Cornelius Cardew’s Great Learning in Leytonstone Woolies

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This was an incredible event that I feel privileged to have attended. The avant-garde-cum-Moaist-folk-revivalist composer Cornelius Cardew lived and died in this neck of the woods and at last year’s Leytonstone Festival there was a fitting tribute to this geographical association as members of his Scratch Orchestra re-united for a performance at the old Green Man pub.
But this event took the Cardew link to another level I felt (with Luke Fowler’s brilliant Cardew film so recently installed in the Serpentine Gallery) – being as it was a 10 hour long participatory performance that took in several local locations including the Green Man Roundabout. I coaxed my 6-year old along to part of the performance in St.John’s Church where he sat in awed (or shocked/ bemused) silence for 15 minutes as James Bull skillfully played a metre of plastic ducting and led a series of synchronicised sniggers. There was also some artful clarinet and tuneful singing throughout.
The Woolies paragraphs (see below for Cardew’s score that was used) took on a rather more ethereal vibe in this vast cream empty consumer tomb – the sounds all vocal and measured pacings marking the aisles where I have variously purchased Power Rangers, a teapot, gel ink pens (pack of 5) and a pear tree.
The Leytonstone Avant-Garde is alive and well it seems – in Woolies at 9pm on a Saturday.