News & Events
Clarence will be playing at Sage Gateshead on 22nd September 2018 with Royal Northern Sinfonia and Friends.
This is the first public performance from this inclusive ensemble, featuring both disabled and non-disabled musicians and will be a 45 minute performance including Vivaldi's Four Seasons reimagined!
For more information visit Sage website.
Clarence Adoo played at the Barbican in London for a Wynton Marsalis concert for The Clarence Adoo Trust.
Clarence played with his Headspace Quartet, and this was followed by the Wynton Marsalis Quartet. The event sold out within a few months of ticket release.
For more information visit the Barbican Website.
A report on Headspace and its first concert for Brass Herald
by John Wallace
I've travelled a long way on the trumpet's back, though it's often felt like I was the beast of burden in our relationship. Nevertheless, the fork that appeared in our collective roads has been getting closer and closer. On one side there stands the huge array of new responsibilities I hold as the Principal of the RSAMD. On the other lies the reality that my chops are growing old and stubborn. So on June 6th, I'll be getting off the instrument's saddle. Or perhaps the trumpet will be getting off my back: we'll see how it feels afterwards.
Nearing my last performance, I've found myself thinking more and more about the trumpet's future. Whose hands will we pass the instrument on to - in which directions will our younger performers lead it? Uncertainty hangs over many areas of the art and craft of brass performance; areas that seemed healthy - even ubiquitous - as little as thirty years ago. There has never been a time in which innovation within our field has seemed so necessary: within the next generation, we will see a survival of the creative. Only the most inventive composers, performers, venues, and instruments will survive. Their ideas may be uncomfortably different from ours, but they are the ones who will keep brass music moving and alive. One brilliant new transformation takes centre stage at the St. Magnus Festival in Orkney this June. It is represents a pioneering effort of performance, composition and instrument making, presided over by my good friend, Clarence Adoo, who will be performing on stage for the first time in ten years. Rehearsing with him a few weeks ago in the RSAMD was humbling and inspiring in equal measure. More than anything, it gave me a sense that our instrument is being passed down into so many different and brilliant sets of hands.
In Clarence's case, the instrument doesn't touch his hands - there is no way it could. Since 1995, this young and brilliant trumpeter, a graduate of the The Royal College of Music in London and a Royal Northern Sinfonia regular, has suffered a broken spine, meaning he is paralysed from the neck down. An indomitable spirit, a hunger to perform and the innovative contributions of composer John Kenny and instrument designer Rolf Gehlhaar are bringing him to the stage again, with probably the most versatile and far-reaching instrument ever designed for a disabled performer.
Monitoring Clarence's head movement through infra-red beams, the "Headspace" instrument responds to a sensitized blow tube, allowing Clarence to cover five octaves and hundreds of different synthesized sounds and timbres in moments through a deft mixture of precise movements and breath control. How much of playing Headspace is similar to playing his old instrument? 'There's a similarity between using the blow-tube and tonguing,' Clarence says, 'but it's not a trumpet: I don't know if I could triple-tongue!'
'Headspace has a lot of colour and versatility,' Clarence goes on to say, 'brass instrument sounds are one of it's major resources, but there are over two hundred I can access in moments'. I have seen Clarence demonstrate the ways in which this new instrument, with its huge tonal range and its varied qualities of sound, has the capacity to outplay us all. But where did this instrument come from?
Clarence explains to me Headspace's evolution. 'The idea came from a machine Rolf Gelhar designed called "Soundbeam", which used two or four sensors in a small space - moving between these sensors created sound. John Kenny, Rolf Gelhar and I tried using Soundbeam: when I moved my head to the left, I could access a keyboard, when I moved my head to the right, I could play a drum kit'. But he quickly craved a more creative experience. 'As a classically trained musician, I wanted more flexibility. I wanted to be more specific with notes and timbre; I wanted to be able to use dynamics expressively'. Together, Clarence, John and Rolf came up with an instrument that runs off a laptop computer and that responds to movements sensed by a headset. With it, Clarence can pattern remarkably expressive musical phrases. This is testament to his original goals with the project; 'I wanted to enjoy Headspace as an instrument, instead of switching buttons on and off'.
Using Headspace, Clarence moves virtuosically through a vast repertoire of sounds: trumpets, pianos, thunder and waves. He creates an electrifying performance space; fantastic new possibilities for the instrument, for the music, and very importantly, for other disabled performers. One thing that struck us both as we rehearsed at the RSAMD in April was the excitement with which other disabled musicians regarded Headspace. 'There seemed to be a sense that at last we have something that a lot more people can have enjoyment of,' Clarence says; 'that's why it's important I'm as creative and skilful on this instrument as anyone can be'.
Clarence has been practicing towards a first performance with Headspace since 2002. 'As a disabled person, I didn't want to feel I was letting the side down - I wanted to master the new instrument', he says. The astonishing amount of work he has put into the project, and the mastery with which he performs with Headspace, demonstrates to everyone the kind of single-minded resolution all true performance artists need. 'I feel privileged to be playing with the musicians I am; to perform with an instrument someone has taken the time to tailor-make for my unique situation', he says. On stage with Clarence in Orkney will be composer, trombonist and Headspace collaborator John Kenny. 'John and I spent two days working out Headspace's limitations for the concert,' Clarence jokes, 'and ended up frustrated by its options!'
Clarence and I also talked about the many brass instruments the St. Magnus Festival is incorporating into its performances this year; brass ancient, modern, and revolutionary. I believe that Headspace is a revolutionary brass instrument, though when I say so, I sense caution in some other brass enthusiasts. Maybe I have a one-track mind, but this new instrument reminds me of a trumpet in several ways (discounting the fact that my family tells me everything reminds me of a trumpet). I think Headspace propels us towards one exciting vision of many possible brass futures. I notice that to play Headspace, the musician must move air, creating vibrations which travel through an instrument made primarily out of metal; and that metal creates sound. It also makes me think about another instrument showcased at Orkney this June, its difference to Headspace and the lesson both instruments give us about creativity and performance.
The ancient Celtic periscope-shaped trumpets called Carnyx are also in concert at St. Magnus. I am reminded that of the furious academic debate surrounding the instrument as to whether or not their original performers had any idea how versatile their instruments were. Was it a war-horn or was it an instrument of priests, used in religious ritual, and, as some content, human sacrifice? Many scholars contend that with no knowledge of the musical scale, or even basic harmonic sequences, the Carnyxs' original performers may well only have yelled through them. Yet the flexibility of these ancient instruments astounds performers and academics alike. In all certainty we will never know how Carnyx were originally performed, though no-one argues they were played with anything like the style, knowledge and repertoire with which they can be played today. After more than a thousand years of ceaseless musical creativity, performers have returned to this ancient trumpet with its distinctive boars-head bell with entirely new ideas about its possibilities. If brass has a future, this will be echoed in hundreds of years' time, when performers return to examine the instruments and repertoire we play today, and marvel at the volume of notes, pieces and performances we wandered through without ever realising the latent potential within them for new things.
But not Clarence. Like all at the forefront of innovation, he must be resilient and brave: Headspace's freshness makes sure there is no such thing as a generic or lacklustre performance when he goes on stage in Orkney. This musician's bravery, single-mindedness and instrumental mastery should be a chastisement to any of we performers who blame our instruments for our own shortcomings, and to diffident music students everywhere. Headspace reminds me of the most important aspect of performance: that the art of playing a musical instrument does not rest in the fingers, or diaphragm, or embouchure - it lies in the resilience of the performer, and in the excited hearts and minds of the people listening to them play. You will see this link between Clarence and his audience forcefully in Orkney. His performance is an inspiration to a seasoned performer like me, on the cusp of retirement. Approaching my last concert, I am proud and heartened to see a first such as his.
ON A NIGHT to remember, in only his second concert since his debilitating accident ten years ago, former leading trumpet soloist Clarence Adoo took to the stage last Thursday (9th) at the Sage, Gateshead to perform with the quartet group, Headspace. The man who says, “it's important not to dwell on the things you can't do, but to make the most of the things you can do,” performed with the help and support of the group, which takes its name taken from a software package that it uses to generate the synthesised sounds produced. Clarence's instrument isn't played with the use of the hands, but through subtle head movement and using infrared beams. Headspace also responds to a sensitized blowing tube, allowing the player to cover up to five octaves and produce hundreds of different synthesised sounds and timbres through a deft mixture of precise movements and breath control. When asked after the concert what it was like to be performing once again, Clarence answered, “Fantastic. The build up and adrenalin before the concert hit me more than expected, but the concentration that I needed for Headspace didn't allow any emotions of playing in front of a home crowd.
BB's Andrew Hall with Clarence AdooIt was disappointing, though, to get to the end and realise that it will be several months before I will be able to take part in something as amazing as this once again.”
After offering thanks to the designer, Rolf Gehlhaar, for his expertise and ingenious skills demonstrated in setting up the instrument, Clarence continued, “There isn’t a great deal of difference between using Headspace and playing the trumpet, except that you don’t feel the instrument vibrating and the sound comes out 20 feet away in the auditorium. In blowing through the tube, which is in effect the mouthpiece, less air is required, but precision is still necessary, even although I can’t feel any feedback as a result of paralysis.”
Rolf Gehlhaar, in explaining that Headspace was developed for Clarence to start working with in 2002, said, “Like any other musical instrument, you can’t just pick it up and perform immediately, you have to practise long and hard. Once the instrument existed in a useable form, it was essential simply to leave Clarence to get on with it.”
Clarence Adoo picked up the story: “From starting to learn to play the equipment it took ten minutes to be able to play Auld Lang Syne with only two mistakes. If you get a sticky valve or slide on a trumpet then you start to worry. I worry that the laptop that I use doesn’t crash, as has already happened before the first concert we gave in Orkney.
In addition to Clarence, the quartet comprises of Tjorbjorn Hultmark on trumpet and flugel horn, John Kenny, the arranger of Headspace, on trombone and Carnyx (an Iron Age war horn) and Chris Wheeler, who is the sound projectionist and in control of the live electronics.
Clarence hopes that, depending on the availability of the rest of the quartet, he will be able to do two or three concerts a year. He is still involved with teaching and also leads orchestras and brass bands in concerts or rehearsals.
A recording was made of last week’s concert at The Sage and it will be broadcast on BBC1 in the north-east on Monday (20th) at 7:30 pm and on SKY Channel 944.
Information on future events and details on contributing to the funds to help Clarence Adoo is available at www.clarence.org.uk.
THE BRITISH BANDSMAN SATURDAY 18 FEBRUARY 2006
(used with permission)
For his recital at Darlington Summer School last year, Professor John Kenny picked up in turn an alphorn, a conch, an ocarina, three recorders, three types of trombone, sundry stones and the instrument he'd brought back into circulation after it has been silent for 2,000 years: an Iron Age Celtic war horn known as the carnyx.
Its next sighting will be at the Sage, Gateshead, but the instrument it will be accompanying, which Kenny has helped to devise, is even more remarkable. The Headspace is essentially a laptop, no laptop ever did what this will do for the man who "plays' it, the trumpeter Clarence Adoo, who id paralysed from the neck down after a car accident, and who is now making a comeback.
"he'll stare at the screen, which shows four miniature keyboards, each key being about the width of matchstick", explains Kenny. "He will have third eye in the form of his electronic beam in the centre of his forehead, which he'll project on to a mouse-cursor for those keyboards. He will also have a drinking straw fixed in the mouthpiece of a smoker's pipe, through which he will direct streams of air that will dictate rhythm, volume and sound duration.
"In other words, with hie eyes he will select the type of sound, and with his head he will select everything else a trumpeter would normally do with his instrument".
The Headspace could have commercial mileage, as it can be played by anyone rendered quadriplegic through illness or accident", Kenny says. "Each person's difficulty is different, but what's true of all is the need to communicate on a level that's not simply verbal."
Brass-players, he adds inhabit a world of its own lore, "and when I started working with Clarence in this way, we were just a couple of brass-players again. The disablement was not an issue. This is not music about disablement; it's about a disabled man making music."
A trumpet player who was told he would never play again after becoming paralysed has resumed performing with a specially designed instrument.
Clarence Adoo has been in a wheelchair since a car accident 10 years ago left him severely disabled. The accomplished musician has given a solo performance at a music festival in Orkney using a computer-aided instrument. It is operated by a head-mounted sensor and highly controlled breaths.
The instrument, called Head Space, was designed by electronic music specialist Rolf Gelhhaar and composer John Kenny.
Mr Adoo, who formerly played with Northern Sinfonia, unveiled the instrument at the St Mungo's festival on Wednesday where appeared with the Royal Scottish Academy's brass section.
Since his accident, Mr Adoo has continued to exercise the sophisticated breath control required of a professional brass player and with the new instrument uses a tube and the head sensor to access a library of sounds.
He hopes his performance will inspire other disabled musicians.
To read the full 2005 BBC article, visit: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/4119956.stm
Greetings and best wishes for the new Millennium from Clarence.
WHEN I was at school I undertook a project in which I was asked to imagine what the world would be like in the year 2000 — what style and type of house we would be living in, what type of clothes we would be wearing and so on. Ironically my house predictions were fairly accurate as now most of my adaptations are completed, I have automatic doors and lights, a hi-fi and computer system which come to life at a simple voice command etc. As for clothes, I think the fashion has reverted back to my school days!
This year has whizzed by, leaving me at times on the pavement watching life blaze by as I try to accept the fact that I can not do everything a speedily as I once use to.
My family have all kept well this year despite my foster mother [Vera] who at 91 years of age still bashes herself by occasionally tripping up at home and colliding with the furniture with the intention of saving the carpet from a few drops of tea.
I am keeping fit and well, since February, which saw me go down with a chest infection resulting in two weeks in hospital having my chest jumped upon three times a day by 3 physiotherapists. Some clouds do have silver linings! This ritual would take place normally directly after meal times.
At the end of April I returned from America from a highly motivating visit to a clinic in Miami. This trip highlighted areas of my body that showed potential for some recovery, (this being the left arm and the top of the back). Extra physio is developing my back and shoulder muscles and left arm which I can now use to nudge and prod cheeky carers. I am currently planning to return to Miami November-ish 2000 for further treatment and to see if other areas of my body have improved.
I have not tried blowing a trumpet recently since having some voice training sessions to strengthen my diaphragm or should I say my intercostal stomach muscles. My job title with the Royal Northern Sinfonia in Newcastle is Education Animateur. This means bringing the music of the orchestra to life in the community. It is proving to be a stimulating job, allowing me to create and lead projects in all the different areas of the community. Privately I still teach at home. Freelance work has included writing the odd snippets of music, sitting on a panel for BBC young musician of the year, reviewing CDs, coaching brass groups, examining, presenting and adjudicating etc. I serve on several Arts Council Committees involving Education and Disabled people in the Arts, which has improved my awareness of other disabilities as well as my own and had me writing reports on the new disabled facilities of the revamped Covent Garden opera house.
Emma Forbes who was involved in the accident with me is still fit and well and has moved to Edinburgh to take up a full time post working in the marketing and press department for the Edinburgh International festival.
I would like to thank you most sincerely for your support, encouragement and friendship during this past year which has been a great source of inspiration and motivation to me.
Have an enjoyable and blessed 2000!
This page keeps an archival record of all of Clarence's news appearances, news regarding Headspace and the past, present and future events of Clarence and the Trust. We hope you enjoy reading up on the history of Clarence and all that he has achieved over the years.