Erland Cooper – an Inspired Set at Left Bank Leeds

Composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Erland Cooper – with Ensemble – performed at Left Bank on Thursday, with support from singer/songwriter and cellist Midori Jaeger – and we were lucky enough to have the opportunity to review.

This was the fifth date of Erland’s UK tour, his first since the release of Folded Landscapes, the album he describes as “a celebration of the cyclical, fragile and restorative natural world”.

The setting felt somehow right – Left Bank, previously St Margaret’s church, is a truly stunning venue, with high ceilings and beautiful early 20th century architecture, providing an impressive stage for performers and audience alike. Editor’s note: However, despite being given an excellent opportunity for photography, we suffered from technical glitches, meaning we are unable to offer our readers our usual visual treats.

Midori Jaeger

When I bumped into her backstage, London-based cellist, singer and songwriter Midori Jaeger told me all about her upcoming album. Although she couldn’t yet disclose too many details about this exciting news, I’m sure it’ll be one to look out for.

Soon enough, her set commenced, with her perched centre stage, lighting designed to enhance the sense of intimacy. The space was instantly filled with the beautifully calming echos of her cello, and her own unique, emotionally charged lyrics, as well as covers of Adrianne Lenker’s ‘Anything’ and John Martyn’s ‘May You Never’. Her impressive vocal range was combined with her creatively spectacular, emotionally charged (and, more importantly, personal) lyrics to bring a typically classical music string instrument to a whole new genre of music. Left Bank’s one-of-a-kind, dramatically moody-yet-ethereal feel was a perfect match for Midori’s classical meets alt rock vibe.

Erland Cooper

After a short break, Erland Cooper himself made an appearance on stage, opening with ‘Flattie’ and ‘Haar’ from his 2019 album, ‘Sule Skerry’, providing the audience with a sample of his previous works.

I had spotted him earlier that evening, as he was having some emotional support refreshments for last minute energy just before the doors opened, and he seemed just as content as ever, bouncing around stage and addressing the audience as if we were simply long-lost companions, despite the music’s urging message to look to the environment around us. I loved this! In my humble opinion, an artist’s stage presence and overall ability to place the audience at ease is a key factor in any performance. Building that sort of trust allows the audience to really understand and immerse themselves in the music – a chance to enjoy the full experience. He complimented the audience for being so ‘warm’ and turning his cheeks ‘rosy red’, expressing his appreciation. To make it even more personal and specific to him, he collaborated with the Scottish Ensemble. Sharing aspects of his childhood, he discussed his love for birds, a fact which would become significantly relevant later on.

This gig truly had to be one of my favourites, purely because I have never been a part of something like it before, despite seeing dozens of artists live. Cooper’s artistic mastery as a pianist somehow portrays a story without the use of a single lyric or word. Inspired by the environment, and the life that exists all around us, it’s a testament to all things and processes natural, bringing a comforting sense of serenity to the listener, with the tweets of birds, and the hum of violins and cellos provided by members of the Scottish Ensemble.

Midori Jaeger again approached the stage with her cello, whilst also incorporating hauntingly magnificent vocals. The most stunning part of the whole performance was yet to come – the gannet choir. Leeds’ very first gannet bird choir, as Cooper called it, to be exact. Easing into it, he described how his parents were science teachers and that inspired him to experiment. And experiment he did! To say my mind was blown by this was an understatement, as Cooper provided a link to his website, where each member of the audience could stream the gannet calls, and Cooper conducted the audience along to the melody of his 2018 debut album ‘Solan Goose’ superbly. lt was an unequaled, interactive, utterly incredible performance which mimicked the sound track of a perfect rainy day in a grassy forest surrounded by creatures of every type.

After the performance came to an end, Cooper, Ensemble and Jaeger stood by the door, duly greeting and thanking friends, fans and family for their attendance at this lovely event – beaming, rightfully proud of their wonderful performance. Alongside meeting the artists themselves, the audience had a chance to approach the in-house bar and grab a cold beer and a quick snack, or take a look at upcoming events if they hadn’t had their fill of Left Bank Leeds just yet.

Erland Cooper is the latest edition to my favourite artists’ list. The Guardian was entirely and thoroughly correct in naming him ‘nature’s songwriter’. If you have even a single second to spare at any point, I would certainly recommend giving Erland Cooper and Midori Jaeger a listen, both being findable on Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube. I’m eternally grateful to have been a member of the audience and to be able to document the experience.


Feature photograph by Alex Kozobolis.

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