciting preludes, previews and postludes, all presented on Trinity Laban's Youtube channel from Mon 6 to Sun 12 July 2020.
- the world premiere of 'Fifth Political Agenda', a new piece by Michael Finnissy written especially for Trinity Laban postgraduate piano student Annie Li.
- a first preview of 'Sonatina Nostalgica' by Stephen Hough,written for and performed by Philip Fowke.
*a film by TL Fulbright Scholar Garrett Snedeker delving into the historical origins of the 1930 Kentucky coal mine strikes and contemporary parallels in the coronavirus pandemic in the US, with his performance of Frederic Rzewski’s 'Which Side Are You On'?
- 'Birds of a Feather', a new sonic work by Heloïse Tunstall-Behrens recorded as a collaborative group performance on Zoom.
- a multi-media performance of Norbert Zehm’s *Prelude in Turquoise* by Maya-Leigh Rosenwasser, improvising alongside Norbert’s live action painting and dancer Marie Stockhausen.
- a performance of Soosan Lolavar’s 'Black Dog' by Trinity Laban alum Mahsa Salali
The festival also featured opera transcriptions by Canadian composer Rodney Sharman for solo piano performed by Trinity Laban Gold Medal 2020 nominee Christos Fountos; a performance of excerpts from Yuka Takechi’s Winter Light performed by Yukiko Shinohara; works by Ed Cooper and Mikey Parsons; and improvisations inspired by a wide range of sources, from the landscape and nature of Sydney at Dawn, to reflections on the Black Lives Matter movement.
Artistic director: Douglas Finch
Curators: Roxanna Albayati, Maya-Leigh Rosenwasser and Andy Trewen
Video editing: Howard Felton
Film, theatre, dance and opera
Take Care, a new opera by Douglas Finch and the librettist Cindy Oswin, was produced and premiered at Lakeside Arts Centre in Nottingham on April 2nd and 3rd 2022. The project was based on extensive research into the working lives of those who care for people with dementia.
The 90-minute opera in two parts involved four principal singers: Donna Bateman, Jane Streeton, Violetta Gawara and John Upperton. The musical director was Jonathan Tilbrook, with an ensemble of nine players, plus a chorus of twelve dementia carers from the local community in Nottingham. The artistic director was Mervyn Millar. The piece was commissioned and produced by Justine Schneider.
This project took four years to develop, with participant observation by researchers working as home carers for people with dementia in the Nottingham area. Over ten months they wrote down their feelings, thoughts and observations. From these field notes, librettist Cindy Oswin and composer Douglas Finch devised a story about a young carer and her clients.
Cindy Oswin’s libretto is elegantly simple and direct in its depiction of everyday life. Composer Douglas Finch brings his extensive performance, theatre and film experience to this project, creating a complex yet accessible and empathetic score. With stylistic references ranging from Vaudeville to Wagner, the music elevates the everyday to something universal and moving.
The project has received support from the Arts Council/National Lottery and the ESRC Impact Accelerator Fund.
- "Wholly contemporary, the narrative is infused with archetypal ideals of love, faith, revenge, and death—and even “madness,” the calling card of countless operas from Donizetti to Britten and beyond" "eclectic score, with influences ranging from Vaudeville and British music hall to Wagner." Opera Canada
- "beautiful and moving: successful as a work of art in its own right, and impressive co-creation by professional and non-professional artists ..." A Restless Art
Douglas Finch has collaborated with the choreographer Lizzi Kew Ross in a range of projects. Recent highlights include:
- 'Beyond the Tree Line': Reflecting the themes of remote Canadian landscapes and aboriginal spirituality, and inspired by the Canadian artist and writer Emily Carr, Lizzi's subtle choreography was performed by dancers from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, with Douglas Finch's 'Lyric' and 'Ucluelet (Landscape IV)', performed by pianist Aleksander Szram.
- 'Concert Conversation': Piano duo Douglas Finch and and Bobby Chen, with a cast of 15 dancers, performed a dance music piece based on Piano Duets by John White. The piece was performed at Laban Theatre in 2014 and Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts, in 2015. Watch the podcast on Youtube.
Douglas Finch has collaborated for many years with the film director Jon Sanders. Film collaborations include:
- A Change in the Weather (2017)
- Back to the Garden (2013)
- Late September (2009)
- Low Tide (2008)
- Painted Angels (aka The Wicked Wicked West) (1999)
- A Change in the Weather:
"this ensemble deserves high praise for finding real meaning and beauty via a process that risked mere bourgeois navel-gazing. The puppet work is gorgeous, musical interludes add subtle emotional underlining, and even the risky addition of a ghost adds something pleasingly whimsical to the mix." - Hannah McGill, Sight & Sound
"intriguing work of miniaturism" - Leslie Felperin, The Guardian
“The music is as subtly bold as the rest of the film with the composer Douglas Finch a character who performs live or sits observing, poised at his keyboard. This means the music seems to come from inside the film and inside of the characters, a bubbling wave of emotion...” - Front Row Reviews
- Back to the Garden:
"'Back to the Garden' is a poignant and touching film and the music – involving only three instruments – flute, vibraphone and piano – matches this mood perfectly. Near the beginning of the film one hears a Schubert impromptu played by one of the characters, and this piece forms the basis for Douglas Finch’s music for the film, which is a series of variations on it. It is a music of contemplation, stillness, a gentle melody accompanied by slightly piquant harmonies.
"Frequently the music can dominate a film – and in some cases it may be appropriate ('2001 A Space Odyssey' comes to mind for me), but – as has also been said about some documentary programmes – the music can often be too obtrusive and one might wish for less of it. In 'Back to the Garden' the music is present but quietly unobtrusive, appearing at times and receding at times, always reflecting the mood of the action and the dialogue. There is an interplay of sound and silence, which – along with the refined and even ethereal post-Debussyan sonorities – reminds me of the music of Tōru Takemitsu, notwithstanding the difference in musical language and the fact that the original theme is one by Schubert.
Douglas Finch has composed a score which I experienced as perfectly attuned to the mood of the film with its delicacy and understated manner, and the performance – involving the composer – beautifully conveyed these qualities."
- Charles Graham-Gordon, 2013
Douglas Finch composed and performed a 90-minute piano score for 'Nirvana', a play by Konstantin Iliev at Riverside Studios, directed by Jonathan Chadwick. It was performed from 1-20 March, 2005. The music was based in part on Preludes by Chopin, and was later adapted for the piano piece 'Preludes and Afterthoughts'.
- View the poster (jpg)
- Listen to the setting of Peyo Yavorov’s poem:
Nirvana. Dessi Stefanova: Voice. Douglas Finch: Piano
"... And, supremely, Douglas Finch’s piano score - which contrasts the Old-Europe of The Woman’s Chopin Preludes with Berg-like chords bringing the modernist consciousness, then elaborating on the A major and E minor Preludes, turning the second into a tango before incorporating it into a 20th century musical language that brilliantly underscores and intensifies the action."
- Timothy Ramsden, Reviews Gate, March 2005
Douglas Finch has recently formed a duo partnership with renowned Malaysian pianist Bobby Chen. They have performed in venues such as The Forge, the Reform Club in London and at the International Piano Duo Festival in Bristol, and have a number of forthcoming engagements. Sample programmes are provided below.
For Two Pianos (performed at the Reform Club, London)
- Arnold Griller: Introduction, Cake-walk and Allegro
- Francis Poulenc: Sonata
For Piano Four Hands (performed at the Underground Theatre, Eastbourne)
- Mozart: Sonata
- Schubert: Lebensstürme
- Schubert: Variations on an Original Theme in A Flat Major
- John White: First Set of Duets
- Douglas Finch: Moeleilio
- Brahms: Hungarian Dances books 3 and 4, complete
Listen to excerpts from a concert at The Forge, London, on 28 February 2013:
Brahms: Hungarian Dance No. 18
Rihm: Mehrere Kurze Waltzer No. 16
Douglas Finch is currently working with one of the UK’s most respected jazz musicians, Martin Speake. Their first completely improvised CD, 'Sound Clouds' is now available on the Pumpkin Label. Read an interview with Martin Speake about the album in the London Jazz News, September 2014.
Reviews of Sound Clouds
- "restlessly delightful" [...] "spontaneously, spikily joyous" - Robert Shore, Jazzwise
- "two musicians absolutely in tune with one another" - Shock of the New blog, September 2014
- "quite magnificent" - All About Jazz
- "a fascinating combustion of forces" - Winnipeg Free Press
- "A truly stimulating and memorable demonstration of pure creativity" - Euan Dixon, Jazz Views, February 2015
View video clips from their performance at the Vortex in September 2013: