Britten Sinfonia with Jack Sheen & Jennifer France - Britten Sinfonia

Britten Sinfonia with Jack Sheen & Jennifer France

18 Jan 2021

Hildegard von Bingen

O virga ac diadema (arr. Sheen)

Oliver Knussen

Hums and Songs of Winnie-the-Pooh Op. 6

Hildegard von Bingen

O frondens virga (arr. Sheen)

Jack Sheen

Hollow propranolol séance (world premiere)

Hildegard von Bingen

O viriditas digiti Dei (arr. Sheen)

Jürg Frey

Circular Music No. 2


Jack Sheen


Thomas Hancox


Peter Facer

cor anglais

Oliver Pashley

clarinet/contrabass clarinet

Owen Gunnell



Britten Sinfonia and Jack Sheen will be joined by soprano Jennifer France for the orchestra’s first performance back at Wigmore Hall since the pandemic began. This concert was recorded live at Wigmore Hall earlier this month and will be broadcast in HD video. Watch here. All streamed concerts in Wigmore Hall’s Spring Series will be available on demand for 30 days after the date of the concert.

At the centre of this programme is a hole, a near-vacancy, a new work from the young, award-winning composer Jack Sheen. Hollow propranolol séance stretches out panels of softly teeming sound, each one attempting to conjure – however fleetingly or ambiguously – some kind of presence out of the fragile whirring that we hear in our empty rooms.

Weaving together this eclectic programme are Sheen’s own arrangements of three works by the towering interdisciplinary figure – and someone commonly recognised as the earliest known composer – Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179). Since her childhood Hildegard experienced prophetic visions which she spent her life exploring as a mystic, scientist, composer, herbalist, and linguist. She was formally canonised in 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI.

Hildegard’s music forms the building blocks for three new pieces that reflect and refract the other works that surround them: Oliver Knussen’s ephemeral yet tight-knit miniatures, Sheen’s heart-rate slowing hum, and Jürg Frey’s gently levitating Circular Music no.2.

‘It isn’t exactly a setting of the episode with tree, bees and balloon near the beginning of A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh… neither is it a small-scale tone poem… It is, rather, a sequence of faded snap-shots and reflections, by an unwilling grown-up.’ 
– Oliver Knussen (1952-2018)

‘… it’s an experience which I have, for instance, when I play Schubert Tanz, which only last one or half a page. I play one and think “oh yeah, I’ll play it again!”. It’s kind of circular! “Why turn the page?… I’ll just play it again.” And that’s why I like to play [it]: it’s so joyful to play it again!’
– Jürg Frey (1953)


Jack Sheen (1993) is a conductor and composer from Manchester. 2019-2020 saw him take up a Jerwood Fellowship with Manchester International Festival, become the first ever composer to be awarded a Carne Fellowship at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, and enjoy conducting positions at Tanglewood Music Centre and the Lucerne Festival Academy.

Equally at home within internationally established and grass-roots activity, he has collaborated as a conductor and composer with orchestras including the LSO, BBC Philharmonic, Aurora Orchestra, Royal Northern Sinfonia, and Hallé, leading new music ensembles such as the London Sinfonietta, Apartment House and EXAUDI, and organisations ranging from the Aldeburgh Festival to the V&A Museum.

Jack is a Co-Director of London Contemporary Music Festival and the LCMF Orchestra (‘the capital’s most adventurous and ambitious festival of new music, The Guardian; ‘London’s most important festival’, The Wire).


Winner of the 2018 Critics’ Circle Emerging Talent (Voice) Award, Jennifer France received critical acclaim for her performances as Ophelia in Brett Dean’s Hamlet for Glyndebourne On Tour, which led to an invitation to give the première performance of his And once I played Ophelia with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra, and singing Pascal Dusapin’s Medeamaterial for her debut at the Salzburg Festival in 2019.

Other recent engagements have included Alice in Gerald Barry’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground for the Royal Opera, London, George Benjamin’s Into the Little Hill at the 2020 Festival Présences Radio France, The Princess in Philip Glass’ Orphée for English National Opera, and creating Ice in Stuart MacRae’s Anthropocene for Scottish Opera, later singing the première of his Prometheus Symphony with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

With the Britten Sinfonia, Jennifer France has previously sung Gerald Barry’s The Eternal Recurrance and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

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