Liquid Music Series Presents James McVinnie And Darkstar: Collapse

Article Pixel

Liquid Music Series Presents James McVinnie And Darkstar: Collapse

On Saturday, May 4, 2019 at 8:00pm, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series presents James McVinnie and Darkstar at Northrop, University of MN, Minneapolis.

One of the world's most sought-after organists, James McVinnie's boundless approach to music has led him to collaborations with a wide variety of artists across musical genres such as Nico Muhly, Squarepusher, Shara Nova (My Brightest Diamond) and Oneohtrix Point Never. McVinnie will be joined by London based electronics duo Darkstar for a full evening of new music for electronics and organ performed on Northrop's spectacular refurbished Aeolian-Skinner organ. McVinnie and Darkstar will explore how synthesis techniques from electronic music can be applied to the organ, using functionality, subtlety, automation and performance to create an unheard and truly immersive sonic experience that evolves through Darkstar's electronic alchemy and McVinnie's rare versatility on the organ.

"We've developed a sound using my voice through a harmonizer and short delay pedals and have created a series of loops and sections that act as the base of the composition," says Aiden Whalley of Darkstar in a statement on their collaboration with James McVinnie. "The organ elements are therefore built around these ideas. Our work with James McVinnie has brought a collaborative approach to the composition, constantly evolving after trying out new things. Hearing the music on the organ has been illuminating. Often during our collaboration with McVinnie, we would have an idea and then ask him to interpret it further through performance - this has led to the piece taking another perspective, one that is more dynamic."

James Young, the other half of the Darkstar duo, added: "The initial sketches and understanding of this composition led to us discuss the structure and movement of the music. Beginning with pulsing, often simple rhythmic parts that develop into complex counter melodies and then break down again, the word Collapse kept coming up. We think this is a fitting title."

"This will be Liquid Music's first organ concert and we couldn't be more excited to show off Northrop's newly restored historic Aeolian-Skinner Opus 892 with a world premiere," says Liquid Music Curator Kate Nordstrum. "We are introducing the great organist James McVinnie and electronics duo Darkstar (both UK-based) to the Twin Cities, in a full evening of collaboratively-composed new work commissioned by Liquid Music. We invite students and children to attend for free, thanks to the SPCO's New Generation Initiative, and we hope that many from the U of MN campus and beyond will take full advantage! Organ music is for everyone."

Tickets: $30 ($25 Liquid Music subscribers, FREE for children and students) | 612.624.2345 | in person at the Northrop box office

The University of Minnesota is not endorsing or sponsoring the activities conducted by The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra on the University of Minnesota campus. The relationship between the University of Minnesota and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is solely that of licensor and licensee.


Organist James McVinnie's boundless approach to music has led him to collaborations with some of the world's leading composers, producers and performers such as artist Martin Creed, Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire, Shara Nova, David Chalmin, Hildur Guðnadóttir, Sarah Davachi, David Lang and Bryce Dessner. McVinnie is a member of Icelandic record label Bedroom Community. Cycles, his debut recording of music written for him by Nico Muhly, was released on this label in 2013 to widespread critical acclaim. An album of music by Philip Glass, The Grid, was released on Orange Mountain Music in 2018. This season's highlights include the first performances of Philip Glass's Symphony 12, Lodger, with Angekique Kidjo and the Los Angeles Philharmonic under John Adams, and with the London Contemporary Orchestra at Southbank Centre, a Messiaen recital in Lieu Unique Festival, performances of Nico Muhly's organ concerto with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the release of an album of music written for McVinnie by Tom Jenkinson of Squarepusher on Warp Records. James McVinnie was Assistant Organist of Westminster Abbey between 2008 and 2011. Prior to this appointment, he held similar positions at St. Paul's Cathedral, St. Albans Cathedral and Clare College, Cambridge. He made his debut at London's Royal Festival Hall in March 2014, giving one of the six reopening recitals on the refurbished iconic 1954 Harrison & Harrison organ. He made his solo debut in the Salzburg Festival at age 26 performing with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra under Ivor Bolton.


Since their early dancefloor 12-inches on Hyperdub (2008) and through two vocal-led albums North (2010) and News From Nowhere (2013), Darkstar have been an influential force in the UK's electronic scene since their beginnings in 2008. They released their third album Foam Island to critical acclaim in 2015. It was hugely ambitious, buzzing with the energy and excitement of all the possibilities currently inherent in electronic music. Yet it was also one that was shaped by the prevailing social and political climate at that point in time. The band undertook a three-month project of documenting this by talking to and interviewing local young people in Huddersfield, in the North of England. The lyrics and the sound palette for Foam Island were shaped by the people and emotions they encountered there, and - alongside photography included in the album's physical release - the band's recordings of interviewees' speech were compellingly woven into the tracks. In 2017 Darkstar worked with Director Cieron Magat to create a film and live score entitled SAFE, which was commissioned for Berlin's Pop Kultur Festival. Dance Unity, a piece commissioned by PRS, was performed to a capacity Royal Festival Hall alongside the famed organist James McVinnie. This collaboration with James McVinnie has since continued and saw Darkstar compose a new work for Organ Reframed festival which they performed with James McVinnie and London Contemporary Orchestra in 2018 at Union Chapel.


The historic Northrop organ, an Aeolian-Skinner Opus 892, was built between 1932 and 1936, and is one of the last remaining concert-hall pipe organs in the United States. With its nearly 7,000 pipes, the Northrop organ is approximately 40 feet tall and occupies an area the size of the Northrop stage. The largest of the organ's pipes is 32 feet tall, while the smallest is the size of a pencil. The public face of the organ is the console, the playable part of the instrument that rises on a platform from the orchestra pit with four keyboards and about 225 stops, pedals and buttons. The Northrop organ is the third-largest auditorium-based Aeolian-Skinner extant in the U.S. and is one of the finest examples of a late-Romantic-era instrument. It was awarded the prestigious "Exceptional Historic Merit" citation by the Organ Historical Society in 1999, and organ scholars attest to the Aeolian Skinner's historic value as a completely unaltered and intact example of the organ builder's skill. The Friends of the Northrop Organ committee continues to meet on a regular basis to promote the historic instrument, support student and faculty recitals, and plan programming for future seasons to spotlight the restored pipe organ.


Rooted in the belief that the arts are essential to the human experience, Northrop is committed to cultivating intersections between performing arts and education for the benefit of all participants now and for generations to come. Northrop presents world-class dance and music performances, speakers, films, exhibits, and more.

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's Liquid Music Series, named "Best of Classical" by The New York Times, develops innovative new projects with iconoclastic artists in unique presentation formats. Liquid Music performances invite adventurous audiences to discover the new and the fascinating within the flourishing landscape of contemporary chamber music. Visit to learn more.

Renowned for its artistic excellence, remarkable versatility of musical styles and adventurous programming, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra is widely regarded as one of the finest chamber orchestras in the world. Now in its 60th season, the SPCO has recently undergone transformational change with the opening of its new home, the Ordway Concert Hall, the addition of a new generation of players, and significant changes in its artistic vision. The SPCO is primarily an unconducted ensemble that performs a broad range of repertoire from Baroque to new music and works in close collaboration with a diverse series of artistic partners. The virtuoso musicians of the SPCO present more than 130 concerts and educational programs each year, and are regularly heard on public radio programs that reach more than 2 million listeners each week on over 300 stations. The orchestra also reaches more than 250,000 listeners annually through its free online Concert Library, and has recently begun offering both live and on-demand videos of concerts that can be viewed anytime, anywhere, on any device, completely free of charge. Additionally, the SPCO has released 67 recordings, including the 2017 Grammy Award-winning recording of Schubert's Death and the Maiden with violinist and Artistic Partner Patricia Kopatchinskaja. The SPCO is nationally recognized for its commitment to broad community accessibility, its innovative audience outreach efforts, its pioneering Liquid Music Series and its educational and family programming. The SPCO offers the most affordable tickets of any major orchestra in the United States, with over 50 percent of tickets available for $15 or less, and has expanded accessibility even further by offering free tickets for children and students starting in the 2016.17 season as a part of the New Generation Initiative. For more information, visit

Related Articles View More Minneapolis / St. Paul Stories   Shows

More Hot Stories For You