Lara in residence

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Published on 07/09/22

This season Ha Concerts has a first: for the first time ever, it is hosting a year-long artist in residence. Lara Rosseel, the narrative bassist who was recently appointed as Ghent's city composer, is the first to take the stage with a series of her dream projects.
Which ones will they be? Our reporter listened carefully and found Lara in full full exploration.

How did you react when you heard the news of your residency?

Yes, of course it was great. I must say that I have always felt a lot of support from the Handelsbeurs, now Ha. When I wanted to record my first record (De Grote Vrouw, 2020), they already encouraged me to apply for subsidies and they programmed me right away. The communication around that concert was also fantastic. I arrived and saw a metres-long banner hanging on the facade with that promo image of me and my bass underwater.

That was the first time I thought, "Wow, I'm getting there." Later concerts followed and especially a lot of good conversations. One day I was asked if I wanted to set up an international project. I was already making plans, but then Corona came along.

Maybe you can pick that up again this season?

I am taking some time to see what I want to do and decide what I think is important, both for projects in the regular programme and interventions in the children's programme.

What is certain is that in April I will play with an international trio: three women from different traditions, who not only play music but also sing. I will invite an American banjo player I once met in Ireland and pair her with Laura Cortese, a violinist from California who now lives in Ghent.

I bought a circus stand, you never know. - artist in residence Lara Rosseel

Lara Rosseel Artikel

It sounds like you are going in the direction of folk.

That is possible. We still have to discover it together. It will be a matter of sharing enough ideas in advance so that we can dot the 'i' in the last week before the concert. In any case, I want everyone to be able to do their thing in my projects.

You play in a broad spectrum, of course. You once played with Zap Mama. How did that work out?

I was really young and one day, out of the blue, I got a legendary phone call from singer Marie Daulne: "Are you free on that date? Because my current bass player is playing with Prince then." Haha! I didn't know what I was hearing: "And you're asking me to replace them?" I thought. So in the end I filled in for two concerts. Very nice. It was also fascinating to see how much attention Marie paid to the look of the band. Her stylist had provided a costume for everyone, which I thought was great.

You are also very much into the visual image.

I studied fashion in secondary school and that has certainly left an impression. Recently, I bought metres of fabric at Dries Van Noten's stock sale. It would be nice to literally give one of the projects a new look this year.

So you still design clothes?

The day before Gent Jazz I made a pair of trousers to perform in. I find that relaxing, almost therapeutic. Music is never finished, you know. A pair of trousers is. Moreover, I have a passion for texture and I always pay attention to the visual side of things.

I also thought of your livestream concert in Ha with those dramatically lit branches around which you played.

Actually, I wanted an animal on stage then. A zebra! Haha, I know. But you also have to think about animal rights, of course. I keep looking at how I can bring nature into my work. I'm thinking mainly of field recordings now.

Did you hear the little bird on the last track of De Grote Vrouw? It was storming that day and in the courtyard there was a blackbird that kept whistling. I then asked the recording manager to record it. I finally gave the blackbird the last word on the record.

Why do you want more nature in your work?

I grew up by the sea and it remains a powerful landscape. So much space without people, without walls. In such vastness, I suddenly feel connected to the world. Do you know what I also find beautiful? Sometimes public transport in Belgium falls completely flat when it rains or snows too much. That overwhelming power appeals to something very primitive in me. By the way, I am playing with the idea of organising outdoor concerts during my residency.

Do you already have a location in mind?

No, but I have already bought a circus stand, you never know. I happened to see that a French company stopped and sold its stand. It is beautiful, you know. One in the shape of a circle with a bite out of it at the front.

Sounds like you want to involve the public too.

That remains to be seen. But we are definitely going to do a concert and workshop for and with children this autumn. I used to play in a music theatre company that also performed on the street, and I found it nice to be able to reach all ages. I also find the energy and imagination of children inspiring.

Any other concrete plans?

Last year I was at Jazz Middelheim with a nonet and now I want to add a string quartet and an oboe. The intention is to further explore the cinematic side of my music. But the groove remains important: Robbe Kieckens plays Oriental percussion, Angelo Moustapha makes the bridge with Benin on drums and Sep François gives the best of himself on vibraphone and all kinds of creative percussion. For the rest of the year, I'm still going to put the puzzle together.

We are curious. See you in Ha!

photo © Shalan Alhamwy

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