North Sea Radio Orchestra

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North Sea Radio Orchestra (generally abbreviated to NSRO) is an English contemporary music ensemble and cross-disciplinary chamber orchestra (plus chorus).

The NSRO was set up mainly as a vehicle for the compositions of its musical director, Craig Fortnam, but has also performed works by William D. Drake and James Larcombe. The ensemble is notable for its post-modern fusion of Romantic music and later twentieth century forms, and for its bridging of the worlds of contemporary classical music, British folk music, London art rock and poetry (setting music to poems by W.B. Yeats, Thomas Hardy, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Daniel Dundas Maitland).

Sound and presentation[edit]

The North Sea Radio Orchestra is an ensemble of varying size, drawing on a pool of up to twenty members. It performs compositions which range from single-instrument solos and voice-and-guitar duos up to full chamber-orchestra-and-choir pieces (and all points in between, including assorted trios, quartets, quintets etc.). The instrumentation within the ensemble features woodwind, strings, orchestral and electronic percussion, nylon-string guitar, chamber organ, piano and the human voice. Between six and ten members sing as "the North Sea Chorus".

Compositionally, the NSRO favours original material with elements of the following – tonal/melodic classical composition, English choral and festival music, modern and ancient folk music, and minimalism. Some improvisation is also encouraged. The NSRO themselves cite influences including Benjamin Britten, television composer Vernon Elliott, The Incredible String Band, Vaughan Williams, and more metaphysical influences such as “London clay, water from the Thames and shingle from Bankside”.[1] Various critics have also made comparisons to the music of rock/classical/crossover musicians such as Simon JeffesPenguin Café Orchestra, Sean O’Hagan’s High Llamas, Frank Zappa, Clogs, Sufjan Stevens, Max Richter, Nick Drake, Virginia Astley, Kate St John and Peter Warlock. Since 2010, the band has displayed a stronger influence of Krautrock.

Another frequently-cited compositional influence on the NSRO is Tim Smith, leader of the British psychedelic rock group Cardiacs (which incorporates influences including Early and baroque music). The NSRO is generally regarded as being part of the collection of varied musical groups connected with Cardiacs: it includes in its lineup one former and one current member of Cardiacs, plus at least five other musicians associated with the band.

"There's no pining for anything, we don't walk around in waistcoats. But it is very much informed by certain types of English music, those are my influences."

Craig Fortnam explains the apparent "nostalgic English" sound of NSRO[2]

For much of its existence, the NSRO was nostalgic in presentation and themes. Between 2002 and 2010, the poetry chosen for musical settings tended to be classic 18th /19th/ early 20th century pre-modernist material, chosen for "its natural song-like meter and rhyme".[3] Craig Fortnam has also set modern texts written in the same nostalgic vein. The ensemble's subtler post-modern elements are generally restricted to the musical content. Since 2010, the band's work has focussed on setting Craig Fortnam's original lyrics.

History[edit]

Prehistory[edit]

While growing up in Kingston upon Thames and playing in psychedelic rock bands as a teenager, Craig Fortnam gravitated towards the cluster of bands surrounding the long-standing British psychedelic band Cardiacs. He went on to study composition and guitar at Dartington College of Arts. Graduating in 1990, he returned to London. During this period he composed material written for a variety of classical genres and ensembles, but also became involved with the London underground rock scene as a guitarist. One of the bands which he played in was the psychedelic acoustic band Lake of Puppies, led by Fortnam's friend (and former Cardiacs keyboard player) William D. Drake. The band gigged infrequently and recorded a few tracks, but never released an album. However, the band also featured singer and bass guitarist Sharron Saddington, whom Fortnam fell in love with. The two would also become longtime musical partners, and following their marriage, she would become known as Sharron Fortnam).[2]

In 1995, Craig and Sharron teamed up with two other former Cardiacs (saxophonist/keyboard player Sarah Smith and drummer Dominic Luckman) to form Shrubby Veronica, soon to be renamed The Shrubbies. This band gigged enthusiastically in London for several years (playing concerts with like-minded bands such as The Monsoon Bassoon, Podsdarapomuk and Delicate AWOL) and released one eponymous EP (1997’s The Shrubbies) followed by the Memphis In Texas album in 1999. However, Fortnam began to become disillusioned with the poor etiquette and atmosphere he encountered at rock concerts, later recalling "I began to realise that most people were there for a social thing, and people were talking all the way through. That just started annoying me and I thought, 'I'll write music that doesn’t have drums, that isn’t loud, and we'll play places where people sit down and then they won't talk."[2] The Shrubbies split up in 2000, and the now-married Fortnams opted to pursue a more ambitious and flexible project which could showcase both Craig’s contemporary classical compositions and Sharron’s unconventional singing voice (which blended elements of classical mezzo-soprano with folk and pop stylings). Recruiting several other musicians, they set up the North Sea Radio Orchestra.[2]

2002 to 2003 - the City Church concerts[edit]

The North Sea Radio Orchestra first appeared in public via a series of successful concerts in various antique churches within the square mile of the City of London - St Martin, Ludgate; St Clement Eastcheap and St Olave Hart Street. Taking place during 2002 and 2003, these concerts were publicised mainly by word-of-mouth. They were very much self-motivated occasions with a slightly antique/Edwardian feel (complete with home-made art-deco-styled concert programmes designed by Sharron Fortnam).

"It was thirty quid to hire a church in the City of London, so I thought, I know, we'll just do gigs in city churches, and it'll be like this weird thing, this funny band who play in churches. And the music I wrote, I was really aware of the acoustic potential, so some songs were definitely written so I could have this amazing piano chord that just goes 'ching!' and just let it ring for a bit. It's just a way of creating your own world, isn't it? Nobody else is doing that, so that's half the battle — doing something different."

Craig Fortnam on the early City of London church concerts[2]

Members of NSRO for the first concert included the Fortnams, percussionist Hugh Wilkinson, cellist/composer Harry Escott and organist/composer James Larcombe (of Stars In Battledress), all of whom would continue in the ensemble long-term. Other performers included Nick Hayes (clarinet). Inspired by the success of the first few concerts, the NSRO began to expand (ultimately becoming a twenty-person ensemble). While the instrumentalists were mostly drawn from the classical world, the vocal chorus contained former Shrubbies concert-mates and collaborators from the Fortnams’ time on the London art rock circuit. These included current and former members of Stars In Battledress, The Monsoon Bassoon and Sidi Bou Said. Stars In Battledress frontman Richard Larcombe (brother of James) also shared some lead vocal parts with Sharron Fortnam. Later on, the Fortnam's former Lake Of Puppies bandmate William D. Drake joined the ensemble as chorus singer and occasional solo pianist.

A few demo CDs were also made available at this time. These included early recordings of Craig Fortnam’s settings of Tennyson’s "The Flower" and "Every Day Hath Its Night" and the Zappa-esque "Nest Of Tables". Early (and very positive) reviews of both the EP and the concerts appeared in underground publications including Organ and Evophonic.

2004 to 2006 - the NSRO gains wider attention[edit]

In October 2004 the NSRO played a concert at Bush Hall in West London which was reviewed by John L. Walters in The Guardian. Walters drew attention to the initial difficulties in classifying the ensemble’s music but drew positive conclusions: “Is it ironic? Romantic retro? Or post-minimalist post-modernity? Behold the eleven-piece chamber orchestra beneath the chandeliers of Bush Hall, and you realise that Craig Fortnam, their leader and chief composer, is utterly serious in his quest for accessible, intelligent, non-trivial music…. What makes the NSRO special is Fortnam's gift for orchestration, the deft and original way he puts deceptively simple materials in the hands of sophisticated performers. Melody pours from his pen on every page.” [4]

In 2005, the NSRO released their first formal EP The Flower (on seven-inch vinyl) on the tiny London independent label Oof! Records. It contained a re-recorded version of “The Flower”, plus two more Tennyson settings (“The Lintwhite” and “Move Eastward Happy Earth”) and three instrumental pieces (“Music For Two Clarinets And Piano”, “Organ Miniature No. 1” and “Nest Of Tables”). On October 22, 2005, the NSRO played their first concert at St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, London.

On July 31, 2006 the North Sea Radio Orchestra performed at the Spitz, East London at a Music Orbit evening (a spin-off of the iF Festival) alongside NEM and Makeshift. The evening was presented as "a combination of gamelan, improvisation, electronica and lyrical chamber music." In September 2006, an NSRO track appeared on the nu-folk compilation album Folk Off: New Folk and Psychedelia from the British Isles and North America - this was the Craig Fortnam solo performance of “Guitar Miniature”.

The NSRO performed at the Spitz again on October 28, 2006 (supported by William D. Drake). This concert received a five-star review in the Daily Telegraph which nominated the "superbly disciplined chamber ensemble" as "the kind of deserving enterprise the BBC should really be throwing money at," and singled out praise for Sharon Fortnam’s voice as possessing "dazzling, pre-industrial clarity." [5] Reviewing the same concert, underground e-zine Bubblejam commented on the intimate quality of the music and the quality of the concert itself - "not unlike being at a church service or a poetry recital -- the crowd were completely rapt and utterly silent." The reviewer also concluded "for an all too brief time, they evoke an atmosphere of timeless beauty in the otherwise harsh environs of the East End. If I met an extra-terrestrial and wanted to communicate the concept of Englishness quickly and easily, I could do a lot worse than to play them the music of the North Sea Radio Orchestra."[6]

2006 - Release of debut album[edit]

In October 2006 the NSRO released their debut album – North Sea Radio Orchestra – on Oof! Records. The album was recorded, engineered and mastered by former Cardiacs member Mark Cawthra and contained much of the ensemble’s live set from the past three years. Tracks included Fortnam’s settings of Thomas Hardy’s “Shelley’s Skylark”, Yeats’ “He Gives His Beloved Certain Rhymes” and “He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven”, plus new instrumental "Kingstanding" and the part-instrumental/part-choral "Chimes". Other members also contributed material. William D Drake provided “Bill’s March” and “Mimnermus in Church” – the latter a Drake setting of a poem by William Johnson Cory with orchestrations by Craig Fortnam - and Sharron and Craig Fortnam co-wrote the folk song "Joy To My Heart".

"It's funny, because for our first album we did a lot of recordings in St Olave's, which is a beautiful, pre-Fire of London church that survived, just behind Trinity Square. And the sound of that record, to me, is like London. It sounds like timeless London to me. Like the Thames, the shingle when the tide goes out. "

Craig Fortnam contradicts NSRO's "pastoral" image[2]

The album received plenty of critical praise. Word Magazine called it "a beautiful debut.... unreservedly recommended," while Leeds Guide praised "a style of songwriting and a lyricism (nostalgic, pastoral, quaint) which is peculiarly English and suddenly, in their hands, timeless" and their reviewer dubbed the recording "one of the best albums, whatever the genre, that I have heard this year." Playlouder.com claimed that "North Sea Radio Orchestra splash colour into every corner of the speakers with a regal splendour and effervescent celebration of God, Nature or whatever it is you may wish to call it."[7]

In the underground press, Art Rocker praised the NSRO for "doing something really quite special.....in their ability to ebb and sway and permeate through styles without erring away from the constant series of lush orchestrations", and hailed the record as "the most beautiful album of the year… could surely sway even the most ardent distortion-pedal freak to step back and open their minds and hearts to this." Foggy Notions called it "an everchanging trip, blooming with melody and twinkling beauty from start to finish," while Subba Cultcha commented that the ensemble’s music was "stepping easily between genres, sometimes classical, sometimes indie; inspired and compelling and often magical, like the soundtrack to a film that hasn’t been made yet. It’s a thoughtful, melodic and calming record that is sure to attract fans way beyond its classical base." [8] A review in Boomkat (while drawing attention to the NSRO’s "idiosyncratic bombast", "cartoonishly baroque melodies" and "unbridled eccentricity") praised the orchestra's "considerable performance skills and elegant arrangements", and concluded that the album was "a fairly surreal experience all round."[9]

2007-2008 - further afield[edit]

On January 26, 2007 the North Sea Radio Orchestra returned to Bush Hall for another concert (supported again by William D. Drake). On March 3, they played their first concert outside London, at St Michael’s Church, Blewsbury, Berkshire. This was followed by another appearance at St Giles in the Fields in London on April 27. On July 2 the NSRO released the 7-inch vinyl-only EP End Of Chimes. This featured an edit of the album centrepiece “Chimes” plus three entirely new tracks (“Guitar Miniature No2”, “Hurdy Gurdy Miniature”, ”The Tide Rises the Tide Falls”) and was hailed as “a highly entertaining discovery” by Drowned In Sound [10] and as “gentle, lush and frankly beguiling” by SoundsXP.[11]

Later in the year, the NSRO performed two of their highest profile concerts to date – the first being a slot at the Green Man Festival in August, and the second being a performance at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London, on November 19. In December 2007, the NSRO version of the hymn “O Come O Come Emanuel” appeared on the compilation album The Arctic Circle Presents: That Fuzzy Feeling ( a collection of Christmas songs). The NSRO played live to promote the album at a concert at the Union Chapel, London on December 5, 2007 (alongside Ellis Island Sound, Mara Carlyle, David Julyan and The Dollboy Windpipe Arkestra).

2008 saw the North Sea Radio Orchestra performing more concerts outside London. During the first half of the year they made an appearance at the Jacqueline Du Pre Music Rooms in Oxford in January 2008, and performed at the Friends Meeting House, Brighton on March 16, 2008 supported by Crayola Lectern.

The Brighton concert was notably in that (despite a very positive audience response) it generated the first negative press for the ensemble. The Stool Pigeon criticized the nostalgic quality of the NSRO’s music commenting that “it’s frequently a fine and lovely thing. But in some ways it can’t help feeling like a retreat… Certainly there are moments of beauty, but ultimately it’s like stepping back into an alternate, pre-war England where rock’n’roll - not to mention mass industrialisation and immigration - never happened. Which is fine for a night, but I wouldn’t want to stay.” [12]

Notorious underground music commentator Everett True was considerably more scornful in his Hugs And Kisses blog (reprinted in The Village Voice), castigating the band for “po-faced snobbery” and “baroque warbling” and comparing them unfavourably to their more post-rock inclined support act: “Crayola Lectern tick the same high musicality boxes as the band that followed, sure: but possess one crucial factor that the North Sea Radio Malarkey just don’t, just don’t get. They have heart.” [13] Conversely, Chris Anderson of Crayola Lectern - in his own blogged review of the same concert - described the NSRO as "perfectly formed and rather marvellous... a magnificent creation."[14]

The NSRO played in Malvern in July 2008 (although with only a two-person lineup) and returned in full strength to the Green Man Festival in August. On September 27, 2008 the NSRO performed an “open rehearsal” at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, London in a double bill with Ted Barnes. This was part of the Open Weekend event (itself part of the 2008 Cultural Oympiad).[15]

2008: Release of second album Birds[edit]

A second North Sea Radio Orchestra album – Birds - was released on December 1, 2008 on Oof! Records (with the band performing a concert at St Martin in the Fields on November 18, 2008, in order to promote it). The album contained a version of previous EP lead track "The Flower" and another long-standing NSRO Tennyson setting, "Move Eastward Happy Earth", plus further settings of poems by Geoffrey Chaucer ("Now Welcom Somer") and William Blake ("The Angel", "A Poison Tree" and "Golden Cage").

Reviews of the album were generally positive. Isle Of Man Today described Birds as "effortlessly beautiful to listen to… NSRO manage to take you back centuries to an ancient form of music while retaining an eerie ability to remain thoroughly modern… Birds has a distinctly non-conformist sound but nevertheless achieves its aim with quiet, reserved gusto. NSRO aren't about to go on a media rampage shouting about how good they are; the whole project is far too middle-class for that. But by putting out Birds they are giving their audience a knowing wink. They realise they've created a fine piece of work and you can feel the confidence growing from track to track."[16]

Cambridgeshire Times called the album “an intriguing proposition (which) feels at times like it's just been unearthed from an archaeological dig alongside some ancient flagstones. Organ, violins, clarinet, bassoon and oboe feature heavily alongside acoustic guitar, drum, percussion and choral parts, conjuring up images of royal court musicians… (The album) straddles the less crowded end of 60s folk and revives traditional chamber music, managing to sound timeless and refreshing rather than hopelessly outdated. A calming record of quality musicianship and carefully woven melodies.” The review also praised Sharron Fortnam as being “a beguiling embodiment of a cut-glass English Rose singer, delicate, classical, strong and capable.”[17]

Reviewing Birds in issue 181, Mojo described the album as sounding like "Tortoise reworked by Howard Goodall" and suggested "there's charm and melody aplenty, but the churchier excursions suggest bourgeois smugness - Blake would not approve."[18] In the underground music press, the Name Someone That’s Not A Parasite music blog hailed the NSRO as "(the) band British Sea Power wish they could be! These guys are like a latter day Incredible String Band mess of uniquely Anglican eccentricity."[19] Describing the NSRO’s music as "kitchen-sink folk" Subba Cultcha commented that Birds was "something quite magical, but at times cringingly twee and fluffy, but in terms of artistic endeavour, it’s a tour-de-force in no uncertain terms. Part classical, part folk, part something entirely new, if you fancy dipping your toe in something a bit different, then this is a great rock pool to do it in."[20]

Organ lavishly praised the album, saying that “North Sea Radio Orchestra are blossoming in a rather fine way now with their inviting mix of delicate English prog and 20th century classical pastoral folk. Harmonically rich and fluid in a Henry Cow, Art Bears, Incredible String Band kind of way... A fine mix of delicate English folk and something that has evolved out of fine traditions of chamber music… Birds is an album pulling gently in two distinct ways. One direction; nice, simple, sitting in a sunny field, female-voiced acoustic folk, the other towards a rarer thing, this fusion of English medieval progressive classical, chamber orchestral music, via Vaughan Williams, Cardiacs, Vernon Elliott, Henry Cow. In the end, it all works as a melodic spirited integral classical whole. Always more than just decorating modern music with classical instrumentation, at its core a real orchestra, this is something that’s both timeless and enchantingly beautiful – a very fine, very enjoyable rather magical album.”[21]

2009-2010 - selective gigging, Arch Garrison, Vernon Elliott and Leader of the Starry Skies[edit]

Following the release of Birds, NSRO appearances and activity became rarer, partly due to Craig Fortnam's concentration on a smaller-scale project called Arch Garrison, the live lineup of which also featured Sharron Fortnam and James Larcombe. (The project's debut album was released on Double Six/Domino Records in February 2010.)

Despite this, North Sea Radio Orchestra performed several concerts in 2009. On May 29, they performed a free concert in Brixton Library, London, as part of Lambeth Readers and Writers Festival. On July 11, they performed at the 'Les Tombees de la Nuit' Festival in the Opera House in Rennes, Brittany. On October 22, they played at the Union Chapel, London, as part of the Marginalise Concert Series organised by the Arctic Circle label, performing the music of one of their leading influences, Vernon Elliot (arranged by Craig Fortnam and fellow composer Laura Rossi). The playlist featured music from the animated television series The Clangers, Ivor the Engine and Pogles Wood.

In December 2010, an NSRO cover version of the Cardiacs song "March" appeared on Leader Of The Starry Skies: A Tribute To Tim Smith, Songbook 1, a fundraising compilation album to benefit the hospitalised Cardiacs leader Tim Smith.

2011-present: third album I a Moon[edit]

The third North Sea Radio Orchestra album, I a Moon, was released on July 4, 2011. Craig Fortnam composed the music for the album during the winter of 2010/2011, and the album was recorded at various locations in southern England on his laptop computer.

Prior to release, the band announced a number of changes in approach. Firstly, the album would have a "darker, less pastoral sound" with new influences including Krautrock and experimental indie band Deerhoof (and with more emphasis on synthesizer and percussion than previously). Secondly, that there would be a move away from setting poetry in favour of setting self-written lyrics. The band also announced that 'I a Moon' would be released on their own new label, called The Household Mark, on July 4, 2011.[22][23]

The band also announced a series of live dates for summer 2011, including a repeat performance of the Vernon Elliot music at Kings Place, London, on June 10, further visits to the Quaker Meeting House in Brighton (July 10) and St Martin-in-the-Fields (July 15) and appearances accompanying indie-folk band Stornoway at the Eastleigh Festival (July 8) and at London's Somerset House (July 9).>

Some 'I a Moon' press reaction:

THE WIRE - North Sea Radio Orchestra I A Moon The Household Mark CD

Some have suggested that North Sea Radio Orchestra look at the world through sepia-tinted glasses; that their chamber combinations of woodwind, keyboards, strings and Sharron Fortnam’s pure-toned voice reek of old English parlours; that they are excessively nostalgic.The fundamentally forward-looking music of I A Moon refutes that facile argument. Fortnam might sing, “We are sitting in a row/Looking over England/Watch the evening go,” on “The Earth Beneath Our Feet”, but play the song next to something by Vaughan Williams or Benjamin Britten, and you can immediately hear where they part from their admitted influences.> The album’s real surprise is “Berliner Luft”. With its acoustic guitar strum and drum machine, it sounds like something off Harmonia’s Musik Von Harmonia, until it gains more substance through a series of agitated, almost Zappa-esque wind and tuned percussion themes. North Sea Radio Orchestra might share with Britten and Vaughan Williams a kind of haunted melancholy that has come to be seen as characteristically English, but their music couldn’t have come from any other century than the 21st.>

BBC Online Review

A very beautiful third album from the orchestral ensemble.> A small orchestral ensemble led by a married couple. As likely to play churches and public libraries as concert halls. Often lumped in with the overcrowded and increasingly irritating ‘nu folk’ scene. Compared to Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten, probably because they’re the only English classical composers we pop critics have heard of. Have made two previous albums which used poetry by the likes of Chaucer, Hardy and Tennyson instead of pop lyrics. Occasionally sound like the music Oliver Postgate used to backdrop Watch With Mother. They feature a bassoon. North Sea Radio Orchestra really should be smug, boring and irrelevant. So how do they make this stuff so exciting?> The third NSRO album sees Craig and Sharron Fortnam changing tack in subtle but significant ways. The old poets have been sidelined in favour of self-penned lyrics that neatly reflect their very English sense of melody and the female Fortnam’s light, sad, pretty, folkie-meets-chorister voice. The title-track, with its spooked electronic music box feel, provides the lines that define the mood: "I a moon orbiting myself / Sometimes gravity pull me close." The words throughout the album feel like the thoughts of someone so outside of the real world that they can hover above themselves, watching their own futile attempts to connect, like a child watching ants and pondering whether to drown them. This alienated, superior feel is contrasted by the sheer beauty of Craig Fortnam’s melodies, which have that knack of suddenly shifting to the one chord available that can make spines tingle and toes curl with pleasure. Meanwhile, the arrangements wear their classical and ancient folk influences so lightly that a track like Berliner Luft can find itself sounding like Neu! without need of drums nor electric guitars. The overall effect makes I a Moon feel like the world’s first baroque-Krautrock-folk-rock Kate Bush-electro-pop album. But more than all that, it is genuinely very beautiful.

Underground Heroes of Happiness

What a fantastic album this is, from Craig Fortnam and friends, with a strong core of English folk music and traces of (post) classical, medieval, electronica and even Krautrock in the supporting cast. Opener Morpheus miracle maker has great swooping strings and a vocal reminiscient of Kate Bush (Hounds of love era) from Sharron Fortnam (there’s even room for a Micheál Ó Súilleabháin style piano and glockenspiel trill). The title track is short, sweet, strange, driven by glockenspiel, laptop and harmonium and reminds me a bit of Montreal math poppers Oen Sujet. Heavy weather starts as a piano waltz sea-shanty but spreads its wings into string and oboe interludes and male-female counterpoint vocals, before a rousing, massed-band, chamber pop finish. Arguably the highpoint of the album, the instrumental Berliner luft carries off a motorik Neu groove on acoustic guitar alongside a bubbling Moog, with a memorable midsection stand-off between opposing string and reed choruses. It’s irresistible dance music, in the way that Michael Nyman’s Greenaway soundtracks are. The second half of the album has more of a pastoral feel to it, including the gorgeous medieval-style ballad The earth beneath our feet. The pulsing Moogs and frantic glockenspiels and guitars of Ring moonlets are another highlight. A work of restless genius, full of compelling, surprising and insanely catchy arrangements. This is pop music of the top drawer variety. Very beautiful.

Ensemble members[edit]

Current ensemble members[edit]

  • Craig Fortnam - composer, arranger, conductor, nylon-string acoustic guitar, piano, chamber organ, laptop computer, voice
  • Sharron Fortnam - solo voice
  • Dug Parker - solo voice, North Sea Chorus
  • Luke Albery - solo voice, North Sea Chorus acoustic guitar
  • James Larcombe - composer, chamber organ, piano, monosynth, North Sea Chorus
  • Ben Davies - piano, chamber organ, North Sea Chorus
  • Hugh Wilkinson - percussion
  • Jez Wiles - percussion
  • Harry Escott - cello
  • Brian Wright - violin
  • Sara Longe - violin
  • Luke Crookes - bassoon
  • Nicola Baigent - clarinet
  • Geraldine Peach - oboe, North Sea Chorus
  • William D. Drake - composer, piano, North Sea Chorus
  • Suzi Kirby - North Sea Chorus
  • Louise Harrison - North Sea Chorus
  • Gideon Miller - North Sea Chorus
  • Kavus Torabi - North Sea Chorus
  • Melanie Woods - North Sea Chorus

Previous ensemble members[edit]

  • Nick Hayes - clarinet
  • Nick Homes - clarinet
  • Richard Larcombe - solo voice, acoustic guitar
  • Marit Lyngra - violin
  • Dan Hewson - trombone
  • Katja Mervola - viola
  • Jen Underhill - violin

Musical connections[edit]

  • Craig Fortnam has recently founded a new "solo" project called Arch Garrison. The debut album was released on Double Six/Domino Records in February 2010. The live line-up features James Larcombe from NSRO.
  • William D. Drake is a former member of Cardiacs, Nervous and Wood and maintains a solo career as both songwriter and underground classical pianist
  • Craig and Sharron Fortnam occasionally play acoustic alternative pop with William D. Drake under the name of The fFortingtons
  • Harry Escott is a composer who has had pieces commissioned by Westminster Cathedral Choir, The Fitzwilliam String Quartet and The Chamber Ensemble of London, in addition to his work in film, TV and theatre. In collaboration with Molly Nyman, he has composed music for (among others) Hard Candy, Channel 4’s Poppy Shakespeare and Michael Winterbottom’s A Mighty Heart and Road To Guantanamo. His film music is performed by his own group The Samphire Band in which Craig Fortnam plays guitar.
  • Richard and James Larcombe work together as Stars In Battledress and are frequent collaborators with William D. Drake. Richard has also worked as Defeat The Young and is the former frontman of Magnilda.
  • Kavus Torabi is the leader of Knifeworld (which also features Craig Fortnam as bass player). He is a former member of The Monsoon Bassoon and the current guitarist for both Cardiacs and Guapo; he has also worked with Spider Stacy (The Pogues), Chrome Hoof and Mediaeval Baebes.
  • Melanie Woods is a member of Sidi Bou Said and also sings in Knifeworld.
  • Luke Albery is also the frontman of the rock band Footsteps And Voices.
  • Luke Crookes works with the Philharmonia Orchestra (London) and has recorded for Olympia Records: he is also a music educator and animator.
  • Sara Longe is also a member of the Ebony Ensemble.
  • Brian Wright is a member of Instrumental, a string sextet who perform extensively at contemporary music festivals in Europe, covering the music of electronic acts such as Orbital, Brian Eno, and Moby.
  • Sara Longe, Suzy Kirby, Harry Escott, Ben Davies and Sharron Fortnam have all worked with Wildhearts songwriter Ginger (on the Yoni album).

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Singles and EPs[edit]

  • “North Sea Radio Orchestra” (2003, private release)
  • “The Flower” (2005, Oof! Records)
  • “The End Of Chimes” (2007, Oof! Records)

Compilation Appearances[edit]

  • Folk Off: New Folk and Psychedelia from the British Isles and North America (2006, Sunday Best Recordings - NSRO contributes “Guitar Miniature”)
  • The Arctic Circle Presents: That Fuzzy Feeling (2007, Arctic Circle Records - NSRO contributes “O Come O Come Emanuel”)
  • The Leader of the Starry Skies - A Tribute to Tim Smith (2011 - Believer's Roast - NSRO contributes 'March')

References[edit]

  1. ^ Band biography on Oof! Records homepage, retrieved September 20, 2008
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Interview: North Sea Radio Orchestra" (interview with Craig Fortnam by Ben Graham), The Stool Pigeon, June 22, 2011
  3. ^ Feature on NSRO in The Octagonal blog
  4. ^ Guardian review of NSRO at Bush Hall, 2004 by John L. Walters, retrieved October 20, 2008
  5. ^ Daily Telegraph live review of NSRO by Ben Thompson as archived on Oof! Records news page, retrieved October 20, 2008
  6. ^ Bubblejam review of NSRO live at the Spitz by “Mullah”, retrieved October 20, 2008
  7. ^ Playlouder.com review of NSRO debut album, retrieved October 20, 2008
  8. ^ Reviews compiled and saved on Oof! Records NSRO page
  9. ^ Boomkat review of NSRO debut album, retrieved October 20, 2008
  10. ^ Drowned In Sound review of The End Of Chimes, retrieved October 20, 2008
  11. ^ SoundsXP review of “End of Chimes” by Paul M, retrieved October 20, 2008
  12. ^ Graham, Ben. "North Sea Radio Orchestra marooned in the wrong era". The Stool Pigeon. Retrieved October 20, 2008. 
  13. ^ “HUGS AND KISSES: Neo-classical nightmares and the wonder of contexts” - Everett True blog review reprinted in Village Voice, retrieved September 20, 2008
  14. ^ Crayola Lectern blog review of Brighton concert, March 16, 2008, retrieved October 24, 2008
  15. ^ Open Weekend homepage
  16. ^ Isle Of Man Today review of Birds, retrieved November 19, 2008
  17. ^ Cambridgeshire Times review of Birds, retrieved November 19, 2008
  18. ^ Review of NSRO album Birds in Mojo #181, written by David Sheppard, retrieved October 24, 2008
  19. ^ Name Someone That’s Not A Parasite music blog review of Birds, retrieved November 19, 2008
  20. ^ Subba Cultcha review of Birds, retrieved November 19, 2008
  21. ^ Organ magazine review of Birds, retrieved November 19, 2008
  22. ^ "Press release for ''I a Moon' at Shellshock". Shellshock.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 
  23. ^ "release for ''I a Moon' at Rough Trade Shops". Roughtrade.com. Retrieved 2012-07-09. 

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