- Culture Vulture

For Leeds Light Night, step into a symphony in St John’s Churchyard as the trees come alive in music, birdsong and light. The installation takes flight from Finnish composer Rautavaara’s Swans Migrating, in which swelling orchestral melody mixes with the sounds of whooper swans as they fly south.

Follow the path through a forest of light, waxing and waning as it responds to the music in the trees, and finally, step 400 years back in time as you enter the ancient church of St Johns. Inside, sit back and be part of an intimate, total musical experience, as Manchester Collective curate an immersive performance of Olivier Messiaen’s epic Catalogue of the Birds, set against brand new music by electronic wunderkind Erland Cooper. Messiaen’s unique and spectacular work for solo piano is a 13 movement tribute to tawny owls, blackbirds, and kingfishers in all their hopping, soaring and flitting glory.

With the world’s bird populations facing extreme peril from climate change and loss of habitat, Swan Song is a love song to our birds in music.

The Birds is commissioned by Opera North Projects for Leeds Light Night, in association with the Churches Conservation Trust.


Leeds / Thu 10 Oct 2019 / 7:00pm
for Light Night Leeds
St John the Evangelist
23 New Briggate, Leeds LS2 8JD

Leeds / Fri 11 Oct 2019 / 7:00pm
for Light Night Leeds
St John the Evangelist
23 New Briggate, Leeds LS2 8JD

This is a free event with no ticket required.


Rautavaara Swans Migrating
Catalogue d’oiseaux
Cooper New Work (World Premiere)

Creative Team

Kerry Yong Piano
Erland Cooper Composer
Brendan Williams Sound Engineer
Low Four Studios Sound Design
Adam Szabo Lighting Engineer
Manchester Collective Lighting Design
Rebecca Smith Production Design
Joff Spittlehouse
Production Design
Urban Projections Production Design

“The Birds” is created by Manchester Collective
”Swans Migrating” is created by Opera North & Urban Projections.

Photo: Alex Kozobolis

Photo: Alex Kozobolis

Erland Cooper

Hailing from the archipelago of Orkney in Scotland, award-winning composer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Erland Cooper explores the natural world of birds, the sea and landscape in his music.

Exploring a balance between alternative, electronic and classical music, his debut solo project Solan Goose (2018) began as a gentle response to ease anxiety and claustrophobia working in a large city, aiming to create a sense of balance and calm for both himself and the listener, while connecting identity, memory and place through music and cinematography.

Erland believes that music often reflects the landscape surrounding a composer, be it rural, urban, real or imagined. While Solan Goose paid homage to the birdlife of Orkney with each track name taken from Orkney dialect words for its native birds, Erland turns his attention to the North Sea in Sule Skerry (2019), the second in his Orkney triptych.

Previous projects include The Magnetic North, which blended orchestral arrangement, rock, and electronica and his early work as lead to progressive folk-rock band Erland and the Carnival.

Photo: Holly Birtles

Photo: Holly Birtles

Kerry Yong

Kerry is a musician who lives in East London. He trained as a pianist and now also performs on keyboards and live electronics.

Kerry has performed at Audiograft, Chisenhale Arts Club, Kämmer Klang, Rational Rec, Borealis Festival, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, ISCM World Music Days, Kings Place, City of London Festival, Music We'd Like To Hear, Nonclassical and in groups Apartment House, ELISION, Plus-Minus Ensemble and Ensemble Offspring.

Kerry studied piano with Stephanie McCallum at the University of Sydney (where he also studied composition) and at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He completed a doctorate at the Royal College of Music where he studied piano with Andrew Ball and researched Performance practices of music for piano with electroacoustics. He has also dabbled with the other side, playing with bands Apopalyptics, Casiokids and Half-handed Cloud and the Welcome Wagon.

Kerry also directs music at Grace Church Hackney (which meets in Hoxton), where they are happy to use ancient chants, traditional hymns and new works with choirs, bands, electronics, objects and the like.