A new work by BCMG Apprentice Composer-in-Residence 2018-19 Robert Reid Allan, in collaboration with filmmaker Sasha Balmazi-Owen and actor/dancer/singer Richard Court will be premiered on Friday 21 June at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham.

Physical Education, scored for actor, video and ensemble, revisits the school gym hall and the emotionally-charged memories of childhood P.E. lessons. Whilst some may look back with a fond reminiscence of athletic success, for those without a natural capacity for sporting activity, gym hall memories of body self-consciousness, fear of judgement and bullying can cast a long shadow.

The world premiere performance of Physical Education will see the projection of a live camera feed and pre-composed images and video alongside live performance from actor, dancer and singer Richard Court and the musicians of BCMG conducted by Tim Anderson. The work will become a lens through which, on the one hand, the dynamics of violence, brutality and patriarchy are questioned, but also in which the need for physical intimacy and sexuality is explored. Sporting imagery finds a new place in projected video on to the concert space, violent musical gestures sit alongside the physical gestures of the dancer, all the while the text weaves the audience through a shared nostalgia for the dreaded gym hall.

Robert Reid Allan comments: I'm really excited to share with the world the new piece that I've been developing with Sasha Balmazi-Owen and Richard Court as part of my ongoing residency with BCMG. The piece grew out of a conversation Sasha and I had about the often-overlooked similarities between sport and music, and we became really interested in the notions of elite performance, fleetingness and physicality that are common to both. Sasha and I were also interested in the 'liveness' that both sport and music occupy - that both a match and a gig happen in real time, without the opportunity to redo or repeat - and we became really interested in developing this liveness into the workings of the piece. Much of the video projections in the piece will be augmented live recordings of the performance itself, creating a 'hyperreal' element to the visuals, and the musicians will also be required to react to this in real time, echoing not only our desire to create a truly live performance, but also adding expressivity, nuance and symbiosis which is often lacking in music-plus-fixed-media work.

The world premiere of Physical Education marks the culmination of Robert Reid Allan’s residency with BCMG. Part of BCMG’s ongoing commitment to nurturing young and emerging talent, the Apprentice Composer-in-Residence scheme offers an unrivalled opportunity to become embedded in the workings of one of the world’s foremost new music ensembles. Robert has spent the last four months working closely with the ensemble and immersing himself in its activities. In addition to writing two commissioned works and being supported by composer-mentors, Robert has also been observing and participating in the broader artistic, learning and audience development activities of BCMG. BCMG’s Apprentice Composer-in-Residence scheme is generously supported by The Leverhulme Trust.


Physical Education is suitable for ages 18+. For concert listing information please visit https://www.bcmg.org.uk/Event/physical-education

Images of Robert Reid Allan can be downloaded here © Agnė Bekeraitytė

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


Notes to Editors


About Robert Reid Allan

Robert Reid Allan is a Scottish composer and pianist based and working in East London. He creates visceral, innovative and hard-hitting work touching on themes of violence, sexuality and politics.

A graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, he has worked with a number of distinguished performers and ensembles including Ensemble Modern, the Royal Scottish National and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras, Psappha and Red Note Ensembles, EXAUDI Vocal Ensemble, percussionist Joby Burgess and cellist Oliver Coates, and has had work performed across the UK and in Europe.


In addition to his work as a composer, Robert is much in demand as a teacher, accompanist, repetiteur and engraver, is a voracious bookworm and likes to think of himself as a decent vegan cook.




About Sasha Balmazi-Owen

Sasha Balmazi-Owen grew up on Stravinsky and Shostakovich in Wales and has worked in Europe for the past four years as a filmmaker, director, and designer. Sasha’s work primarily focuses on opera and dance, and regularly addresses themes of memory, prophecy, justice and horror.

Being influenced by Walt Disney and George A Romero films from an early age, Sasha is passionate about resurrecting the genres of the opera-film and ballet-film for the screen. Successfully directing his first short opera-film for Random Acts in 2018, “Death Visits Mererid” based on Modest Mussorgsky’s “Serenade”, Sasha’s next project will include Lombard Street, sleeping bags, and twerking.

Graduating from Kingston School of Art, Sasha has worked in art direction and sound for the film industry, and regularly collaborates with director Loré Lixenberg and composer Rolf Hind. He has worked with notable companies and artists, including the BBC, Channel 4, FOX, National Geographic, Mahogany Opera Group, Copenhagen Opera House, St John Smith’s Square, David Toop, Jonathan Goddard, Florence Kennard, Alexandra Toomey, Zoë Martlew, Lone Madsen, Lidia Baich, Tanja Zapolski and Kristina Reiko Cooper.


About Richard Court 

Richard had an early training in dance, theatre and music. Initially choosing to focus on dance he graduated from the London Contemporary Dance School. Since that time he has worked as a multi disciplined performing artist touring nationally and internationally in varied works ranging from contemporary dance to live art, theatre and music theatre. Amongst the directors, choreographers and companies he has worked with are Mark Baldwin, Kim Brandstrup, Michael Clark, Sarah Fahie, Richard Jones, Duncan Macfarland, Wayne McGregor, Hanbury & Groves and Gestalt Arts.
As an assistant director, Richard has worked with choreographer and director Duncan Macfarland on Francesca Zambello’s production of “Carmen” at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Beijing and in Taiyuan as associate director with Macfarland’s Wild Geese Productions for the Taiyuan Dance Troupe, creating the full-scale dance concert, “Wild Geese”.  While in Beijing, Richard also studied at the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, learning Chinese Folk Dances and Jingju (Peking Opera) styles. Richard studies vocally with Quentin Hayes (RNCM) with coaching from Mark Packwood (ROH).   Notable appearances include "Tracing Gestures" 1, 2 and 3 for Stephanie Schober and Dance Company, the role of Publio in Giornata Operas “La clemenza di Tito”, as a participant in Tino Seghal’s These Associations at the Tate Modern, London, "The Unsung Heroes of the Planet" and "Liquid History" with Gestalt Arts, dancing the vocal role of the Mechanical Nightingale in John Barber’s "The Nightingale" and singing the title role in "EXTRAORDINARY: A Celebration of the Life and Music of George Butterworth". Future plans include new work with Gestalt Arts as a physical performer and singer, at Snape Maltings, and an actor/dancer role in a new production of La damnation de Faust with Richard Jones and Sarah Fahie, at Glyndebourne.


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. Forthcoming Sound Investment commissions include works by Ondřej Adámek, Rebecca Saunders and Sir Harrison Birtwistle. BCMG also supports the next generation of exceptional young composers through its Apprentice Composer-in-Residence scheme.


BCMG was founded by 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. 


International tours have included visits to the USA (Library of Congress), Mexico, India and venues across France, Germany 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 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, released in August 2017.


BCMG’s 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). 



Founding Patron – Sir Simon Rattle

Artistic Director – Stephan Meier


BCMG is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.