recorded on 8 December 2017 at St Michael's Tower, The Cross
recording engineer: Josh Petkovic-Short
film-maker: Barney Witts, Fluxx Films
left to right: George Moorey, Barney Witts, Joe Craven, Emma Ordonez, Jo Kašpar, Luke Campbell, Madeleine Harwood, Josh Petkovic-Short, Lee Chaos,
Simon McCarthy, JPDL
Aetheflaed is known as The Lady Of Mercia. She was the overlord of Mercia over a 1000 years ago and largely responsible for defeating the Danelaw and driving Viking armies out of the Anglo Saxon kingdom. 2018 is the 1100th anniversary of her death and the city here remembers because she loved Gloucester and is buried at St Oswald’s Priory where she established a minster.
I introduced my friend Eloise, who is the project visual artist, to Aethelflaed and asked Dave aka JPDL to write some verse about her. Aetheflaed is a strong female role model; a bad-ass Anglo Saxon Warrior Queen. For a woman to become and be accepted as overlord of an Anglo Saxon kingdom and also achieve prominence and enjoy reputation as a savvy war leader and tactician is astonishing really. She captured our imagination fully and we’ve become massive fans!
We released the track early in June to coincide with the Aethelflaed events in the city and it was received really well. Eloise created a painting and we reproduced the painting as a giant scaffolding mesh that is hanging on the scaffolding for the works on the cathedral estate this year.
JPDL’s verse has fired the imagination of everyone who has heard the track and there are a bunch of brilliant musicians who contributed their skills and time recording the music in St Michael’s Tower. Every element of the arrangement has been well crafted, Luke’s wicked drum groove, Jo’s haunting bowed double bass, Joe and Lee’s ethereal synthesiser tones, Simon’s cracking djembe rhythms, my acoustic guitar and keys parts, Emma’s dark jazzy trumpet with Madeleine’s call to prayer like singing and JPDL’s awesome flow of rapped verse - in the amazing acoustic of that 15th century tower right at the centre of the city - I’m still amazed that it happened and thinking about it emotes a surreal feeling - this amazing woman from another millennium, a warrior who led a kingdom who spent significant time in the city, who’s body is buried here and there I am with my friends in the same city paying tribute through music so she can be remembered in the present time - that’s a very special privilege….
Lady of Mercia, queen before queens,
Founding mother on a chessboard of kings,
In the days of hand forged blades on the battlefield
The power struggle for Mercia yields Blood spilled to mud, what once was real Was weaponised beehives and boiling vats of beer
Throne of the kingdom was Alfred’s and fears
Of a godless army was hanging in the air
Heathens carried by the waves soon appeared,
Danish warriors, axes and spears
Strike at the overlord’s fortress and shields,
War waged on as days turned to years Children were born to this conflict and steered
The pathways of history these lands adhered to
A soon to be king named Edward was reared
Just one sibling born beat him here Who after a tactical marriage reappeared
As the widow of Nich la clafed, Aethelflaed
Myrcna hlædige, queen before queens A founding mother on a chessboard of kings
Ethereal whispers off skins and strings Sing within God given murmurs and ring
Through actions as plans were mapped out to bring
The bones of St Oswald back from the Vikings
Thoughts of them soaring on angelic wings In the minds of followers and warriors during
Attempts at reprisal, assuring the sure thing
Of victory battling on fields of Woden. Fixed up the old and built on the Roman Ruins, replenishing what become broken
A thousand years pass, millennia flows She’s still remembered in lyrics and prose Remains are resting in Gloucester,
Her soul scribed to the history of stories told
Myrcna hlædige, Lady Of Mercia Tales of her actions spanning a millennia
Nich La Clafed, passed on the power
Widowed was Alfred's first born daughter
Took to the path that was plotted before her
Adopted the tactics of war from her father
Saga eclipsed by her husband and brother These words were written for a founding mother…..
Delight Of Her Subjects And The Dread Of Her Enemies Woman Of Enlarged Soul,
A Thousand Years Pass And Millennia Flows
Still she’s remembered in lyrics and prose.
Joe Craven - synth
Joe played a MIDI master keyboard linked to a Nord Rack 2 to create an ethereal lush pad texture that sits behind the other elements of the track.
This was actually the only time I have met Joe, although I have seen him perform before as part of an electronic music duo called Bodyclocks. That performance (and my existing friendship with his band mate Jo Kaspar) was sufficient for me to want Joe to be part of this. It turns out some of the team already knew Joe from working in Bristol previously.
Emma Ordonez - trumpet
Emma played the dark and sweet trumpet motif that is threaded through the arrangement
I think I'm right in saying the first time I met Emma was over a decade ago when she successfully applied for a post as a Music Animateur for a project I was running. I think it was only later I discovered she was a fantastic trumpet player and then a few years back I ended up playing guitar in a covers band and Emma was invited to join.
I bump into her from time to time and am always blessed to be greeted with a lovely smile and a cheery hello! It was by chance, during the week I was planning this session that, whilst attending a Growth Hub meeting about developing my music practice, we happened across each other in the reception of the Oxstalls Campus of University of Gloucestershire. We got chatting and I invited Emma to get involved and I'm so glad she was able to. Her trumpet gives the track a third voice to mingle with the verse of JPDL and Madeleine's bardic song.
Jo Kaspar - double bass
Jo played double bass, using his bow to create haunting long notes or his fingers to underpin the groove
I've known Jo (and his brother Tomas who plays guitar on the Blackfriars track) for over a decade. We first met when he was half his current height and the youngest member of a band called The Crowd. They told a fib about Jo's age because they wanted a place on the young bands development project I was running. Jo was 11 or 12 and the entry requirements were minimum age of 14. It may have been the case that the others were also under 14, but I was glad I overlooked the age requirements because that first band of their's was amongst the best of the 150 or so young bands I worked with in an 8 year period.
Jo was always enterprising. He used to make a fair few quid selling sweets purchased from a cash and carry store at school. I remember remarking to his mum that I wouldn't be surprised if Jo was very very wealthy one day. I think I remember her agreeing. Jo is Joe Craven's band mate in Bodyclocks. He is now based in Bristol and is enjoying a growing reputation as a club night organiser and producer of quality electronic music. I'm so pleased that I have been able to invite musicians of Jo's calibre who were previously young people that I provided music opportunities to in previous work that happened over a decade ago to be part of my current endeavours. That is really special for me and it's really nice that these same musicians acknowledge the small influence I had on their musical pathway as significant.
Luke Campbell - drums
Luke created the groove for the piece effortlessly and wowed everyone in the session when prompted to "go for it"
Luke is another musician that I recruited on the strength of the say so of others and spent some time watching from afar. He is the nephew of my friend Charlie (who plays guitar on the Guildhall track), I have played in a gospel band with Luke's dad in recent years and the family have immaculate musical pedigree. I also know Luke's mum and another couple of uncles who are all very proud of his career as a professional musician in Brighton. So I checked out Luke's CV and found out that he had played on the X Factor final, performed as part of Little Mix's band and gone on tour as Clarence Clarity's drummer. He is a member of LeBeaux now.
Luke grew up in Gloucester and once I'd tracked him down and invited him to play drums he turned up very impressed to find a new T K Maxx in the city centre. He purchased a pair of gloves which were essential due to the crazy cold in the tower during the session. So at the session there were at least 3 of the other musicians who are very competent drummers and all were blown away by Luke's skill and feel. He created the perfect groove for me to work with and for JPDL to flow around. I had a massive grin on my face whilst we recording his takes.
Madeleine Harwood - vocals
Madeleine's amazing voice set the tone of the song and joins JPDL's verse later before bringing our tribute to Æthelflæd to a close.
SPACES is a great project, not just because it's my project and I've been fortunate enough to have this opportunity to make the music I want to hear in some amazing places with terrific people, but because when I put the call out for people to take a risk and come and work with me some wondrous things have happened.
Madeleine has an excellent reputation as a singer around these parts. Later on I found out she was 2017's Bard of Hawkwood which is a big deal, but I didn't know Madeleine until I put a call out for a scratch choir for my first session. She wasn't able to make the first session, but we got talking on Facebook and I invited her to provide a female vocal counterpoint to JPDL's rap on this track. I had also invited her partner to play bass on another project so we had met in person briefly previously in the weeks before this session. I'd not given Madeleine much to go on, just some lines of lyrics and she'd listened to the demo of the chord progression and rough rhythmic ideas, but hadn't yet heard JPDL's rap. She arrived and spent a little time with JPDL and myself preparing before we captured her improvised melody using the lyrics I'd provided in just a couple of takes. Her voice and personality is the perfect fit for this track.
Lee Chaos - "le strum" synth/samples
Lee used a device called "Le Strum" to trigger a selection of samples on his laptop. These combine with Jo Craven's synth pad to create the lush texture that sits underneath the arrangement.
I've known Lee for a long time. When I moved to Gloucestershire and began to get stuck into the music scene locally I knew that I had to meet Lee. It wasn't that I was into the same music - far from it - it was because I had heard about his approach to running an independent label called Wasp Factory. That's all in another life for both of us now, but we've enjoyed working together as community music leaders since the early 2000s. It's strange that we had never made music together on a creative project of our own though. I think we have probably mentioned it in passing on many occasions, but I set out to remedy then situation last year when I imagined Lee bringing his taste for great synth textures to this session.
Lee brought a "Le Strum" device to the session which is like a stylus pen that the player moves across a magnetic strip and triggers a set of samples. There are buttons to select the desired chord as you strum across the strip. I don't quite understand it but Lee is a genius with that stuff. He comes from the starting point that he loved to sing as a boy, but couldn't quite get the hang of scored music and didn't have the opportunity to learn an instrument so he loves to invent ways to really "play" with music without the need for kinetic or academic skills. He maintains that he's not a real musician. I disagree, I think he's a wonderful musician and artist and I'm really glad that he was so enthusiastic to be involved making music with me.
I'm constantly impressed and awed by his creative ambition combined with his desire to do good. He works as the Disability Lead for The Music Works and is responsible for bringing amazing life changing music projects to young people and children that otherwise would probably not experience music making in any capacity. He can be spotted with his partner Ceri participating in the choirs on the tracks at the two St Mary churches.
Simon McCarthy - djembe
Simon played his djembe using authentic African technique complimenting and accenting the groove.
Simon is an expert african drum specialist and founder of Bantang Music. His wife Erica plays violin on two of the other tracks on the project and their children go to the same school as mine and my wife's two children. I was invited to Simon's 40th birthday prior to the session. I'd already invited him to be part of this track, but what I heard at his party when he and his friends played in their drumming group together assured me that he would deliver the goods and he did. It was great watching him and Luke groove together in the tower.
JPDL - vocals
JPDL dug deep into history to craft his verse and pays tribute to Æthelflæd as the awesome warrior woman she was with his trademark consummate poetic flow.
I met Dave perhaps 10 years ago through a mutual friend. At the time I was putting together a band to lead a workshop at End Of The Road festival and I needed a rapper to improvise and perform with the band. After the festival Dave sort of disappeared and I was busy with stuff. Then a couple of years ago I managed to get his phone number from a friend and pestered him a bit about coming and making some music with me. We started messing around with some ideas I had, but then Dave working under the artist name JPDL (being the actual initials of his full name) was starting to get very busy with his own material and collaborations. It was all good though, we'd opened up fairly regular communication and decided to put our starting efforts on the shelf for the time being and if any more immediate types of opportunities arose we'd get together. Well I got my funding and started planning and already had JPDL on my list. I asked him about researching Æthelflæd with a view to writing verse and then performing on a recording for this project and he agreed. Without JPDL this track would be very different. His verse and flow is the beating heart of the track and was the main source of inspiration for the other musicians at the session. Once we all heard Dave perform his part we all had a more solid idea of what we were creating. I always knew my instincts were right and trusted my vision of Dave featuring on this track from the start. I'm really pleased to report that he exceeded my already high expectations.
George Moorey - acoustic guitar & electric piano
In addition to the concept I came up with the chord sequence, the initial idea for the groove and played some electric piano parts. I also edited and mixed the recording.