The list of blog posts that I am intending to write is nearing double digits, so I’d better get on with it! My life has taken an interesting turn this year, with a new job working as an organ tuner (yes, the thing with the pipes) and a change of location, back to St Albans where I grew up. The solo album (as yet unnamed) is also going well, with the recording done and the final mix and master happening imminently.
But today, my first post since October last year, I’m going to talk to you about a different project of mine. A very long time ago I published a little piece on playing music for theatre. There I talked about Silent Cannonfire, a student comedy play which we took to the Edinburgh Fringe back in 2011, the brainchild of brilliant madman Will Seaward, the man behind Bouncy Castle Hamlet. It was a play without on-stage sound, including dialogue. A silent film, played out live. A fascinating concept, and a very funny one. We were the sound track, with Yarden Brody as the musical director for the Cambridge run and myself the musical director up in Edinburgh.
My old post above ended with this line:
Myself and James, who put together the music for Silent Cannonfire in Edinburgh are hoping to record a session album of some of the tunes later this year. Watch this space!
Well, that didn’t happen quite as planned, because I wrote that in March 2012. However, myself and James have been playing those tunes off and on ever since, always intending to do something with them. Eventually we ended up, via a circuitous route, with an album which we have called Silent Sessions.
That amazing artwork is by my good friend Mr Jon Loomes by the way, who with his Talking Cat hat on recorded my solo album. The text is by me and James, but mostly James.
What we have ended up with is rather different in concept and content to what we played in Edinburgh. The basic idea of the album is to tell a story in music. The original plot of the play (such as it was) has been manipulated almost out of recognition, the tunes have been rearranged, with more side effects. Bits of it are, admittedly, very silly. However, bits of it are beautiful.
The music is mostly traditional, with a few well known tunes thrown in (some of which have been twisted rather deliciously). The arrangements are fluid, with a relaxed attitude of “Let’s just play the tunes”, which nonetheless yields some lovely harmonies and cross rhythms. I have been playing with James for a long time and he is a superb musician that I very much admire – and a good friend. Long exposure to each other’s playing in various ceilidh bands and sessions has made our playing gel as we know what the other person is likely to do. In many ways I am a natural solo player, but with the right musicians (like James, or Yarden & Pip in There and Back Again) things just work in a way which is difficult to describe.
This is the second album that I have featured on, the first being There and Back Again’s Long Way Round. The two albums are very different beasts, but I am very pleased with both of them. If you haven’t got a copy of Long Way Round yet then I still have a few left… just saying. Silent Sessions is rather cheaper (a mere £5) and so has flown off the shelves, to the extent that we are considering doing another print run.
When we perform the piece live (it takes around 45 minutes), we break once or twice to update people with how the story is going. On the CD though we decided not to feature the spoken word. The liner notes tell the story – what is happening during each track. We don’t offer the whole album for download therefore, although you are welcome to listen to and download for free the opening track, below.
This album would not be possible without some amazing people. Tim Mellor, assisted by Pete Barrett recorded it for us, absolutely free of charge (well, we took them out for a rather fine curry afterwards). Jon Loomes did an amazing job of the artwork. Davy Evans, Tom Furnival, Tim Sparrow and Oli Jones performed in the various iterations of the stage play. Much of the original concepts for the music came from Yarden Brody (who also performed in the Cambridge run), Rich Mason produced the Edinburgh run and of course, nothing would have happened without Will Seaward.
If you would like to buy our album then just head over to https://silentsessions.bandcamp.com. Or get in contact with me online or in person and I’ll be happy to sell you a copy directly! I am rather proud of this recording, I hope that you enjoy it.
Traditional tunes (including morris) and song themes, thoughtfully played inquasi-ambient styling on melodeon and fiddle, inventively interwoven to form accompaniment to a silent play in student theatre. A grower… attractively packaged too.