Press Release: Bass orchestra to perform in Brunel’s Thames Tunnel shaft

Now the beating heart of the Brunel Museum and with a chamber half the size of Shakespeare’s Globe, the Grand Entrance Hall of the historic Thames Tunnel will host its first ever bass orchestra performance as part of the UK/Australia Season.

The amassed musicians of London chamber orchestra Ruthless Jabiru and Australia’s Decibel New Music Ensemble will come together on 02 December 2022 for an all-low programme by contemporary composers of Australia, UK, Finland/France, Chile and the US.

“The world’s first subaquatic concert was held in one of the Thames Tunnels in 1827,” said Alicja Sobczak, Events Coordinator at the Brunel Museum. “The tunnel had not been fully completed yet due to lack of funds—this is clear from the painting held here in the museum by George Jones, Banqueting in the Thames Tunnel. 50 or so guests including the Duke of Wellington were treated to music like Rule Britannia and See the Conquering Hero Comes. Acoustics were challenging due to reverberation and echo in the tunnels but the party was a huge success!”

On its eventual completion, the Thames Tunnel became a spectacular underwater fairground with sword swallowers, fire eaters, magicians and tightrope walkers performing. One section of the tunnel was decked out as a ballroom with a steam-powered organ playing dance tunes below the Thames. The Ruthless Jabiru/Decibel collaboration promises to bring a similarly colourful vitality to the Brunel Museum’s flagship performance space. 

“Decibel is such a multidimensional creative force,” said Kelly Lovelady, Ruthless Jabiru’s Artistic Director, conductor and producer. “This is an ensemble that really mobilises the full potential of its polymath musicians and their various composing, producing and tech innovations—all in addition to being world-class performers. This project we welcome Ruthless Jabiru’s first ever Guest Conductor, Decibel’s resident violist Aaron Wyatt. It’s an honour to feature such an outstanding First Nations colleague: Aaron’s diverse talents and portfolio really precede him.”

Noongar man Wyatt will make his international conducting debut performing Kaija Saariaho’s Neiges. In addition to his roles as Decibel violist and developer of the ensemble’s animated score notation app, Decibel ScorePlayer for iPad, Wyatt is also prolific as a composer, conductor, researcher and educator.

“I’m looking forward to performing in such an amazing space, and with such a fantastic group of musicians,” said Wyatt. “It’s a really exciting collaboration and Saariaho is such a great fit for the venue. Like so many of her works, Neiges is a really beautiful exploration of tone and timbre—all growing out of a single note that begins to shimmer the more musicians join. The acoustics of the Grand Entrance Hall will really bring this piece to life.”

The Holy Presence of invites audiences into a site-specific musical performance inspired by the dual crises of climate and governance in Fairbourne, Gwynedd. A low-lying coastal village on the edge of Snowdonia, the region is expected to be consumed by extreme weather and rising seas by 2054. As a result, funding for Fairbourne’s sea wall defences has been controversially withdrawn and its 450+ resident families forced to rehome as climate refugees in the years ahead. The community of Fairbourne continues its campaign for infrastructure in the face of climate emergency. 

In solidarity with Fairbourne’s resistance, the 02 December performance will culminate in the world premiere of Never at Sea by Decibel’s Artistic Director, Cat Hope, with the composer herself as electric bass soloist. 

Decibel New Music Ensemble is a 6-piece collective focusing on the integration of acoustic and electronic instruments in chamber music performance. Decibel are world-leading interpreters of graphic notations and pioneer digital score formats for composition and performance including the Decibel ScorePlayer App for iPad, enabling coordinated performance of graphic notations.

Ruthless Jabiru is a chamber orchestra of professional Australian musicians in the UK merging contemporary music and Activism in an effort to promote compassion, sustainability and social consciousness. Under the leadership of its founding Artistic Director Kelly Lovelady, Ruthless Jabiru delivers curated performance events themed around humanitarian, sustainability and social justice stories in collaboration with the UK campaigning sector.

The Grand Entrance Hall, Brunel Museum is the former entrance shaft to the historic Thames Tunnel: the world’s first ever underwater passage and first of many projects by engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Now a Grade II* listed structure, the tunnel was originally designed for horse-drawn carriages between Rotherhithe and Wapping but on opening in 1843, became the world’s most popular pedestrian visitor attraction, with foot traffic of over a million in its first three months alone.

The UK/Australia Season is a major new cultural exchange celebrating the diverse and innovative artist communities and cultural sectors of each nation. A collaboration between the British Council and the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Season is a vibrant programme spanning theatre, film, visual arts, dance, design, architecture, music, literature, higher education and a public engagement programme.


“Adventurous, inquisitive, challenging. Decibel honour and sabotage modernist traditions.”


“[Cat Hope is] one of Australia’s most exciting and individual creative voices.”


“Kelly Lovelady conducted with masterful sensitivity throughout … [her] carefully considered programming makes abundant conceptual sense. [Ruthless Jabiru’s Silk Moth] was one of the most remarkable musical experiences of my year … demanding that we look and listen. A sincere and sensitive exploration of ethnicity, domesticity and violence.


“Utterly captivating … [Ruthless Jabiru’s Silk Moth] was a daring and powerful theatrical evening which lasted less than an hour, but whose emotion will resonate for far longer.”

The Holy Presence of

Grand Entrance Hall, Brunel Museum
Railway Avenue, London, SE16 4LF (⦵ Rotherhithe)
19:00, 02 December 2022
Link to buy tickets


Kaija Saariaho Neiges
Lindsay Vickery Bascule EUROPEAN PREMIERE
Tansy Davies Feather and Groove 
Pedro Alvarez Intersperso-Ultradiano EUROPEAN PREMIERE
Julius Eastman The Holy Presence of Joan d’Arc
Cat Hope Never at Sea WORLD PREMIERE


Decibel New Music Ensemble
Ruthless Jabiru
Cat Hope electric bass
Kelly Lovelady conductor
Aaron Wyatt conductor

We are open to all opportunities for editorial, broadcast and social media coverage including:

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All press enquiries to Kelly Lovelady: Artistic Director, Ruthless Jabiru

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