Working with Drake Music Artistic Development


A beginning

It started with a tweet and 2 years later the alliance is still going strong…… I answered a call out from Drake Music and Danny Braverman in early 2013 for disabled musicians interested in cross-arts collaboration and never imagined the journey it would take me on (and is still taking me on!).

After my first interview in years, and over Skype I may add (just to continue the social media tech theme!), I found myself working with LA-based mercurial choreographer & dancer Sheron Wray over a number of weeks on my idea for a re-imagining of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”.

Disabled musicians performing together on stage
Drake Music Creative Lab, London (March 2013)
L-R: Ivan Riches, me!, Kris Halpin & John Kelly. Photo: M. Clifford

And so it was on a very cold day in March 2013 I found myself travelling to London for a creative-lab event together with other musicians and can honestly say that things just haven’t been the same since then (in a good way I hasten to add!).

I had been somewhat “out of the loop” career-wise for a number of years following a period of life-changing ill health and this day has rather unexpectedly been the start of an upwards trajectory.

The fruits of my collaboration with Sheron can be viewed here:



Taking the season of “Spring” from Vivaldi’s score, I chanced upon the text of a sonnet woven amongst the notes and staves and translated some of these words into BSL, whose gestures provided a basis for Sheron’s choreographic response.

A little context

Musician and composer Sonia Allori plays the clarinet
Me again with Errol the Eb clarinet at the creative lab: Drake Music, London, March, 2013.
Photo: M Clifford

Before life on wheels I was a classical musician and following a fairly usual path for such a person, with lots of teaching, chamber music performance and the odd wedding….

I woke up one morning unable to speak and move, but with brain intact. As part of my rehabilitation I managed to fit in a part-time PhD in composition and training as a music therapist with Nordoff-Robbins, alongside the physio and speech therapy (I do like to keep busy!?).

In 2013 I was coming to the end of the postgrad study and there was a bit of a void looming, so the tweet from Drake Music was an encouraging opportunity on the rather blank-seeming horizon.

The development of Seasons 4.0:

“Seasonal Fluctuations” team: Greenwich, London (October, 2013). Photo: M. Clifford
“Seasonal Fluctuations” team: Greenwich, London (October, 2013).
Photo: M. Clifford

Following on from this initial collaboration, Drake Music were keen to take things further as part of their professional development programme for disabled artists.

After several meetings – and a copious amount of emails – I met Sheron for the first time in person in London in June 2013.

We formed a creative team with Danny Braverman (dramaturg) and Fleeta J. Siegel (film-maker & technologist) with a small company of truly excellent musicians and dancers, and took the project into a first stage of R & D in Autumn 2013.

For “Autumn” we started to introduce the ideas of environment and mobile technology set against the naturalistic text from the Vivaldi sonnet.

Three musicians playing classical instruments onstage in the spotlight
Rehearsal for “Seasons 4.0”: Rich Mix, London, September 2014.
L-R: Amelia Cavallo, me! & Barbara Hockaday. Photo: M. Clifford

During 2014 we applied to Unlimited and were awarded funding for further R&D development during late summer 2014.

Mary Paterson joined the creative team as producer of the project for Drake Music and in an intense 2-week residency we created “Summer” – but not like you’ve seen it before (!!!) – instead with focus upon the harsher realities of summer, where nature and human nature are pitted in a scene of friendship gone wrong, torture and violence.

This darker side of Summer is taken from the tone of the sonnet text which describes thunder and lightning tearing into the landscape causing human and animal to seek shelter and safety.

For the score I combined live acoustic instruments with electronic sounds to give rise to a particularly moody and intense sound.



Two dancers in costume in rehearsal for performance
Dancers Ingrid Mackinnon & Gwen Jones in rehearsal: WAC Arts, London (September 2014). Photo: D.E. Ross

What next?

It is now late summer 2015 and, with much assistance from Mary Paterson, I have just submitted a funding application which will hopefully take Seasons 4.0 some way towards being a finished work.

In the two year development of this work I have seen my confidence and skills grow through support from Drake Music and, in particular, Danny Braverman, Sheron Wray, Mary Paterson & Carien Meijer.

I have attended composer residencies at Edinburgh and Flanders Film Festivals, with Beth Orton at Brighter Sounds and in the relative wilds of Scotland.

I’m lucky enough to be developing a number of new works including “Dada’s Women” a new chamber opera with Flip Artists and a collaborative work of “musical consequences” with 5 other (all male!!!) Scottish-based composers entitled, “You Can’t Get There From Here”.

I’ve performed as a bassoon-playing prostitute (you couldn’t make that up!?) with Graeae in Threepenny Opera, am a member of Paraorchestra and have a part time research post in disability arts performance practice at the Royal Conservatoire in Glasgow.

A colourful image of a person's lap with musical instruments and woolly gloves
Photo: M.Clifford

All this adds up to varied days and feelings of mounting excitement at what lies ahead!

In the next few weeks I’ll be appearing in a little performance slot at the Edinburgh Fringe as part of the iF platform ….. I shall smile and be quietly terrified at the same time, as ever!

Sonia Allori (August 2015)