PREVIEW: Tom Challenger & Kit Downes’ Vyamanikal

Kit Downes and Tom Challenger in Bromeswell Church, Suffolk.
Photo credit: Alex Bonney
TOM CHALLENGER and KIT DOWNES will this week embark upon a tour of the UK – their first – that will showcase their work Vyamanikal in a variety of settings. A delighted TOM tells LondonJazz News how it all came to be and where we can hear the results. 

Kit Downes and I first came together to write and collaborate nearly five years ago with a creative residency in Huddersfield that led to our first album Wedding Music. Since then we have developed a new work in partnership with the Open Space scheme with Aldeburgh music – where we composed music in Suffolk churches, using organs in various states of condition.

Every concert we play in this tour will reflect the shifting textures of Vyamanikal, and we’re relishing the idea that every concert will be quite different. Some spaces don’t afford us an organ – and for this scenario we have developed a set that incorporates not only myself and Kit on two harmoniums, but also his brand new home-made ‘lap-cello’ instrument that he premiered in public for the first time in January.

We will play some other magnificent spaces and organs too – Huddersfield University’s St Pauls Hall, and our first trip to Norway to play the incredible organ in Stavanger. Alongside our performances, we will continue to take inspiration from filmmaker Ashley Pegg’s wonderful and haunting imagery that he captured when he filmed us developing Vyamanikal.

To be able to re-adapt the music to each individual space we play in is very exciting. As always, we will be documenting the work as it evolves throughout the tour. Some of the recordings may even make it to a work in the vein of Black Shuck – which we released in November.

We’re also particularly excited to welcome Ingebjørg Loe Bjørnstad to join us in performance at the Vortex, London, on the 15th of March. Ingebjorg is absolutely incredible – we’ve been lucky enough to exchange some music with her over the last few months. She sings in her own dialect from the north of Norway, abstracting and incorporating the sound of the language into her own beguiling melodies. It’s safe to say that her presence there will be magical – we can’t wait.

Tour Dates 

March 2017
9th – Free Range, Canterbury.
10th – St George’s Colegate, Norwich

11th – Hop Hideout, Sheffield

12th – The Bridge, Newcastle

13th – Wonder Inn, Manchester

14th – St Pauls, Huddersfield

15th – Vortex, London (+ Ingebjørg Loe Bjørnstad)

March 24th – Stavanger Konserthus, Norway

April 29th – Cheltenham Jazz Festival, UK

May 30th – Bidrobon, Oslo, Norway (+ Ingebjørg Loe Bjørnstad)


Black Shuck can be heard here.

Ingebjørg can be heard here.