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INTERVIEW: Hannah Peel Talks Kings Place Residency
Patrick Clarke , February 6th, 2023 11:54

As she prepares the live debut of her acclaimed 2021 album 'Fir Wave', Hannah Peel tells tQ about her plans for the performance, and her role as Artist In Residence for Kings Place's Sound Unwrapped programme

Photo by Pål Hansen

On February 17, Hannah Peel will give her Mercury-nominated 2021 album Fir Wave its long-awaited live debut at Kings Place in London, as part of her role as an Artist In Residence for the venue's Sound Unwrapped programme, a yearlong series of shows exploring spatial dimensions in live performance and the creativity of sound artists.

The Fir Wave show will mark the first of a number of dates from Peel at the venue this year, with another, on June 16, set to see her play a completely improvised set with virtuoso percussionist Beibei Wang.

The Sound Unwrapped series will also take in shows across this year from the likes of Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Félicia Atkinson & Chris Watson, Valentina Magaletti, Laura Cannell, and many more. The season is taking place in partnership with d&b audiotechnik, whose 'soundscape' audio setup makes use of 28 loudspeakers allowing for 360-degree live surround sound.

To find out more about Peel's shows, her role with Sound Unwrapped, and what else 2023 has in store, tQ caught up with the acclaimed musician over email.

It's been almost two years since Fir Wave's release. How does it feel to finally bring it to the stage?

Hannah Peel: It's exciting and surreal! I never thought this album would ever be played live. In some sense, I had such freedom when writing it – not trying to imagine what the live set-up would be – it was a freeing experience compared to my previous albums. One I would like to repeat.

What can we expect from the performance? How will it compare to the experience of Fir Wave on record?

HP: There are tracks on the album that make you want to dance and others, full of space – at times even restrained. It was written much like a listening journey. Some friends have said this created an intimate listening space and allowed for their own personal response which I love, so I want to keep that atmosphere live too. The brilliant synthesist Hazel Mills will be joining me live on stage. We will have two setups for our synths and vocals. Plus some room on stage to make use of the Kings Place acoustic properties with my violin and grand piano.

Photo by Jody Hartley

Tell us more about how it will take advantage of Kings Place itself?

HP: That beautifully designed hall, with the warmth of the wood and height too – it leaves a lot of room for us to play with the sound design and to light the room in a way that acts in harmony with the tracks.

Can you tell us more about what your role as Artist In Residence involves?

HP: I'm so thrilled to be part of the Sound Unwrapped series. I've been given the chance to programme events I may have never got an opportunity to do, plus talking with Kings Place about artists I'm inspired by and who I would love to see programmed has been a lot of fun. Alongside my own three events, they've booked a lineup for the year that I think is incredibly inspiring, including Midori Takada, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith... so many I admire. I've always just strived to make music that communicates to others using combinations of electronic and acoustic instruments - what an honour to be part of this year.

What else does 2023 have in store ?

HP: I'm just about to start composing the music for an Irish play at the National Theatre in London, Brian Friel's Dancing At Lughnasa (showing April and May). Not only are the cast and crew really exciting to work with, but I have many childhood connections with the play and where it's set.

I'm back to Kings Place on June 16 for a one-off night of sound improvisation with Beibei Wang, the virtuosic classical and Chinese instrumentalist. Improvising live for an entire show is completely new for me, so I'm hoping to embrace that fear of the unknown. Hopefully there might be a few film soundtracks out too, but let's see how the year flows.

Hannah Peel will perform Fir Wave live twice at Kings Place on February 17, 2023. The 7pm performance has sold out, and limited tickets remain for the 9pm show.