Founded by James Poke and John Godfrey in 1989 to play at the new Dutch music festival in York, Icebreaker is a 14-piece group consisting of panpipes, saxes, electric violin and cello, guitars, percussion and keyboards. Icebreaker have established themselves as one of the UK's leading contemporary music interpreters.
As a group of musicians that always plays amplified, it boasts an exciting repertoire which encompasses some of the best known and most influential names in contemporary music today such as Louis Andriessen, Diderik Wagenaar, David Lang, Michael Gordon, Yannis Kyriakides. Icebreaker is not easy to categorize or pigeonhole in any musical sense. They create a music that appeals to contemporary classical, rock and alternative music audiences alike. Given their unusual instrumental combination, Icebreaker represent a unique voice in British music making.
Icebreaker's concert appearances span the whole of the UK and Europe as well as performances in the USA. The ensemble has been invited to appear at most major contemporary music festivals and venues including Meltdown, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, the Aarhus, Gent and Budapest festivals and the NYYD Festival in Estonia. Frequent visits to the United States include 3 appearances at New York's Bang on a Can Festival and a performance at Carnegie Hall with the American Composers' Orchestra in Stewart Wallace's Book of Five.
Icebreaker has recorded for Argo/Decca. Their first complete recording, Terminal Velocity, was released to great critical acclaim in 1994. The second album, Trance by Michael Gordon was released in 1996. Contributions to compilation albums include works by Graham Fitkin (Argo), and Steve Martland and John Godfrey (Century XXI A - M / NewTone). Rogue's Gallery (NewTone), contains works by Michael Torke, David Lang, Godfrey, Martland and Andriessen. Further recordings are Diderik Wagenaar (Composers' Voice) and Extraction (between the lines), both released in 2001; Cantaloupe just release a remix of Michael Gordon's Trance.
Tanzwerk Nornberg, the West Australian Ballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet of Seattle have used Icebreaker's recordings for performances. In June 1998, Icebreaker appeared as guest performers with The Royal Ballet for a ballet by Ashley Page called Cheating, Lying, Stealing (music by Michael Gordon and David Lang) as part of the centenary celebrations for Dame Ninette de Valois' 100th birthday. In 2003, Icebreaker performed Ashley Page's choreography together with the Scottish Ballet in several performances in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Recent performances include a dedicated Icebreaker festival with the Wiener Musik Galerie in Vienna, a tour of Holland and further concert performances in Belgium, Poland, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the UK. Stewart Wallace's The Book of Five had its European premiere with the Bochum Symphony Orchestra. In autumn 2003, Icebreaker and Dutch ensemble Orkest de Volharding went on the UK part of the Big Noise Tour. The collaborative program includes works by Diderik Wagenaar, Yannis Kyriakides and Joe Culter (both BBC commissions) and by Cornelis de Bondt. In January 2004, the project was toured in Holland. Future plans include touring the dance project AtaXia (based on Michael Gordon?s Trance) with Wayne McGregor's company Random Dance after it has been premiered at Sadlers Wells in June 2004. Concert performances in the Far East and Australia to complement their European program.