PJ Harvey set for Byre Theatre

PJ Harvey - playing gig at Byre Theatre Nov 2015 (Pic: Juan Bendana)
PJ Harvey - playing gig at Byre Theatre Nov 2015 (Pic: Juan Bendana)

The Byre Theatre is set to launch a new ‘in conversation’ series of events - starting with the critically acclaimed PJ Harvey.

She will join Irish poet Paul Muldoon on stage on November 4.

She is arguably one of the biggest names in music ever to grace the stage at the Byre - Harvey has released eight albums, gained six Grammy nominations, and is the only artist to have been awarded the Mercury Prize twice.

The unique collaboration with Muldoon will see both artists perform a short solo set before chatting about their work.

The series, called Soundings, will run until April and aims to pair internationally-renowned figures from the worlds of music and literature that are ‘spiritually or creatively influenced by one another’.

Its the brainchild of Reif Larsen, the university’s new international writer in residence, and Don Paterson, professor of English.

Mr Larsen said, “I approach other disciplines with a great degree of awe and a bit of suspicion. I sometimes get tired of the same little loops of conversation that can happen when you bring two artists of the same discipline together - but when you pair two people from different disciplines together, suddenly anything can happen.

‘‘We’re hoping to capture a little lightening in a bottle with these events.”

Not all of the Soundings’ pairings - three events are planned between November and April - will be expected or known to one another.

Mr Larsen explained, “I love the interplay between the written word and music. I wanted to pair people who weren’t necessarily friends but each have admiration for the other’s work.

“Writers aren’t necessarily used to talking to musicians and vice versa, so this slight discomfort can become a real path to discovery. The best conversations are the ones that develop organically on the stage in front of the audience’s eyes. We’re expecting the unexpected.”

Bringing PJ Harvey for the opening event is a huge coup for the organisers.

She has released eight critically acclaimed albums, been nominated for six Grammy Awards and is the only artist to have been awarded the UK’s prestigious Mercury Prize twice.

In 2013, she was awarded an MBE for services to music. The Hollow of the Hand, her first published collection of poetry, was edited with Don Paterson.

Paul Muldoon is a professor of poetry, editor, critic, and translator. He has published over 30 collections of poetry; his work has been the recipient of the TS Eliot Prize, the International Griffin Prize, the Shakespeare Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

The Irish-born poet, an honorary graduate of the University of St Andrews, has been described as ‘quite simply one of the most influential poets of the age’.

Music has always played a huge role in his life - he has collaborated with the composer Daron Hagen on several operas, has had a song recorded by Bruce Springsteen, and is lyricist and guitarist with the Princeton band, Wayside Shrines.

It is hoped that, as the series continues to develop, the programme will grow to include masterclasses in writing and music by Soundings’ performers, and one-off student performances of their work.

Mr Larsen added, “Since arriving in St Andrews last year I’ve seen it as my mission to encourage the growth of contemporary, even avant-garde culture in this town, which often prides itself on its ancient history. I’d like Fife to become synonymous with artistic experimentation, and for St Andrews to be seen as retreat for contemporary writers and musicians to work on new forms and to present cutting-edge material.”

>> Tickets for Soundings: PJ Harvey and Paul Muldoon at the Byre Theatre, Wednesday 4 November, 7pm, are available from the Byre box office in person, by calling 01334 475000 or online at http://byretheatre.com/events/soundings-pj-harvey-paul-muldoon/. Tickets are priced £20 (£5 students, U25s).