Propellor brings together soloists, writers and ensemble players from backgrounds as diverse as the English Baroque Soloists, amplified ensemble - Decibel, folk septet The Fair Rain (The Old Dance School), The Harborough Collective, CHROMA, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, improvisers from The Destroyers and the Glowrogues, electro-acoustic experimentalists and collaborators with Britten Sinfonia and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Over the next two years the McNeill & Heys duo will be at the heart of a new musical machine going by the name Propellor. The project aims to create a new ensemble orchestrating a story symphony experienced by an audience as they journey through the Suffolk environment. Within and of the landscape of these islands, the project hopes to tour the UK and perform in various inspirational settings, the music weaving threads of local history and our relationship to place, with community participation and interactive elements adding to the musical experience. Watch this space for video and recorded updates, rehearsal clips and developing plans involving outdoor interactive elements, as well as opportunities to be part of the finished work and come along to various open sessions. You can sign up to receive info at www.propellorensemble.uk

This is Propellor

A new exciting ensemble creating a cross-genre sonic landscape installation, artist in residence at Snape Maltings Open Space 2016 -  2018

The story so far...

Some of you know us and some of you are new friends here, we hope you're as excited as we are to start sharing what we've been up to these last few months, burrowed away deep in the Suffolk countryside...Friends who have followed the project's development through McNeill & Heys will already be ahead of the game slightly, but here's a first look at everyone involved in this new big ensemble project!

So what have we actually been doing?!

This first Propellor project is being developed over the course of two years, hence the slow dribble of information (!), as apart from anything else, getting an eleven-piece ensemble together to rehearse all the way over in Suffolk at the beautiful Snape Maltings takes time and lots of preparation.

We were there for two periods at the end of April and the start of May, joined by Aidan O'Rourke of LAU (more info below) and Joe Acheson from Hidden Orchestra to prep the material for a recording with the fantastic Calum Macolm, and to film the project which we'll be sending you all in June so you can see and hear the ensemble in action!

The piece we're working on will be over an hour long, thematically following the watercourse backwards from the sea, through rivers and over moorland, up to the lakes and mountain streams before leaping back up into rain. The music is woven together with song and interview, sharing stories of how we interact and respond to this changing waterscape...

The piece will involve new sight-specific sounds and interviews depending on where we perform it. The performance itself will also give audience members the chance to interact with the music and various different field recordings so you can create your own journey through this soundscape before hearing the journey we want to share with you!

Ultimately there will be two versions of the piece. One concert version involving 360 degree sound with projected images which develop alongside the music so you can get a truly immersive experience of the piece - and an outdoor installation of the work involving carefully considered placing of speakers to turn the landscape into a natural auditorium where the audience is free to roam...

We're excited to be able to share video and audio of the work in progress with you next month. In the meantime here's some more info about the ensemble and project in general - remember to get your friends signed up to our mailing list, Facebook and Twitter to help us spread the news to anyone who you think might be interested.

Thank you!

Meet the quartet...


David Le Page and Catherine Leech (violins), Rose Redgrave (viola) and Clare O'Connell (cello)

After a few months of working on material without these strings it's been a real thrill to add this ferociously talented bunch to the Propellor mix. They bring a wonderfully lithe and muscular sound to the ensemble. All soloists and brilliant chamber musicians in their own right, a healthy disregard for convention and refusal to be pigeon-holed makes them refreshingly dynamic. They've rounded the Propellor sound off perfectly!

Aidan O'Rourke session

We're really excited to be working with violinist and composer Aidan O'Rourke (LAU) in the early stages of arranging the project material. In April we worked on long sections of the piece, with a focus on pinning down the ensemble sound and the arc of what will ultimately be a work of immersive continuous music over an hour long! Aidan was a great pair of ears to have join us for this process. As you can imagine, blending brass, wind, strings, percussion and electronics (in a 360 degree space) together convincingly, takes time... We're really excited by the results so far and hope to bring a really new fresh sound to your ears very soon! We'll be working together with Aidan again later in the year, he's also got some exciting new projects of his own on the go for anyone who might like to explore his music outside of LAU...

Joe Acheson session

While we recorded for the video at the start of the month we were also joined by the brilliant Joe Acheson (Hidden Orchestra). A producer and live electronics pro, Joe is helping the ensemble to streamline the tech involved in making this ambitious project work musically. We are also very lucky to be working with the fantastic Tim Southorn developing the 360 degree sound installation for the live performances. Tim's work in the field of ambisonics makes him a really exciting collaborator for the project. Tim and Joe had a lot of fun trying out some initial ideas for the recording with Calum Malcolm.

So, that's where we're at currently! We'll be in touch in June with our new video for you all, until then please help us to spread the word!

Thanks for readingand safe travels,

Propellor x

Propellor: December Sessions

Hey everyone! Thanks for staying in touch, we've had a busy couple of months since we last wrote...

November and December saw an expanded Propellor return to the Snape Maltings, 7/11 of the whole group arrived through the freezing fog to hunker down on the Suffolk coast and get stuck into writing some more of the new work. Part of the process involved beach and river recordings to help Jim start to build the first two Propellor drum kits - #1. The Sea and #2. The River - which will weave into the fabric of the piece amongst the rest of his set-up including an orchestral bass drum, crotales and kit amongst other bits and bobs.

So, armed with the sounds of ship chains, avalanche beach stones and tidal flows, the ensemble put together the first sections of the piece. The intention eventually is to have a non-stop work which transports the listener on a journey through the landscape where the performance is installed, and over the course of about an hour involve the audience in the installation!

Read on to meet the next two members of the group...SEBASTIANO DESSANAY:Double Bass
Seb's fantastic versatility on the double bass makes him an invaluable asset to the dynamism of the group. He also happens to be a wonderful composer in his own right and we're thrilled to have his unique voice and creative spirit in the mix.ROBIN BEATTY: Guitars
We're lucky to have the special talents of Robin on guitars - mixing his role up from rhythmic powerhouse and tunesmith to textural experimentation. Robin isn't in this picture because he also happens to be a brilliant photographer and is busy working on the first Propellor teaser trailer!As the project develops we'll be posting recordings and artwork so please help us spread the word and get friends to sign up to this mailing list! You can also keep up with our shenanigans as they happen on Twitter. You can find out about our, and the other Open Space projects happening at Snape Maltings HERE.WHAT'S NEXT...

We're busy arranging and writing now but will have a teaser for the project out to you all in the New Year to hopefully whet your appetite and give you an idea of what we've been up to so far.

As the project develops further we'll be looking for interested folks who fancy being involved in the performances to get in touch - part of the piece will hopefully involve your voices (no training necessary)! If you think this is you or someone you know then please drop us a line at mcneillandheys.com as we're starting to get a list together, the plan is to move the performance to various outdoor locations around the country so watch this space...

We're also thrilled to announce that some of the project's mentors include the brilliant Aidan O'Rourke (LAU) and Joe Acheson (Hidden Orchestra), so keep in touch to hear how they'll be working with us...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Jack and Charlie and the whole Propellor crew x




OPEN SPACE RESIDENCY: September Sessions

"At the end of September we returned to Aldeburgh and the Snape Maltings and this time brought the first three members of Propellor with us for the ride. Lots of music was written and new sounds tried out. After an exciting meeting with Aldeburgh Music and their outdoor tech and event masterminds we can reveal a few new things about the piece we're working on, including the first three of eleven members of the ensemble... As yet untitled, the work the new ensemble Propellor is preparing will be an immersive audience experience, performed outdoors and embedded in the landscape which the listener and participant is invited to explore during the performance. Along with a live soundscape and story symphony performed by the ensemble, the piece will also incorporate sound art triggered and generated by the audiences movement and interaction with the performance space. This weaves together and evolves in real time with the live music to create an exciting, living performance for all involved." ...for more info sign up to the mailing list at www.mcneillandheys.com