art & exhibitions
classical music

Sean Shibe

Part of Classical Season 2019/20

A performance of music for acoustic and electric guitar from the innovative young Scottish musician complements our major Bridget Riley retrospective.

Sean Shibe takes us from soft to loud in an unusual selection of works from the 17th century to the present day, including his rendition of Electric Counterpoint described by Steve Reich as ‘one of the best ever’.

The show features Riley’s iconic black-and-white paintings of the 1960s, early representational paintings, expansive canvases in colour, recent wall paintings, and the artist’s only three-dimensional work.

Included in your ticket is a 45-minute viewing of the exhibition and the opportunity to hear a performance of music inspired by the themes of rhythm and pattern within the works of Bridget Riley, all within the atmospheric setting of Hayward Gallery.

First, hear haunting music for the lute compiled by a teenage girl in 17th-century Scotland. Lady Margaret Wemyss was only 12 years old when she began to write down her collection of 91 solo pieces for the lute, originating from Scotland and France. She died at the age of 18.

Remaining in a calm, quiet mode, David Fennessy’s Rosewood, premiered in 2010, takes inspiration from the site of its first performance, a chapel created by Italian prisoners of war on Scotland’s Orkney island during the Second World War.

The composer explains: ‘My vivid memories of visiting [the Italian chapel] a few years ago guided me... Without wishing to somehow create a musical evocation of the place, notions of calm, reflection, open spaces, echoes and resonances permeate the music.’

Its complex pulses echoing its surroundings, Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint asks the soloist to play live against a pre-recorded tape consisting of up to 12 additional electric guitar tracks.

Called ‘definitive’ by The Guardian, Shibe’s version has been heralded by Reich as ‘one of the best recordings of Electric Counterpoint ever!’

At the concert’s climax, Shibe performs a piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe, one of the founders and artistic directors of Bang on a Can.

Originally written for nine bagpipes, LAD is a work of cathartic anger and grief that climbs from an uncanny drone towards a wild crescendo on electric guitar.

Sean Shibe became the first guitarist to win the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Young Artists in May 2018, and his imaginative programmes and commissions expand the repertoire for his instrument.

His album softLOUD featuring his interpretations of some of these works was hailed by critics as a tour de force. The Herald Scotland called it ‘The first hard-to-ignore contender for the Scottish Album of the Year award from a classical label.’

...grace to spare, and a roar that is fearsome… for Sean Shibe, anything is possible
BBC Music Magazine on softLOUD
A stunning sonic maelstrom
The Scotsman on softLOUD


Sean Shibe guitar


Wemyss: Scottish Lute Manuscripts
David Fennessy: Nos.1, 2 & 3 from Rosewood
Steve Reich: Electric Counterpoint for electric guitar & tape
Julia Wolfe: LAD

Dates & times

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Hayward Gallery


Booking fee: £3.50 (Members £0.00)


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Event information
This event consists of a 40-minute gallery viewing and a 50-minute live performance.

7.30pm event: the exhibition viewing takes place at 7.30pm – 8.15pm, followed by the performance at 8.15pm.

9.30pm event: the performance begins at 9.30pm, followed by the exhibition viewing at approximately 10.15pm – 11pm.