With One Accord (2009)

Duration 6’
For keyboard harpsichord and pre-recorded track
Choreographed by Sara Matthews
Design: Verity Cleary
First performed as part of the 2009 Ballet Central National tour at the Kenneth More Theatre, Ilford

Instead of her usual piece for the entire graduating year where the dancers fly in and out in ever increasing excitement, for the graduating year of 2009, Sara Matthews chose to choreograph a shorter work for four dancers. Even so, it is still an impulse-driven choreography, with the dancers appearing purposefully from out of the shadows, embarking on a vigorous piece with little let up.

Just like the dance, the music is also motoric and driven, signalled by the relentless pulsing of a multi-tracked digital harpsichord right from the start, in what amounts to a heady reconstructed Baroque toccata. It is built on the precarious scaffolding of multiple uneven phrases (the opening phrase is an!). Apart from a prolonged build-up over a dominant pedal which is in good old solid eights, this metric instability continues inexorably to the end, which, when it comes is the big round D minor chord that each phrase has been leading up to.

In performance, it is like a music-minus-one set up, the live harpsichord being one of a rock ensemble of harpsichords. However, the mixing was to prove quite difficult, since the touring Clavinova keyboard sound was a different timbre to that on the track; this meant that the live harpsichord part needed to be kept in a supporting role so that it might blend in more easily.

The music for With One Accord had a further incarnation when dancer and choreographers, Jessica Wright and Morgann Runacre-Temple, made good use of some of it, together with some new harpsichord music by Philip Feeney, for their brilliant surreal dance film, Mishandled (2010).