The Language of Bells, Project


The Language of Bells is a project that brings together different associations behind the sounds of bells: a call to worship, an announcement of time passing, or the marking of a life event – both joyful and sorrowful. With the church as the traditional centre of a community, and its ringing bells as markers of events passing, this project uses both the meaning and social aspects of ringing bells, as well as their actual sound, to allow the listener to reflect on their own memories of the language of bells.

The show is divided into two halves, which take the audience on an episodic journey that evokes the sounds of bells through overtones, chants, and a creative, immersive use of the performing space. With the fluid instrumentation across the works as well as physical movement of the performers across the space, each half will be treated as one entity, with the audience not expected to applaud between the pieces. The choice of percussion also plays with the idea of what a bell is, with the instrumental line up to include crystal balls, Chinese temple bells, wrist and ankle bells, resonant flower pots, as well as some traditional larger bells.  

The first half of the concert is structured around the tranquil passing of a single day, from morning (Richter’s On the Nature of Daylight) to night (Wilbye’s Draw on Sweet Night). Over the course of the day, different expressions of the spiritual are performed, with a sacred afternoon piece for voices later followed by a prayer offered after a warning call. The second half of the concert first introspectively explores spiritualism and meditation, looking first to the earth and nature, and then to religion and the passing of life – Parsons' Nunc Dimittis and Jarman’s Revelation set the same biblical text about readiness for the afterlife (‘Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace’). The bells will ring for celebration to close the concert, involving dances from Schein’s Banchetto Musicale and Piazzolla’s Libertango, finally bringing the concert to its finale with the joyous and uplifting fourth section of Jarman’s new work, which features a celebratory cascade of bells.

Jill Jarman’s new composition, written especially for this project, is split up into four sections that brings the whole programme together. Throughout these sections, Jarman uses the forces to recreate the sounds of bells, using the concepts of resonance and reflection to tie together this atmospheric show.


This project brings together regular collaborators composer Jill Jarman and percussionist Evelyn Glennie. The concept behind the project came out of the desire to bring together the sounds of the renaissance with more contemporary music to explore new ideas for collaborative expression – and the use of bells as the central focus underlines the timelessness of their importance.


Evelyn Glennie, percussion
Chelys Consort of Viols
Emily Atkinson, soprano
David Gould, countertenor
Steven Harrold, tenor
Robert Rice, baritone

Biographical details:

Jill Jarman is a composer and jazz pianist, whose music reflects diverse genres, effortlessly crossing the boundaries between classical and jazz. “Art music with jazz waywardness” (Swedish Dagbladet). Science and the natural world often inform her creative process, inspiring her to develop new compositional devices that engage the listener in an evolving and multi-layered sound-world.

Dame Evelyn Glennie is the first person in history to successfully create and sustain a full-time career as a solo percussionist. She regularly performs worldwide with top orchestras, conductors and other artists – having had the privilege of performing the first percussion concerto at the BBC Proms in 1992. Dame Evelyn is also a public speaker, and holds regular masterclasses and consultations.

Recently described by Gramophone as having released “unquestionably the most beautiful recording of the Lachrimae”, Chelys Consort of Viols have garnered a reputation for their faithful yet fresh interpretations of the consort repertoire. They recently joined Dame Emma Kirky at her 70th birthday celebration concert at the Wigmroe Hall, and they regularly record for the BIS label. They had previously commissioned a piece from Jill

The singers for this project are some of the UK’s leading consort singers, two of whom have previously collaborated with Chelys. They regularly perform with ensembles such as the Tallis Scholars, The Cardinall’s Musick and Alamire.




Jill Jarman, new work – part I
Abel, Prelude (solo viola da gamba)
Max Richter, On the nature of daylight (arr. for singers, viols and percussion)
Wilbye, Draw on Sweet Night (viols and singers)
Jill Jarman, new work – part II
Evelyn Glennie, A Little Prayer (arr. for percussion and viols)
Jill Jarman, new work – part III


Frederick Rzewski, To the Earth (tuned flower pots with narration)
Parsons, Nunc Dimittis (voices and viols)
Jill Jarman, Revelation (arr. for singers, viols and percussion)
Schein, Suite of dances from ‘Banchetto Musicale’ (viols)
Piazzolla, Libertango (percussion)
Jill Jarman, new work – part IV

Programme outline - some works may be substituted or added. 


Praise for Evelyn Glennie: "She is quite simply a phenomenon of a performer"

The New York Times

Praise for the Chelys Consort of Viols: 'Played with passion, precision and brilliance'

Early Music Review



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