Kickstarter launch

We’re launching a Kickstarter campaign!

We’ve had some great success with our ‘Audience Commissioning Fund’ in the past from people who’ve been to our concerts, and we’re hoping this will be a natural extension of that idea!

For the next month you can donate towards our next commission, which will be from exciting young composer Helen Papaiaoannou. It will be performed at the Nonclassical Monthly Club night on 12th April 2017.

You can watch watch our video here, and donate at Thank you!

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.


BBC Radio 3 recording

We’ve just had a great weekend in London rehearsing and recording Matthew Kaner’s first piece for his Embedded: Radio 3’s Composer in 3 residency in partnership with Sound and Music.  Listen out for us on the Radio 3 Breakfast show every day next week at 8.20am!



Team perc!


Ed in action


Team woodwind!


In rehearsal…

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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!



Seán Clancy third WUE Composer-in-Association

We are chuffed that Irish composer Seán Clancy will be our Composer-in-Association 2015. He follows in the footsteps of Matthew Kaner (2013) and Ryan Latimer (2014). We are delighted to be working with Seán and Swedish guitar quartet Krock on a project, hopefully coming to a venue near you in the Autumn! More news on this soon!


On & Off Warehouse Photos

We can’t quite believe over a month has past since our ‘ON & OFF TOUR 2015’. Thanks to everyone that came to hear us and to the fantastic composers we had the chance to work with on the project. Recordings and video are coming soon but we wanted to share just four of the many fantastic photos Markus Kinch took in the rehearsal for (and after) our gig at The Warehouse…

The setup

Joley takes on the mighty sandpaper boards






The megs!

Post gig happiness!

Final Two Quick Questions: Ryan Latimer

Better late than never (on the third day of our tour!) here is the fifth and final edition of our two question series. This time it is our Composer-in-association for 2015 Ryan Latimer. His work King is second work of Ryan’s that we have commissioned and performed.
Pick up your tickets now for our gig at the Warehouse tomorrow evening:

WUE: In what way does your piece respond to the ‘On & Off’ theme?

Ryan: The dialecticism suggested in Steen-Anderson’s title is also a common feature of my own work more generally, as it is for many others. I use the term ‘dialectic’ simply because the notions of ‘On And Off And To And Fro’ are not just contrasting ideas but are intrinsically related and relative to one another; they’re connected precisely because of their direct opposition. At the risk of becoming too technical, there are, in many types of music, examples of these binary relationships – tonic/dominant, major/minor, call/response, antecedent/consequence and so on. The majority of my piece playfully brings into contention these various devises and explores their functional (and dysfunctional) properties. However, this isn’t entirely what the piece is about and there’s a small twist in the tale towards the end, which extends this notion beyond the purely musical.

WUE: What music are you into at the moment?

Ryan: A composer friend (I’m not sure how these differ from normal friends) recently recommended to me a book called ‘The Arab Avant-Garde: Music, Politics, Modernity’, which has unveiled to me a seriously exciting wealth of radical music making happening throughout the Middle East. Ranging from heavy metal, hip hop, musical theatre, sound installation, jazz and cross-discipline collaboration, all of this work engages profoundly with the socio-political realities of its home regions, in a way I feel much of western ‘art music’ does not. It’s been quite a liberating experience discovering this stuff; I’d recommend it.

Here is a retrospective exhibition of the work of Egyptian artist and musician Ahmed Basiony, who was killed during the 2011 political uprisings in Cairo: