London Music Events / Listenpony
“Often when we’ve booked a particular ensemble or performer, we’ll think we’d really love to hear a new piece for that instrumentation by that particular composer.”
Once upon a time, music was a lot harder to come by. Apart from church and travelling minstrels, the only way to share a new composition was to attend a concert or perform it yourself. New music wasn’t easy to find. Then along came sheet music, shellac, vinyl, radio and… err… MTV. Nowadays, music is just a couple of clicks away – from Monteverdi to Philip Glass you can stream almost anything – so where do you start? Rather than music magazines or radio DJs, these days most of us are getting our new music recommendations through platforms like Bandcamp, Spotify and Soundcloud. This is a seismic shift that is creating new audiences and genres for both recorded and live music. Listening suggestions based on algorithms can come up with the goods, but still, nothing beats what digital culture gurus call ‘trusted filters’ – people or organisations that love music – curating and promoting work that speaks to them. So it’s great to discover an organisation like Listenpony which, through its events and record label, is fast becoming a trusted filter for lovers of new and classic music and musicians
London-based Listenpony is a great example of what can be done when artists think outside the (horse)box. Three music graduates – Freya Waley-Cohen, Josephine Stephenson and William Marsey decided to set up Listenpony after they all moved to the capital in 2012. Initially, says William, the plan was to create “A place to put on our music and the music of our friends at an event they would enjoy regardless of whether or not they were new music fanatics.”
Free from the constraints of traditional A&R and record label marketing departments, the Listenpony team curate, commission and promote a diverse series of concerts in a range of beautiful and unique venues across London, including Clerkenwell’s Crypt on the Green and The Playground Theatre in Latimer Road. Each of these concerts features a different combination of instruments and/or voices, performing a mixture of new and traditional works (up to seven new pieces per event), as well as classical composers such as Bach or Bartók. You can find these concerts online, plus some of them have been released as a series of EPs. Recordings include a performance by star recorder player Tabea Debus, the accordion and cellist chamber music of Duo Bayanello and the all-saxophone Laefer Quartet
When commissioning their events, Listenpony often ask composers to send in their works through open calls, “to get an idea of what’s out there beyond the composers we’ve met, heard about through friends, found online, etc”. To avoid a London-centric bias they’ve also hosted international open calls, European calls and calls focussing on different areas in the UK.
Listenpony’s commissioning style is specific to the needs of their concert series. The composer is integral. Says William, “Our concerts are informal and intimate, and the composer’s presence is part of that, so if we can’t afford to ensure the composer’s presence, that can become a deciding factor. Often when we’ve booked a particular ensemble or performer, we’ll think ‘we’d really love to hear a new piece for that instrumentation by that particular composer. For instance, when we booked Joseph Havlat to perform on small keyboards (harmonium, celeste, kalimba) at our recent event we knew we’d love to hear a piece by composer Joseph Howard for those instruments…”
There’s a lot to keep on top of with a project like Listenpony – events and record labels don’t run themselves. The three friends all share the load (“We all do a little bit of everything really… it’s very collaborative” says William), but they’ve recently welcomed a new member to the team, Helen Daniels, as they are all getting busier with their own composition work. Here at mushRoom, we can’t wait to see what’s coming next from the Listenpony stable. The 2020 concerts run will be announced soon, as well as a new EP. Keep an ear out…