Friday, 28 February 2014

'Vigil' - the recording!


Just wanted to say what a fantastic day I had at the recording for 'Vigil's' music in St Chad's Cathedral on Saturday 15th! I found it very moving to hear a piece of music which I had written, along with Ed, performed by professional musicians.

I have a lifelong love of music and have, on various occasions, started to study or perform it. Unfortunately, circumstances arose which meant that I had to turn again to other things and the music had to wait. When my illness hit and I had to give up the musical studies I was undertaking at the time and which I was so enjoying, Ed was just a small child and I had no idea that, one day, we would work together on the melodies which have haunted me for so long and I am so thrilled by the results!

Pictured below are Ed, Penelope and the Beorma Ensemble at the recording session in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham

Reading from left to right, the singers are:-


Penelope Appleyard 

soprano solo

Richard West


Richard Paterson


Alex Aldren

first tenor

Lewis Jones

basso profundo (oktavist)

David Wynne


Andrew Fellowes

basso profundo (oktavist)

Oliver Martin-Smith 

second tenor

Ed Harrisson

tenor solo and director

The Beorma is a flexible group and these particular singers were gathered together in view of the piece to be performed. I was interested in having the sound as of Russian Orthodox music, as I felt would this suit the style and ethos of the work, so the body of the choir are the seven male singers, with Penelope Appleyard taking on the part of solo soprano and Ed as solo tenor and also director.

 Within the piece, Ed and Penny sing a short duet, as I feel this reflects the situation whereby a man and woman together keep vigil for a lost or sick child, the age of any such child irrelevant to the process of grieving or loss involved. One verse is also given for the main body of the choir to sing and within this, they reach a powerful and swelling crescendo.

The singers in action

I am very grateful to St Chad's Cathedral for giving us permission to record in their beautiful building, which was chosen for its excellent acoustics and qualities of its reverberation. The location worked very well, the only drawback being traffic noise from the nearby road network which, now and again, became a little intrusive! However, with today's technology, audio producers Ben Bass and David Armstrong have worked the magic of removing the traffic hum from the track, to leave the sound of the singers' voices clearly heard
Ed with David (on left) and Ben (on right), Beorma members in background

I am really delighted with how the sound has worked out and have so enjoyed working with Ed, coming to the rehearsal and recording in the cathedral and then being present at the final editing session afterwards. All of this has been a new experience for me, including seeing how professional singers approach their work.

There are other pieces of music which I have in the pipeline and Ed and I are discussing how we might bring these to fruition. It has, therefore, been very useful for me to have been present while the singers worked so that I can bear this in mind when considering phrasing and harmony in another piece of music. As well as this, working with Ed is, of course, invaluable because of his knowledge and experience of writing music and of the character of melodies and what is required in a piece of choral music. I am very grateful to the Arts Council of Wales for giving me the award of funding and thereby the opportunity to develop this exciting new avenue within my work.

Below, a few more pictures taken on the day of the recording session.

Early in rehearsal
Lewis and Ed

 Ed singing and conducting

Self with Penelope, the Beorma and Ed
The music is an important part of 'Vigil' but, as the complete installation will not be realised for some time, I am at present looking into possibilities of releasing the sound ahead of the final work  -  watch this space!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

'Vigil' (the music)

I am now working with Ed on my project 'Vigil' and it's such a pleasure! The impetus for this new work was thinking about how Christ, in his suffering during the watching in the Garden of Gethsemane, reaches out to all those today who keep vigil in various ways, awaiting news of loved ones missing from home or serving in the Armed Forces abroad, or who watch by the bedside of a suffering relative or friend.
Arts Council Wales have awarded me funding to develop the musical element of the planned installation and professional singers will perform something I have written for the first time! This is my melody which Ed has harmonised in the style of the Russian Orthodox. The full installation is planned to include textile hangings, mirrors, music and accompanying book.

This Saturday, all being well, we are due to record the piece in St Chad's Cathedral and I'm ever so excited! To have the award of the funding is such an endorsement of my work and such an encouragement for me and it's great working with Ed  -  I'm so grateful!

More info about the installation and about Ed and his music can be seen on my website.

Hopefully, next time I return, a recording will exist!

ACWlotterywg logo

Snowy interlude

We have had so much rain lately, though we have not suffered nearly as much as some have, that it was lovely to look out the other day and see the mountain slopes garmented in snow. I have been captivated since childhood by the sheer beauty of snow, how it transforms surfaces wherever it falls, how light sparkles and gleams on it, the muffled quiet of sounds in its muted atmosphere and the colours of shadows on its pristine surface.

I can never resist sketching and stitching it, so now include a fragment in progress, one of the nature-based pieces I am working on at present. I like to work on different pieces concurrently and, as at present, often run more figurative and abstract works alongside one another. This stitched piece photographed has become even 'snowier' as it has evolved and I am also working on a new installation 'Vigil', involving abstract pieces and music  -  more about this in my next blog, coming very soon!

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Poetically speaking

When I looked out on Sunday morning, the hillside seemed mournfully quiet, sad in sunless colours. I lit a candle to bring a little warmth and light into the room and wrote down a few words. Today, I looked again at those words and set them down like this :-

                         Silent slopes sit,
                                                   dark with a
                         grey foreboding,
                                      waiting for the next
                                storm to
                                                unleash its
                                  f       r       

                           sodden ground
                                                     plays in
                                           no dancing shadows    -

                          quiet tension of
                                                     the                     space
                                                              between      -

                           invasions of water
                                                               p  o  u   r         in

                                                                       p a t  h    s
                            multiplied by  days and
                                                                     nights    of
                                      dr e n  ch  ing
                                                                  un  -  cea  -  sing
                                                           r  a  I   n

                             a  n  gry     BLASTS   of   

                                                                       W i N D  s

                             s h ak  e         homes

                                                                    cr   ack   trunks
                                                     like twigs   -

                               fragile beauty    to  ss ed   aside
                                                                                  and mourned;

                                 we seem    trapped,
                                                                   not in a Narnian wonderLand
                                        white with ice and snow    but 

                            peer toward remembered  hillsides
                                                  l o s t   in veil  after   veil   of
                                                                           unending     w e t ne ss;
                               until today;
                                                       now   fresh snow  g lea  ms
                                      on  slopes       in
                                                    sudden      br  u  sh  -  stroke
                                                                      pale sun    - 

     brief     in- ter-lude    of  calm      -

                        then  clouds    s  l in  g      icy     pellets

                                                         hail   against    windows,

                                        a      r u s h    of     wind    in
                                                                              the colder air;

                                           we wait for what
                                                                              may come.