Wednesday, April 6, 2022 - 20:00
222 High Street, Abertawe SA1 1N
NAWR and Tangled Parrot present Elaine Mitchener / Maggie Nicols / Syd Howells presents Radio Free Ponty
Elaine Mitchener is a contemporary vocalist, movement artist and composer working between the worlds of contemporary new music, experimental jazz / free improvisation and visual art. She is founder of collective electroacoustic trio The Rolling Calf (with Jason Yarde and Neil Charles). Recent recordings includes Some Good News a live album at London’s Café Oto, with Hamid Drake, William Parker, Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas (OTOROKU label), and a special radio commission the party’s over for Sons d’Hiver (Paris). Mitchener is one of 50 selected exhibiting artists featured in the British Art Show 9 touring exhibition 21/22, a Wigmore Hall Associate Artist (2021-26) and in 2022 a DAAD Artist Fellow. Forthcoming performances include ‘Triptychus’ a new work commissioned by Sons d’Hiver festival featuring Pat Thomas and Reece Ewing (12 Feb 2022); 8 March 2022, Womens Work, a concert to mark International Women’s Day and inspired by Annea Lockwood/Alison Knowles’ magazine of the same name; The Blue Woman by Laura Bowler directed by Katie Mitchell for Royal Opera House Linbury Studio (July 2022).
Artists she has performed and collaborated with recently include Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother), George E. Lewis, Christian Marclay, The Otolith Group, Tansy Davies, Black Top, Hamid Drake, Ensemble Klang, Laure M. Hiendl, Van Huynh Company, Sonia Boyce, Apartment House, David Toop, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Manufaktur für aktuelle Musik (MAM), William Parker.
Born February 24, 1948, in Edinburgh, Scotland, vocalist Maggie Nicols (or Nichols as her name was written in former days) has worked on almost every kind of project. At the age of 15, she left school and started to work as a dancer at the Windmill Theatre. Her first singing engagement was in a strip club in Manchester at the age of 16. About that time she became obsessed with Jazz and started singing with revolutionary bebop pianist Dennis Rose.
From then on she sang jazz standards and originals in pubs, clubs, hotels and in dance bands with some of the finest jazz musicians around. In the midst of all this she worked abroad for a year in 1966; as a dancer and hostess in Greece and Iran with the Jon Lei Dancers followed by a six month engagement as a dancer at the Moulin Rouge in Paris. In 1968, she joined John Stevens’ Spontaneous Music Ensemble with Trevor Watts, later joined by Johnny Dyani and Carolanne Nicholls (no relation), and the group performed that year at Berlin’s 1st improvised music festival, Total Music Meeting with guest musician Johnny Mclaughlin. In the early 70s she began running voice workshops at the Oval House Theatre (one of the most important centres for pioneer fringe theatre groups). She both acted in some of the productions and rehearsed regularly with a local rock band, Octuin. Shortly after she became part of Keith Tippett’s magnificent fifty piece band “Centipede” which included Julie Tippetts, Zoot Money, Phil Minton, Robert Wyatt, Dudu Pukwana and Alan Skidmore. Julie, Phil and Maggie got together with Brian Ely and formed the vocal group ‘Voice’. Around this time, Nicols also began collaborating with the Scottish percussionist Ken Hyder, (who had recently moved to London) and joined his band ‘Talisker’. By the late ’70s, Maggie became an active feminist and co-founded the group OVA. Not long after, she started the Feminist Improvising Group, with Lindsay Cooper. She also organized Contradictions, a women’s workshop performance group that began in 1980 and dealt with improvisation and other modes of performance in a variety of mediums including music and dance. Over the years, Maggie has collaborated with other women’s groups such as the Changing Women Theatre Group and even co-wrote music for a prime-time television series Women in Sport.
Maggie has also collaborated regularly over the years with pianist Irene Schweizer and formidable bassist Joelle Leandre, including tours and three recordings as the trio Les Diaboliques. In addition to this is her ongoing collaboration with Ken Hyder. The duo incorporates elements of the traditional tunes of their shared Scottish background into jazz improvisations in their most recent project, Hoots and Roots Duo. Other projects for Nicols have included a duo with pianist Pete Nu, a singing duo with her daughter Aura Marina, a trio with Caroline Kraabel and Charlotte Hug, a duo with pianist Steve Lodder (“The Maggie Nicols Songbook”) as well as Light and Shade, a project with lighting designer Sue Neal. Furthermore, she has been involved with many other groups, such as the acapella group Inspiration (formerly Brixton Youth), Trevor Watts’ Moire Music, Very Varied, The Lewis Riley Quartet, No Rules OK, Pulse, Gush and Al Dente with Lindsay Cooper, Elvira Plenar and Michelle Buirette
Maggie Nicols has performed internationally for several decades, for instance at the Zürich and the Frankfurt “Canaille” festivals and Moers, Grenoble, Mulhouse, Vancouver and Victoriaville Festivals. She has also given solo performances at the Moers Music Festival, the Cologne Triennale, and a number of other creative and improvised music festivals. She has worked with a great many improvisers from all over the world including drummer Günter “Baby” Sommer, British musicians, soprano saxophonist Lol Coxhill, guitarist John Russell, Dutch trombonist and violinist Annemarie Roelofs, the Australian Relative Band (with Jim Denley), tuba player Pinguin Moschner, and prolific songwriting bands Loverly and Cats Cradle.
Vocalist Maggie Nicols has been an active participant in the European improvisational community since joining the Spontaneous Music Ensemble in the late ’60s. As a co-founder of the Feminist Improvising Group, she has also worked to further women in improvised music, dancing and other creative arts not only by example but through workshops and extensive collaborating.
Syd Howells is a ‘musician/vocalist’ from Swansea. Sometimes he is a photographer, sometimes he is an artist. Much of the time he spends writing and procrastinating. He has played with Steveless/Syd Howells, Photographed by Lightning, My-Ra Superstar, The Disasters and lots of other noisy bands. At present it is possible he may be involved with Agronauts. Last year he released a pandemic pop album (as was dictated by planet wide bylaws) entitled Mr Daniel Pemic. He has trust issues with much of human life. Radio Free Ponty is an ongoing series of thankfully short broadcasts from an imaginary radio station in the Swansea Valley.
Photos by Johan Butenschøn Skre