An interactive online performance of Birtwistle’s Roddy’s Reel and the world premiere of Back to the Beginning by Ma Xiao-Qing feature in BCMG’s latest digital concert of new music 


  • Works by Julian Anderson, Charlotte Bray, Oliver Knussen & John Woolrich feature alongside the world premiere of BCMG commission Back to the Beginning by Ma Xiao-Qing & the UK premiere of Jia Guoping’s Ripples in Spacetime II.
  • Members of the public are also invited to take part in a unique interactive performance of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Roddy’s Reel.
  • Pre-recorded at the CBSO Centre, the filmed performance will be released to ticket holders at 4pm on Sunday 28 February at


Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) continues in its commitment to support and showcase the best of new music with a filmed concert of works by British and Chinese composers performed by BCMG musicians Mark O’Brien (clarinet/bass clarinet), John Reid (piano), Colette Overdijk (violin) and Ulrich Heinen (cello). Recorded at BCMG’s home venue, CBSO Centre in Birmingham, the film will be released at 4pm on Sunday 28 February with tickets costing £10.


The programme will feature the world premiere of BCMG commission Back to the Beginning by Ma Xiao-Qing and the UK premiere of Jia Guoping’s Ripples in Spacetime II alongside works by British composers including Julian Anderson, Charlotte Bray, Oliver Knussen and John Woolrich. The public will also be invited to take part, via Zoom, in a special interactive performance of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Roddy’s Reel.


A BCMG Sound Investment commission, 24-year-old Ma Xiao-Qing’s Back to the Beginning for solo violin is based on melodies drawn from the local folk songs of Inner Mongolia and forms part of BCMG’s Soliloquies & Dialogues series launched during the pandemic. Ma Xiao-Qing’s relationship with BCMG has developed in recent years since winning 2nd prize at the 10th China ConTempo Composition Competition in 2019 which was held by BCMG in collaboration with the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Her work will be performed alongside the music of fellow compatriot, Jia Guoping, whose work Ripples in Spacetime II for clarinet, piano, violin and cello will be given its UK premiere.


Written as a tribute to his neighbour, Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Roddy’s Reel was composed and premiered on the north-westerly Scottish Isle of Raasay where Birtwistle lived for many years. Scored for bass clarinet with audience participation, the work calls for the audience to create wild Scottish waves and weather by clapping and 'shh'ing. Since BCMG can't organise this in person at the moment, they’re calling for audience members of all ages from across the world to join a recording session over Zoom with BCMG musician Mark O'Brien in what might be the first online performance of the work. Members of the public can sign up to take part here.   


The programme also features music by British composers who have enjoyed long-standing relationships with BCMG including Julian Anderson’s Capriccio for solo piano, written in memory of American composer Steve Stucky; Charlotte Bray’s Midnight Interludes for clarinet and cello taking inspiration from the Thomas Hardy poems set in Bray’s song cycle Midnight Closes; BCMG’s late Artist-in-Association Oliver Knussen’s solo cello work, Eccentric Melody, composed as a double tribute for cellist Fred Sherry in his 50th birthday year to play to Elliott Carter on his 90th birthday; and John Woolrich’s Watermark written for the unusual combination of violin and bass clarinet.


Stephan Meier, Artistic Director, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group: We’re very grateful to be able to continue bringing new music to our audiences during this incredibly challenging time. Some pieces in this programme we performed on our tour in 2019 to Beijing and Shanghai before the shattering impact of COVID. Although we sadly can’t share the wonderful experience of live music-making together in the concert hall quite yet, we’re pleased to be able to bring new music to audiences at home and, on top of that, set out to challenge what’s technically possible in connecting audiences and performers through our interactive performance of Roddy’s Reel with audience participation. We’re also very much looking forward to sharing Ma Xiao-Qing’s new work with the world – a student composer we learned to know through our cooperations with Ensemble conTempo in Beijing in 2019.


One of the world’s foremost new music ensembles, BCMG has continued to celebrate the best of new music during the pandemic through its BCMG at Home series of digital commissions, online videos, blogs and resources including its Soliloquies & Dialogues series which invited composers to respond to lockdown from their perspectives across the world. In August 2020, BCMG were also delighted to bring live music to audiences again when, in partnership with Das Neue Ensemble and Nordic Voices, they performed Karlheinz Stockhausen's Sternklang at an outdoor concert at Berggarten Hannover preceded by a performance at Brindleyplace in Central Square, Birmingham, from BCMG’s cellist Ulrich Heinen of Henze’s Serenade and Stockhausen’s TIERKREIS in partnership with Birmingham’s Ikon gallery. In November and December 2020 they presented two digital concerts including a musical exploration of the life and work of Paul Celan in the poet’s centenary year featuring the winning works from BCMG’s international call for scores in collaboration with Ensemble o/modernt, Gehrmans Musikförlag and Goethe-Institut Schweden, and the UK premiere of American-Chinese composer Huang Ruo’s A Dust in Time.


Back to the Beginning will be released digitally at 4pm on Sunday 28 February.

For further information and to book tickets visit:


To sign up to be a part of the performance of Roddy's Reel, which will be pre-recorded ahead of the release of the final film on Sunday 28 February visit:


The concert will be recorded at the CBSO Centre with all performers and technical crew carefully adhering to current regulations for COVID-19. 



Back to the Beginning
Digital release: Sunday 28 February 2021, 4pm 

Tickets: £10


Jia Guoping (b.1963) Ripples in Spacetime II UK (2018, 12’) for clarinet, piano, violin, cello

Ma Xiao-Qing (b. 1996) Back to the Beginning WP SI (2020, 7‘) for solo violin. Part of Soliloquies & Dialogues 

Oliver Knussen (1952 -2018) Eccentric Melody (1998, 3’) for solo cello

Julian Anderson (b. 1967) Capriccio (2017, 3’) for solo piano

Charlotte Bray (b.1982) Midnight Interludes (2010, 4’) for clarinet and cello

John Woolrich Watermark (2002, 10’) for violin and bass clarinet

Sir Harrison Birtwistle Roddy's Reel (2009, 3′) Bass Clarinet with audience participation

Mark O'Brien clarinet and bass clarinet
John Reid
Colette Overdijk
Ulrich Heinen

WPWorld Premiere
UKUK Premiere
SISound Investment Commission as part of Soliloquys and Dialogues - commissions composed in lockdown for BCMG musicians.

For further press information please contact [email protected] / 07900 183 560


Notes to Editors


About Birmingham Contemporary Music Group

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group is one of the world’s foremost new music ensembles. Over three decades, BCMG has developed the music of today for the audiences of tomorrow. The ensemble has commissioned over 175 pieces of music from the world’s finest composers and emerging international talent. Many of the works have been commissioned through its innovative pioneering Sound Investment crowd-funding scheme to which over 500 donors have contributed more than £300,000; many of these works have subsequently found their way into worldwide repertoire.

BCMG was founded by Simon Clugston and Ulrich Heinen, musicians from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, in 1987, with Sir Simon Rattle as Founding Patron. Since then, BCMG has reached over 10 million people in concert and through broadcasts. The Group performs regularly at CBSO Centre, Symphony Hall and Town Hall Birmingham, Wigmore Hall in London and at the BBC Proms and Aldeburgh Festival. To this day, BCMG maintains a close link to the CBSO and regularly works with CBSO's Music Director, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.

International tours have included visits to the USA (Library of Congress), Mexico, India and venues across France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. The Group is regularly heard in concert on BBC Radio 3, and has recorded extensively. Recordings include discs of works by Thomas Adès, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Benjamin Britten, and a Grammy Award-nominated recording of Gerald Barry’s opera, The Importance of Being Earnest, for NMC Recordings. Recent releases include Wilde Lieder Marx.Music on Coviello and Howard Skempton’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a series of recordings devoted to British composers including BCMG's late Artist-in-Association Oliver Knussen, Julian Anderson and Charlotte Bray (all on NMC) and a disc of the works of Elliott Carter on Ondine.

BCMG’s work both inside and outside the concert hall has earned it many awards and accolades. Over the last decade it has been shortlisted for: ITV’s South Bank Show’s Classical Music Award; the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Ensemble Award and BBC Music Magazine’s Chamber Award. Its long-established Learning and Participation programmes actively engage young people in composing and performing, and have earned BCMG nationwide recognition (in 2016, the Group was highly commended in the Family Arts Festival Awards).

In partnership with Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, BCMG has created the NEXT Music Study Programme in Contemporary Performance, an innovative programme of study which supports early career musicians who want to dedicate their professional career to contemporary music. It is the only programme in the UK providing intensive, year-long training in contemporary music performance practice, offering musicians an unprecedented opportunity to learn from some of the most exciting performers and composers working today.

Founding Patron – Sir Simon Rattle
Artistic Director – Stephan Meier
Chair – Christoph Trestler

BCMG is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.