Leading national opera company Opera North has announced a new commission for Khyam Allami, the internationally renowned oud player and composer. Requiem for the 21st Century will take the form of an immersive sound installation, as part of PRS Foundation’s New Music Biennial 2019.

It will premiere at London’s Southbank Centre on 5 July 2019, running until 7 July 2019, before moving to Hull from 12-14 July. It will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and be available as a download from NMC Recordings.

The piece takes its inspiration from the rich accumulation of myth and history that surrounds the oud – a Middle Eastern lute that is the forerunner of the Western instrument. The installation will be constructed from a collection of broken and decaying ouds, playing recorded notes in randomly generated patterns.

Together the mix of instruments will generate unique and continuously metamorphosing melodic fragments and fields of sound based on different maqams, the modes of Arabic music. The work is conceived as a powerful, ever-changing requiem for the troubled 21st century and in particular as a commemoration of the civilians killed during unrest and wars across the Middle East.

Khyam Allami commented: “I am delighted to have been selected for this PRS Foundation New Music Biennial commission in collaboration with Opera North. It will be my first commission of this kind in the UK and it opens up many exciting possibilities for exploring my instrument, the oud, and my music, in a form and setting that I have been anticipating for years. The opportunity to utilise the varied creative resources of Opera North will undoubtedly shape my project, its sound and its presentation in a beautiful way.”

Having launched in 2014, the New Music Biennial 2019 is a PRS Foundation initiative aims to support talented organisations and musicians who are pushing the boundaries of new music in the UK. It provides a platform for new works across all genres, from classical and chamber opera to jazz, folk and electronic.

Jo Nockels, projects manager at Opera North, added: “Opera North seeks to reimagine the parameters of opera and classical music, and we share the commitment of the New Music Biennial to inspire all kinds of audiences by presenting new music in dynamic and unusual ways. We are excited to work with Khyam Allami on this inventive, immersive installation in which the tones and patterns of Arabic maqams will surround the listener, and make themselves felt as well as heard.”



Khyam Allami (Johanne Issa).