Hearing HIV – Turner Sims – 16.03.2019

WUE perform The Virus Within @ Southampton Science and Engineering Festival 

Workers Union Ensemble are delighted to give two performances of The Virus Within: Hearing HIV (2017-2018), the outcome of a collaboration between British Composer Award 2017 nominated composer/conductor Benjamin Oliver (University of Southampton) and leading virologist Dr Chad Swanson (King’s College London). This ‘top science/music mash-up’ and ‘structurally chaotic masterpiece’ explores HIV replication processed and how innovative ‘Shock and Kill’ treatments might provide a cure for HIV. Expect disjointed grooves, whistles and duck calls, complex systematic musical processes developed from biological principles, whimsical chords, sirens, gnarly electronics and bags of science!

Five Quick Questions with Helen Papaioannou

Helen has recently completed her score Backscatter for the Workers Union Ensemble. We are really looking forward to rehearsing and performing the work in April at Playlist on Tuesday, 11 April, 2017 and Nonclassical on Wednesday, 12 April, 2017.

Ahead of these performances, we asked Helen to answer five quick-fire questions…

1- Tell us briefly what we can expect from your new piece for Workers Union Ensemble?

Backscatter is a sort of mottling of sounds and notes which are bounced, echoed or split between individual players or subgroups. This hangs around short lines and motifs that churn into mechanistic loops, exploring different colours and textures within the ensemble.

2- How does your new piece for Workers Union compare to your previous works?

As in many of my recent works, particularly Splinter (2016), the piece is built around hocketing. My fascination with hocketing lies partly in the interpersonal thrill & playfulness of coordinating patterns between two or more people. In recent pieces of mine this interleaves with an exploration of cueing and game strategies.

Backscatter retains this quality, but doesn’t use cueing systems. It’s a little less frenzied than my recent music (although it still has its moments!). My interest was drawn to weaving and hocketing motifs and lines through the group, particularly because of the wonderful colours and textures afforded by Workers Union Ensemble’s unusual instrumentation.

3- Is there anyone who you can single out as being the biggest influence on your music?

That’s a really difficult question, it’s hard to pick only one person. In this moment I’d say that as an all round influence, John Zorn is important both musically and in the way his approach continually evolves, with a curiosity spanning different styles & scenes. His game strategies have also influenced some of my ideas, and I’ve given this answer also because of the other musicians I’ve discovered on the Tzadik label.

But my response to this question will probably change depending on when you ask me!

4- What is on your current playlist?

A recent playlist I made for someone includes: Jo Kondo, Louis Andriessen, Annie Gosfield, Bartók, Kevin Volans, Charming Hostess, Deerhoof, Container, Lozenge, Fairouz, Henry Threadgill, Satie, Nancarrow, Fabrizio D’André, Anthony Braxton/Roscoe Mitchell duets.

5- Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

I’m really excited to join Agathe Max (violin, electronics), Gareth Turner (electric double bass) & Valentina Magaletti (drums), with myself on bari. sax. at Supersonic Festival in Birmingham this June.

I’ll also be revisiting a collaboration with Matthew Lovett, Medi Evans, John Rowley and Mike Pearson. Last November we performed a version of Angharad Davies’ photographic score Rydal Mount, with improvised music & spoken word. We’re putting our heads together to organise more performances soon.

I’m also writing some music for and with HoKKeTT, a new trio with Tina Hitchens (flute) and Yvonna Magda (violin).


Five Quick Questions with Matthew Kaner

Last weekend we recorded Matthew Kaner‘s new work ‘Collide’ for BBC Radio 3. This is the first of ten pieces in his residency: Embedded: Radio 3’s Composer in 3 in partnership with Sound and Music.

Ahead of the first broadcast at 8.20am this coming Monday, we sat him down to answer five quick-fire questions…

Tell us briefly what we can expect from your new piece for Workers Union Ensemble

Well it’s called ‘Collide’ and, though short, it’s about contrasting musical ideas that keep on bumping into one another – some of these are very energetic, others more lyrical and reposed, and there’s one that only ever appears on a strange little trio (saxophone, marimba and double bass). Hints of influence from a few other composers who have written for similar ensembles (including Steve Martland, to whose memory the piece is dedicated) also pop up here and there in different ways.

This is the 3rd piece you have written for WUE. What do you enjoy most and find challenging about writing for this ensemble?

I love writing for the Workers Union! It’s a real delight and privilege to keep working with the same fantastic musicians again. I think we’ve developed a real trust over the years, which means that I can write some very ambitious and challenging music, secure in the knowledge that they will work incredibly hard to achieve the results I want. They’re all really lovely people too, which always makes the experience very enjoyable.

It’s certainly a tricky ensemble to balance: in particular the oboe is often at risk of being swamped by the other much louder instruments in the group, but there are ways round this. In this piece you’ll hear that I tend to place the oboe right at the top of the ensemble when they all play together, to make sure it can be heard (which means the part often gets very high – sorry Anna!). Otherwise I tend to treat it as an expressive solo instrument, behind which the ensemble is greatly thinned out in order to provide a suitably soft accompaniment.

Is there anyone who you can single out as being the biggest influence on your music?

That’s a tough question: I think it changes from week to week! I’m particularly fond of Dutilleux’s music, and I think a great deal about his work, especially when I compose for orchestra. Hans Abrahamsen is another composer I really admire at the moment, but who knows what I’ll be thinking in a year or two…

What is on your current playlist?

All sorts of things – of course the composers mentioned above, but also lots of Donatoni, Jonathan Harvey, Andriessen, Kurtag, Jurg Frey, Ben Sorensen, George Benjamin, Unsuk Chin, plenty of the classics too – Bach, Chopin, Ravel, Bartok, Stravinsky, Berg etc., and lots of jazz – Miles Davis, Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Robert Glasper, plus some jazz funk too (the last thing I bought was a new copy of Miles Davis’ On The Corner).

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

This piece is actually part of an ongoing exciting project – it’s a residency with BBC Radio 3 in partnership with Sound and Music, to celebrate the station’s 70th anniversary, lasting 70 days. So each week you’ll hear a new short piece broadcast on Radio 3 Breakfast and some other pieces by me (both old and new) going out across the network during that 10 week period. I’ll also be speaking about my music and other exciting contemporary composers during that time.



Well it’s been a little quiet recently on the Workers front, but momentum is building now towards our 2016 collaborative project with Ensemble Krock. In the meantime, one or two of us are up to some pretty epic activities for charity.

Pianist Edward Pick is about to cycle from Lands End to John O’ Groats (with his piano literally trailing behind him!) and our composer in residence Seán Clancy is walking from Birmingham to London. You can sponsor them by clicking on their respective links.

Good luck guys!



On and Off and To and Fro Tour 2015

The Workers Union Ensemble met on Saturday and Sunday the 14 and 15th of February for intense tour rehearsals. The weekend was filled with love (naturally- it was Valentines day!), filming, Skyping Mr Steen Andersen, and of course new music.

Here is a video showing what we got up to, and advertises our gig on Saturday the 21st of February at the Warehouse in Waterloo.

Tickets are available to purchase now at: http://bit.ly/1FuNHmG



On And Off And To And Fro – WUE 2015 Tour

Featuring Simon Steen-Andersons’ On And Off And To And Fro and new works by Jay Capperauld, Ryan Latimer, Benjamin Oliver, Mic Spencer and Kate Whitley.

Tickets are available to purchase now at: http://bit.ly/1FuNHmG

We look forward to seeing you there.

WUE (with the generous support of Sound and Music’s Composer-Curator Programme for 2014/2015,  funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.)



Workers Union are delighted to announce that we have been selected for Sound and Music’s Composer-Curator Programme for 2014/2015, which is funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

The Workers Union Ensemble (WUE) present a programme of five new work developed in response to Simon Steen-Andersen’s On And Off And To And Fro (2008) for soprano saxophone, double bass, vibraphone and three players with megaphones. The new pieces might be a direct response to Steen-­Andersen’s piece or could be a more tangential reaction to the title and will be performed alongside On And Off And To And Fro in a mini-­tour of England. The composers featured will include three twentysomething emerging stars Ryan Latimer (WUE Composer ­In ­Association), Kate Whitley and Jay Capperauld (winner of the WUE Heidi Cupp Award 2013) as well as two slightly older heads Benjamin Oliver (conductor of the WUE) and Scottish composer Mic Spencer.



Firstly we would like to thank everyone that came to our LSO St. Luke’s gig on the 9th of November and generously gave to our Commissioning Fund. We raised a whopping £200 and this money will go directly to commissioning a new work for the ensemble. This means that you, the audience, have had a direct involvement to future works performed by the ensemble and for that we want to say an enormous thank you and shall keep you updated with who shall receive the commission and let you see the piece taking shape. Photos –  taken by the wonderful Markus Kinch of Film41 – from the above gig are available to view by clicking here.

Finally, lots of people have given fantastic feedback about the ensemble in the last few months and we wanted to share all these kind comments with you. So please take a look at our new What people say about WUE page.

Our next venture is this Sunday, working with young composers at Northamptonshire Music & Performing Arts Trust – we look forward to working with all the students this weekend.

With best wishes,


Workers Union Mini Tour and Promo Vid

Hi everyone,

We’ve just got back from a brilliant (and also very tiring) mini tour to Southampton Turner Sims and Birmingham Conservatoire.

We had such a nice time working with some brilliant young players in Southampton, playing Polansky’s ‘Ensembles of Note’. One of the students ended up playing the synth part in the premier of Matthew Kaner’s work when the weather prevented the fantastic (and well travelled by the time he arrived), Aaron from getting there on time!

Below is a short snapshot of what we have been up to, whilst also promoting the culmination of this PRSF funded project at St. Luke’s on November the 9th 2013. Please let us know what you think!

We hope you enjoy the video, and really look forward to seeing everyone on the 9th to help us decide the winner of our Call for Works competition.

Until then,


Workers Union Ensemble at LSO St Luke’s, 9th November 2013

Here is the poster for our concert on the 9th of November.

Lots of premieres from composers including Joe Cutler, Matthew Kaner and Daniel Saleeb. Not forgetting also, the four chosen pieces from our ‘Call for Works’ will be given their first outing, and a winner announced by YOU, the audience.

We hope you can join us!

Tickets available from:

Poster designed by Claire Evison, to see more of her work visit http://www.addalittleginger.com