When Malcolm Critten learned about RNS Moves, he was intrigued. As a member of the Royal Northern Sinfonia he fully supported the concept of an ensemble featuring disabled and non-disabled musicians side-by-side. He eagerly awaited an opportunity to take part himself and was excited when that moment arrived.
“It is an amazingly collaborative ensemble. Tristan [Gurney] directs and facilitates us, but we all collaborate and have ideas,” Malcolm says. “We take a piece of music and change it; we improvise. Everyone’s very friendly and willing to accept and try people’s ideas.”
Malcolm grew up in the North West, where he enjoyed free music lessons in school. He feels fortunate that this framed the direction of his professional life.
“I’ve got a picture at home with my violin class and me. There’s probably about 15 of us all having a free lesson,” says Malcolm. “I learned the violin, and the school had an orchestra. Two viola players left, and I was handed a viola; it went from there.”
“I ended up going to Cheltenham School of Music, and I went to college in Manchester. Then I was freelance for several years. I moved to the North East in 1987, and I’ve been playing in RNS for nearly 35 years. I love it up here.”
The players in RNS Moves adapt to each other’s needs. Sharing skills is complimented by demonstrating mutual respect.
“There are people who are blind in the group, and you have to be aware when you start a piece of music that they know when to start. Also, with the amount of technology that Clarence [Adoo MBE] brings in, we need a bit more time to set everything up. Everyone is really understanding with each other,” Malcolm says.
There was a creative shift in RNS Moves when founder Clarance explored a new piece of software for his bespoke instrument, Headspace. Headspace is a virtual instrument designed by German-born American composer-cum-inventor Rolf Gehlhaar. Sounds are produced through a computer using synthesised sound.
“I remember when Clarence tried out some different software with us; it was like a milestone for the ensemble and him. It opened so many doors, enabling much more creativity. The software can manipulate our sounds and puts everything on a new level for him.”
Malcolm believes the nurturing atmosphere of RNS Moves means they will continue progressing, altering opinions and promoting an inclusive way of making inventive music.
“I hope audiences have a wonderful musical experience. I want them to see us on stage and know disabilities do not limit the level of creativity that we’re producing,” he says. “We’re a happy bunch. We keep opening new doors, trying out new things. Sky’s the limit really.”