Gigs rarely get as atmospheric as those at night at Union Chapel. The candles, the coloured light projected on to the surrounding architecture, the overhead heaters in winter, the general sense of awe that gigs can take place in such a special venue. Yet, there’s also another equally striking way to experience music inside the grade I-listed, 19th century church, namely Daylight Music.
Daylight Music is a series of shows that take place between 12:00-14:00 on Saturdays throughout the year. Each event features three acts playing short sets and over the ten years that it has been running it has attracted its fair share of big names and new up and coming artists. There’s something equally special about experiencing live music during the day at Union Chapel – the light coming through the stained-glass windows arguably allows greater appreciation of the history and detail of the building and there’s a relaxed feel running through the event that doesn’t quite exist in evening shows. The earlier time also allows for a more varied demographic (families and children are welcomed).
Today saw Daylight Music’s autumn season get underway with a typically varied trio of artists. First up was Danish sound artist Ingrid Plum. She started with a strongly projected a capella song but soon moved into more interesting sonic territory with the use of bowls, bells and cymbals. The sound of her voice and breath was sampled and looped and gradually background textures became more prominent. He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven used lines from the poem of partially the same name by W.B. Yeats. At times it was like listening to traditional folk music sitting alongside music from the experimental label Touch (her credentials were further boosted by the revelation that her music has been played on BBC Radio 3’s highly regarded Late Junction programme). Her attempt at sacred harp singing may not have quite gone to plan but she had already made a strong impression by that stage.
Next up were London-based duo Far Rainbow. Their set saw crackling electronics, birdsong and percussion from a traditional drumkit incorporated into one dark, ominous drone. It may have been the most challenging set of the afternoon but the longer they played the more it was possible to hear the sound of distant sandstorms and geological phenomena within their music. Daylight Music tries to squeeze as much music as possible into its two hours, to the extent that there’s usually someone playing in between acts and today that was Peter Scott who made excellent use of the Union Chapel organ (his truncated version of Perpetuum Mobile by Penguin Café Orchestra in particular was a highlight).
The last band to appear on stage were The Memory Band. They’ve alternated between instrumental and song-based music over the course of their seventeen year existence but today they focused on the latter, presenting a set of songs built around delicate guitar lines and harmonised vocals. The Trees They Do Grow High, originally a Scottish 18th century standard, is given a contemporary makeover and they play covers of Sandy Denny‘s By The Time It Gets Dark and Gently Johnny from The Wicker Man soundtrack (the band have performed it in full in the past). In short, they’re a very good live band and ensure the first Daylight Music show of autumn finishes on a high note.
The rest of the Daylight Music season contains some ambitious, experimental and wide-ranging shows. Next Saturday sees Kathryn Williams curate a show featuring artists she’s admired over the years and October sees the likes of Matthew Bourne, Keith Tippett and Janek Schaffer make appearances. Looking further ahead there are events curated by respected labels (Sonic Pieces and Lost Map), a celebration of the music of late Japanese composer Susumu Yokota, a show focusing on new Welsh music and an event as part of the London Jazz festival. Entry is on a pay what you can basis and more information is available here.