Ethereal sounds reverberating on ancient stones. This is partly what George Moorey’s Arts Council funded ‘Spaces’ project is all about - using eight historic buildings in the City of Gloucester as inspiration for a series of musical interpretations that will form a trail around some of the city’s most fascinating ancient sites.
But Spaces is also about people, and George has collected a series of creative talent pools to produce something quite magical. In each space he has worked with a different team to produce a piece of music that is inspired by the building’s history, and each team has been specially brought together by George to create the perfect combination of sounds to reflect the stories held by those ancient stones.
Watching George at work in each of the spaces was like watching a magician producing the impossible. But his process is not shrouded in mystery. With immense generosity he has not only worked with a huge range of creative people, but you are invited in to explore the creative process as well as the final result of this project. Videos of each session will be shared showing the differing approaches George took with each space - from small intimate pieces of music created with just a few instrumentalists to joyous pieces sung by a choir of voices gathered through social media to take part.
Generosity is a word that springs to mind each time I watched George at work. His meticulous planning of each event allowed him to give creative freedom to the musicians at each recording. At Saint John’s Church on Northgate I watched several recordings, but for the final few George’s instructions were simply, ‘go where it takes you’, and the music soared as the players lost themselves in the sounds they were creating. At Blackfriars, on a bitterly cold evening George patiently sat behind his keyboard quietly discussing each recording and responding to suggestions with ‘cool, let’s give it a go.’
Whether intentional or not, all the pieces reflect the calmness and quiet confidence of George, someone who is sure of his own abilities as a musician. As a producer he quietly inspires people to give their all to the project, allowing more experienced musicians to showcase their talent, and nurturing raw talent to stretch and explore the creative process.
Each person who I spoke to and asked about their involvement had the same story, that they’d met George at some point in time and trusted him as a creative collaborator. And it’s not just musicians he’s brought together for this project - photographers, videographers, sound technicians as well as artists and writers have all been brought into the creative process of documenting the making of the music.
The technical side of the project is an integral part of the artistic process. The cold stone floor of St Mary De Crypt on Southgate was strewn with wires, stitching each musician together with a cat’s cradle of cables all leading to a laptop where each take is recorded, slowly building a massive sound library that George will use to mix the final pieces. But these will also be offered to other producers to interpret in other ways, spreading the creative opportunities of the project across the city and beyond.
But how do you interpret a city through music? In George’s case you build relationships with artists that support their development and allow them to work together to create a love letter to their city. And Gloucester is a city where the arts thrive, but not in the usual way. Very little money reaches the true creatives in the city, so it’s a joy to see George’s project bringing together so many diverse artists in the creation of something that is so tied to the city and its history. Spaces should be hailed as an exemplary local arts project, which uses local talent to create something completely rooted in its environment, making the best use possible of Lottery funding.
George wanted to create a project that could heal some of the wounds of the city, and through his generosity and professionalism he has done that. The often undervalued arts can not only bring the creative community together, but when done well can open all citizen’s eyes to the beauty around them.
The massively popular Gloucester History Festival is where the trail will be launched in September 2018. But the legacy of creative collaborations built during the project will hopefully go on to be recognised as a resource for building future pieces showing the artistic excellence that can thrive in the city if valued and nurtured.