Standing among the graves

Last week I was standing among the graves in a War Cemetery in northern France. It was only one of the smaller ones, but I was surrounded by rows and rows of grave stones. 

The day before we'd been to the "In Flanders Field" museum in Ypres, a town which was an important part of the front line landscape. It was a reminder of how harsh the trench warfare environment was. How it played on the body and the mind. The house in which we were staying, although several miles back from the front, was still surrounded by the sort of countryside which the front occupied. 

It was a salutary reminder of how important that was in bringing home the horror of conflict; the individuality of the fighting. That each death was the end of a person. A proper, real person. 

All this is now very much in my mind as I learn Claire's words and Mark's notes for Home at Last. Sergeant-Major Adams had seen all this; he'd suffered the loss of men and had endured the hardship of the trenches. I hope to be able to bring just a little insight back from France with me, too. 

Early Stroll Songs premiere

I am so proud to have brought the Early Stroll Songs to the light of day on Tuesday. 

It was a fantastic evening, as I hope anybody who came along will attest. Ian McMillan was on sparkling form, guitarist Amanda and lutenist Mark were brilliantly sensitive and yet wonderfully sololistic with their colour and energy, while Richard's score for the Songs themselves - which I already loved - grew on me even more as I sang through it a few times. 

Ian's words, of course, were equally brilliant and a joy to convey. The characters, the sights, all painted with so few words.

We are planning on posting the live recording of the songs on Soundcloud over the next couple of weeks. I'll keep you posted on Twitter. 

In the meantime, a huge thank you to everyone who contributed to the evening: the sponsors and grant awarders, the crowdfunders, the Bristol Festival of Song, St Georges and all the individuals who've supported the project from its start.

We'll be bring the Early Stroll Songs to other venues soon - watch out for details!


Early Stroll Songs through the Year

The Early Stroll Songs represent - among other things - a trip through the seasons of the year. 

Richard, the composer, has selected the 20 or so tweets (there are 13 songs in all, some of them have two Tweets; one has one-and-a-half!) which make up the lyrics so that they follow a cycle from autumn, through winter and spring and into summer, back to the beginning point as the leaves are "waiting for Autumn's starting gun". 

It's a lovely way of giving the whole work a unity and direction, and also allows Richard to use his musical imagination and technique to bring some beautiful moments to the set of songs. There's the crispness of a winter morning, the heat of the summer, the pent-up excitement of spring, plus a few touches of local calendar-related colour. 

In the summer we meet some pigeons and a cat chasing birds; in the spring look out for the shafts of sunlight. Of course, all the tableaux that are formed by the Tweets are early morning ones, so there's often that sense of freshness, gloominess, shaking-the-sleep-out-of-eyes-ness (that word's almost a Tweet in itself) in the songs. 

How to portray all this is something that I've been thinking about quite a bit. You'll have to some to the performance on October 11th (in St Georges, Bristol) to see what I've actually made of it, but I hope that whichever of my current plans I eventually put into operation makes sense and adds to the effect. 

I'm performing the premiere of the Early Stroll Songs at St Georges on 11th October. Tickets from here