On 19 August Oliver Leith’s music appears in two concerts in London by keen exponents of his work. Manchester Collective, directed by Rakhi Singh, perform A different ‘Fantasie from Suite no.5 in G minor’ at their late-night Prom at the Royal Albert Hall, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.  Earlier in the evening at Bold Tendencies in Peckham the GBSR Duo perform Leith’s good day good day bad day bad day.

A different ‘Fantasie’ for strings is a 4 ½-minute based on music by Matthew Locke (c.1621 – 1677). Leith ‘arranges’ his Suite no.5 in G minor for string quartet, albeit adding his idiomatic use of pitch-bending exaggerated vibrato and glissandi to blur and unsettle the surface of Locke’s original. Manchester Collective gave the world premiere of Leith’s latest work for strings will o wisp in December 2022 as part of a national tour; in spring 2022 the second movement of Leith’s Honey Siren (‘Full Like Drips’) featured in their concerts with Abel Selacoe.

A different ‘Fantasie’ appeared on Ruisi Quartet’s debut recording Big House, released earlier this year by Pentatone, which takes its title from the 2021 string quartet by Leith. Both pieces premiered at Wigmore Hall in December 2021, and Ruisi Quartet will perform them on 15 February 2023 at Kings Place as part of a focus on Leith. The focus includes a specially-curated concert for EXAUDI Thrilly Marvel Chants (28 February) featuring a new work for unaccompanied mixed voices.

good day good day bad day bad day is a 45-minute work for piano, keyboards, and percussion composed for George Barton and Siwan Rhys in 2018. Their recording of it released through Another Timbre in 2020. It was commissioned with help from the PRS open fund, RVW trust and St John Smith’s Square, where it premiered in 2018. It will be the first live performance of the work since the release of the disc.

The eight-movement piece reflects Leith’s preoccupation with the ordinary and mundane. The recursive music summons the rituals and repetitions of everyday life, as well as obsessional and compulsive patterns of thought and action. These repetitions can prove disconcertingly uncanny, reassuringly trance-like, and quietly joyful.  As in Leith’s debut chamber opera Last Days, in which the GBSR Duo performed alongside 12 Ensemble, everyday objects like wine bottles and keys contribute to the musical textures.

“I started to think about this piece after conversations with people close to me”, Leith writes, “and although it is not biographical, it is made for them and from their experiences of the violent, loving, contradictory, mundane, ceremonious, stupid, unnerving, serious, frightening, illogical, comforting, nullifying thoughts that are fought in our heads.”

There are moments of unexpected grandeur alongside sheer banality, yet somehow the mixture is curiously addictive.

The Guardian (Andrew Clements) 15 October 2020

Deadpan, subversive, quietly anarchic, disarmingly heart-sore and sweet-sour music that makes masterful use of space and placement and sparse forces and really deft repetition [...] there is great style and finesse in what Leith is doing. [...] I've listened to [good day good day bad day bad day] an awful lot…I am enchanted afresh every single time.

BBC Radio 3 New Music Show (Kate Molleson)

good day commands and deserves repeat listens [...] its runic character is simply engrossing. At the centre of this feeling are GBSR, whose characters are built lovingly into the score. They seem to cherish the score’s intimacy, making it a really heartfelt expression of their sensitivities…a tenderly created and thoughtfully realised gem.

Tempo (Hugh Morris) March 2021