featuring JENNY BARTON, SEBASTIAN FIELD, VICKI FIELD & THE SPACES CHOIR
written by George Moorey, Alice White, Jenny Barton & Eloise Hopkins
recorded on Friday 10 November 2017 at St Mary De Crypt, Northgate Street
recording engineer: Josh Petkovic-Short
film-maker: Chris Watkins, Chris Watkins Media
Sometimes, the quietness of stone softens the air around you
Sometimes, while the stones breathe out around you, you put your palms flat to the wall, and breathe in cool holy stillness
Sometimes, your feet fall lightly and easily, taking you away from the trodden path into this thin place.
This long memory from more ancient space
This place remembers you
Sing me the song again, while the stones breathe out around me, speaking of calm solidity.
I thought of stone and my body stilled
I felt my feet on stone and my being stilled
I leant my back against the stone and the support of aeons.
Sing me the song again, while the stones breathe out around me.
Sometimes you need the cold solidity of stones
to remember your inherent place
in the order of things.
Sing me the song again, while the stones breathe out around me
Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten me
left to right: Ellie Grice, Ceri Joanne Chaos-Holder, Helen Maynard-Watts, Annabelle Faulkner, Alice Orchard, Claire Weaving, Stephanie Harrison, Louise Wiggett, Jane Beckley-Cave, Hannah Marsden, Caitlin Wild, Robyn Nugent, Geraldine Lane, Pat Roberts, Manuel Norman-Guillén, Kirsty Winnan, Ashley Worksett, Vicki Field, Tim Beck, Steve McDade, George Moorey, Rosie Sutton, Eden Saunders, Chris Watkins, Nikola Jurčáková, Alice White, Sebastian Field, Sue Trickey, Josh Petkovic-Short, Christopher Slemensek, Edward Markham, Chris Tweney, Paul Trickey, Andrew Marshall, Jon Hoyle, Lee Chaos-Holder, Richard Nunn
The Quietness of Stones is a poem that my friend Jenny wrote for the project.
Before she began composing the poem we talked about how the location for the session was once used as a Munitions Factory and store during the siege of Gloucester during the 17th century. There are no obvious references in the poem, but that was our starting point. There was a line about “the vibration of dissonant battle roar” which we both quite liked, but she decided to remove it to make the poem lighter and it fitted my musical sketches better as a result.
I feel like the poem is gem or pearl like and gets to what I call the heart of things. It touches on the idea of the thin place and the resonance of historical events affecting how we respond to encounters with ancient places in the present.
The building is incredible and has an really inspiring environment. We got in there just before it closed for a year of restoration so it was all dusty and disused in there which added to the atmosphere. It was the first session and set the bar for all the others.
All of the sessions were special in their own way, but perhaps the combination of it taking place in November in the run up to Christmas and that it was lit by 500 tea-lights made it magical.
It was a incredible start to the series of sessions and, despite a few technical gremlins, we were able to document a live performance on film and everything fell into place. I love the part in the song when the bass and drums begin and Vicki and Sebastian sing their parts together.
A brief clip of me talking about making the track.
film by Nikola Jurčáková
Jenny Barton - poet
Jenny drew inspiration from the notion of history resonating in thin places through ancient buildings
Jenny is a dear friend of mine that I've known for almost 20 years. I admire her way with words and the careful way she constructs poetry and the brave way she creatively documents her what challenges her using the written word. A lot of what Jenny writes about strikes a chord in me. There's a lot of deep fears as well as wondrous beautiful goodness in her writing that I recognise and acknowledge. For a long while I've been wanting to set Jenny's words to music and this is our first effort together. I hope to do more in future. Jenny has a blog which is well worth checking out.
Vicki Field - soprano & choir leader
Vicki sang the lead part with her husband Sebastian and taught and led the scratch choir during the session
Vicki and Sebastian have become good friends of mine. They are very active in the city performing, teaching and every year they programme and run the free Gloucester Music Festival during June. I pulled them into my project as much as was appropriate so you'll notice they are involved in more than one session. I can rely on Vicki to help put together scratch choirs for my projects because she and Sebastian run several amateur choirs in the city as well as their own professional consort groups and solo or duo work. In addition to their musical talents they bring positive and fun energy to singing and the team in general.
Sebastian - counter tenor
Sebastian's voice weaves in and around his wife Vicki's soprano part.
Sebastian was the Mayor of Gloucester in 2015, the youngest in 300 years! He is well known as a choral singer and like his wife Vicki, is a singing teacher as well as a performer.
Tim Beck - acoustic guitar
Tim provides the spine of the song gently strumming the guitar part from beginning to end.
I love DADGAD tuning on the acoustic guitar. It revitalised my passion for playing the guitar. When I was younger I used to learn it every Christmas because there was time out from the usual routine to sit down and do something new with my guitar, but then would forget it after getting back to a few weeks of the old routine after the festivities had passed. Last year I committed several shapes to memory and practiced and experimented with DADGAD for a sustained period of time. Once I received funding for SPACES from the Arts Council I couldn't help but start the first piece with a guitar tuned in DADGAD. I imagined myself playing keyboard so I asked Tim if he would play the guitar only a few weeks before. He was a little concerned because he didn't know DADGAD. I assured him that it would be easy for him (he's an experienced player in standard tuning) and took delight in showing him those rich shapes. I really love this photo of Tim. It captures a special moment when I realised that the project was real and was actually about to happen.
Alice White - cello
Alice wrote the string parts and played cello for this song.
Alice was the first name on my list of musicians I wanted involved in this project for two reasons. The first is I think she is brilliant, that she has a unique talent with her primary instrument the cello and this includes interpretation, improvisation and composition. The second is that I know that my own efforts at composition and songwriting are rarely strong enough to stand alone as examples of excellence. I'm not exactly a novice, but I'm also not a master by any stretch of the imagination. So in order to create the quality music I desire to hear I depend on the contributions of players like Alice. My musical efforts are almost always better when I collaborate and so it is to Alice and a handful of others I turn when I find myself lacking. Alice's string parts massively improve the structure and texture of the track and I'm so grateful for her efforts.
Steve McDade - 1st violin
Steve played the main violin part.
A few days before the session I got a call to say that the violin player I had invited was unable to make it due to circumstances beyond their control. I made about 20 phone calls over two days and eventually someone suggested that my friend Emi's dad was an excellent violinist and could probably do the session. I phoned him and he agreed and said he was looking forward to the session. The amazing thing about the sessions is that everyone has to quickly get used to my way of working which involves a lot of freedom to interpret musical parts. Let's just say that I don't like dictating exactly what I want and like to trust everyone else to give it a go the best they feel. Steve came in and immediately the string quartet had another professional alongside Alice to bolster confidence. Without Steve I believe that the string parts would not have been so assured in the arrangement.
Manuel Norman-Guillén - 2nd violin
Manuel made the trip from the south coast where he is a student to take part.
Manuel is another Musiclab musician (Gloucester Guildhall's open stage night). I took some film one night at Musiclab of Manuel ferociously playing his violin in a folk style and posted it up on instagram and it was liked more times than my posts are usually liked. I hadn't met Manuel to talk to much, just a quick hello that evening. I tracked him down on Facebook and he was pleasingly agreeable to making the trip back to Gloucester where his family are to take part. He was very pleased to have Steve take the 1st violin role as Alice had written in some tricky harmonic stuff.
Eden is passionate about the viola. I'm so glad he could take part.
Several years ago I met Eden as a young boy. His mum is a fan of music and encouraged him to try various instruments out. I was asked to teach drums at one point, but I'm not really a great drummer and taught myself so felt a bit unqualified. I'm pleased to say that Eden found his instrument as the years passed. It was great to be able to count on Eden to be the viola go to when I was recruiting the string sections for SPACES.
George Moorey - keyboard & pre-recorded drums & bass
the most minimal part I've played ever
I programmed a simple drum beat and bass line that enters half way through at the same time as Vicki and Sebastian sing their lead lines. I played a sampled piano sound on my synthesizer (it's lighter than a stage or real piano!). There are only a handful of notes to play and it repeats. It was nice to be able to relax and listen to Tim's guitar, the lovely singing by the scratch choir and the string section blend together and see my piece come into being.